Dropkick Murphys play The Tsongas Center March 17

Talk about the luck of the Irish. It’s been 16 years since the Dropkick Murphys first played together in the basement of a friend’s barber shop.

They’ve come a long way baby.

Hailing from Boston, the band has reached legendary status for their unique brand of Celtic punk rock. With bagpipes, an accordion and a mega-watt electric sound, the Dropkicks churn out those beer swilling tavern sing-a-longs like no other. 

But it was with the release of their 2005 album, Warrior’s Code, that the band seemingly transformed into an international phenomenon overnight. Featuring Lowell’s welterweight champion boxer “Irish” Micky Ward on the cover (the title song is about Ward), the album caught the ear of Director Martin Scorsese who used the single “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” to anchor his Bean Town mob story, The Departed. The film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon, won the Oscar for best picture of the year in 2006. The single has gone on to sell more than 1.25 million copies worldwide.
And who could forget about their 2004 anthem, “Tessie,” the theme song of the curse-reversing championship Red Sox. Then in 2010, The Warrior’s Code title track was featured in the Hollywood biopic about

Ward’s rise to boxing fame in The Fighter – that movie received an Oscar nod for best picture of the year in 2010.

Yeah, it seems most things the Dropkicks touch lately end up turning to gold.

Last year, the band released its seventh full-length studio album, Going Out in Style, on the Dropkicks’ own label, Born & Bred Records. It debuted at No. 6 on Billboard’s top 200, and in September, the band played back-to-back sold out shows in front of 20,000 screaming fans at Fenway Park. Coming March 13, a re-release of Going Out in Style will feature the Fenway Park Bonus Edition, including a download of the filmed concert at Fenway Park and – for the first time – the complete story of Cornellius Larkin by the Dropkicks’ friend and best-selling author, Michael Patrick MacDonald (All Souls, Easter Rising). For those of you who don’t know Cornellius, he’s a Korean War vet and organizer of the International Longshoreman’s Association – a fictional character on the Going Out in Style concept album who was created from the band’s personal experiences and family folklore.    

Howl in Lowell caught up with Dropkick Murphys’ drummer Matt Kelly Thursday afternoon, who talked about the band’s upcoming Lowell show, playing his dream gig at Fenway, working with Bruce Springsteen and the one band all the guys in the Dropkicks can agree to love.   

Q. Lowell is revved up about the Dropkick Murphys playing a St. Patty’s Day show here. It’s not the first time the band’s rocked out in Lowell. What do you think of the city?

A. We’ve played the ballpark (LeLacheur Stadium) and we’ve done the Tsongas before. It’s always a blast. You get people coming in that might not want to travel to Boston for shows, bringing in a new dynamic. Plus the venue is smaller than a stadium so it has more of a club feel. We have a great time coming to Lowell and doing those kind of shows. And the fans are maniacs. We love them.

Q. The Dropkicks are Boston homegrown, and like our sports teams, Greater Boston fans are crazy about their local bands. But you have fans all over the world now. What’s the difference playing shows close to Boston compared to any other place in the world?

A. It’s enormous. Really. It’s like one big family. Everybody wants to go so you get your father, sister, brother, cousins, friends, friends of friends – it’s chaos and we love it. The rabidness of the regular fans is awesome. When we’re playing these local shows, we see people who have moved here and left that come back from other parts of the country, even overseas, to come and support us. It’s a special thing and it always feels like coming home.

Q. Going Out in Style is being re-released with a bonus Fenway disc featuring live music and footage from those back-to-back sold out shows. You’ve seen the Red Sox play Fenway. Now you’ve played there. What was that like for you guys?

A. Like being at the Vatican Basilica. Fenway is the center of the universe in Boston. It’s hallowed grounds. To be involved in anything with that, is absolutely amazing. I mean, when you’re at the park, you’re not supposed to even go near the grass and then there we were playing on the grass. That’s not something you would even dream of as a kid. Maybe the closest would be running across the field, but playing a concert on it! It was an unbelievable experience and one that I will remember for the rest of my life.    

Q. The band collaborated with some pretty cool musicians on Going Out in Style, even a comedian (Lenny Clarke), who was your favorite to work with and why?

A. Bruce Springsteen (who helped the band do a new take on Peg o’ My Heart). He’s “The Boss,” and having him be a part of what we did was so amazing. He’s such a down-to-earth guy and incredibly humble. He is a real working-class hero, a regular guy who just happens to play great.

Q. The Dropkicks are kings of the anthem song. What’s your personal favorite?

A.  Probably the songs that aren’t the anthem songs. No. 1 would be Wheel of Misfortune (from The Gang’s All Here album), followed by Broken Hymns’ (from Going Out in Style). Both songs are very dynamic, slow burners and a change of pace on stage from the bombastic, constant insanity of the speed we usually play in.

Q. I can’t get through an interview with you without bringing up the role the Dropkicks’ played in The Departed. Besides being the film’s theme, the song “Shipping Up to Boston” has become a theme for the working-class hero. What went through your mind when you watched the movie and saw this huge Dropkick Murphys’ stamp smack in the middle of all of it?

A. Oh man. We saw the premiere in Boston, got off a plane from a European tour that day and everybody’s jetlagged and out of sorts. Then we went to the movie theater and it was awesome! Hearing our song like that was bizarre at first. I don’t think it even sunk in until after. Having something we made be a part of something so big is an honor.

Q. The band has been together for more than a decade now (16 years), what’s changed the most in terms of the way you play?

A. Everybody’s gotten better at what they do. Playing constantly, you tighten up together; learn how to read each other. You know what each other’s next move is going to be before it even happens. You’re not playing with a group of guys anymore, you’re playing with family. That’s pretty cool.  

Q. Just curious, what new music are you listening to now?

A. The pre-release of The Boston Strangler album, Primitive, coming out soon. The new London Diehards LP, and my brother’s (bassist Mike Kelly) band, Trebek, has a new album that came out recently. Aside from that, I listen to a lot of ACDC – the best rock band in the world. That’s the one band our whole group can agree on liking.  

Q. What else is coming up for the Dropkick Murphys this year?

A. We finish up touring in Boston and Lowell and a couple of weeks after that, we’re going to record our 8th studio record in April and May. In June, we’ll head off to Europe for a month. We’re going to be pretty busy for most of this year.

Thanks Matt Kelly. Howl in Lowell is looking forward to a night of howlin’ good times with the Dropkick Murphys at the Tsongas Center on St. Patrick’s Day! We hear there are still some tickets left so get on it at tsongascenter.com

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