Another chance arose last week for me to scratch a band off my ‘Must see before I croak’ list. It’s always an extra treat when that happens in our own backyard and most especially with this show. I absolutely love Dropkick Murphys but have some trepidation about plunging myself into a seething pit of jack booted ‘punk rawk’ fans lit up on whiskey, particularly in a place where I’m not familiar with the exits. I was long overdue for some live Dropkick and not optimistic about my prospects.
Then, a few weeks ago, I caught wind of some promotion about the fall line-up of shows at the Saranac Stage at the Brewery on Varick Street and lo and behold, score Utica some Dropkick Murphys! Tickets were nabbed, a posse was assembled, and down to V Street we trekked on a lovely, temperate autumnal evening. I was a bit confused and unimpressed by the opening acts and from all I overheard, I wasn’t the only one. They didn’t really make sense or fit cohesively with Dropkick’s style, and my friends and I stopped off at the Nailcreek first to wet our whistles and time our entry for the main event. So worth the wait! Utica came out strong for this and with a perfect attitude! High energy and joyful, and the band both fueled it and was fueled by it.
Opening with a few well known favorites, including dropping “Boys On The Docks” into the early part of the set and taking a crowd request for “You’re a Rebel”, the band whipped the fans into a frenzy. I saw huge smiling faces around me and my friends and I very quickly decided this was the opportunity to finally be up front at a Dropkick show. Honestly, we sort of flanked up the side but if your elbows are on a speaker, that counts as up front to me! Perfect vantage point to soak up the excitement rolling off everyone and to watch the most pleasant bunch of crowd surfers I’ve ever seen. I’d be remiss not to give a genuine kudos to the security from Westcott Events who did a fantastic job between the stage and the crowd barricades, gently but firmly plucking elevated bodies from simulated flight and placing them safely on the ground, their exits from stage front met with a gauntlet of high fives and fist pumps from their fellow fans.
Everyone sang enthusiastically along, especially with “Forever” and Al Barr frequently jumped off the stage to interact with the throng, cumulative voices ringing out into the microphone he held to their faces. About half way in, the band announced they were about to play us some new songs whether we liked it or not, and delivered two new selections that will easily become new favorites. The material on this most recent album is on par with or exceeds their current body of work! I was feeling really grateful…and also a little full of Saranac Octoberfest so I dashed off to a bathroom that wasn’t freestanding in a parking lot, missing the closing number. My timing sometimes is epic. But I still heard it, even inside the bar bathroom! The strong strains of “Kiss Me I’m Shitfaced” punched through the cool night air and the band invited fans to jump up on stage and help the song along, making everyone’s night.
We rounded our evening out with another taste of Jameson and a Utica Club on the deck at the Nailcreek and were treated to an impromptu, pop up performance of some kilted bagpipers from the street. Really. Random bagpipes appeared out of seemingly nowhere. Only in Utica! Stellar times all the way around.