20 years ago I sat along a brick wall along the south side of Pioneer Courthouse in downtown Portland, Oregon when I first heard the Dropkick Murphys. They played OI!, also known as street punk, with a bit of an Irish twist, nowhere near what they are known for today. I listened gleefully as they yelled about skinheads (of the anti-racist kind), of sticking side by side with your friends, about struggles with alcohol and songs about fighting. Having loved the anger and the intensity of punk rock, but never identifying with their political and seemingly academic lyrics, the Dropkicks, as they are lovingly referred to as by friends and fans alike, were breath of fresh air. Here was a band I could get behind. A band that sang my songs. About things with which I could identify.
10 years ago, I came out of blackout on Greyhound bus bound for Boston from LA. Apparently in the middle of a blackout I had made the decision to move back to Boston a second time–the first time having been only a few years prior chasing who would later become my Ex-wife–and get sober. I landed in Boston, reacquainted myself with old friends and sought out old sober friends who would help me along the long arduous road of rebuilding my life from the fallout that was left in the wake of my life with drugs and alcohol. As I got sober, I began hitting punk rock and hardcore shows with a new found youthful vigor. I could finally be a part of the scene that had bred my rebellious spirit, but this time I would do it sober. It wasn’t long after that in which I was to become acquainted and friendly with members of the band that years prior had given me my voice. Ken, Mike, and Rick, now having all gone their separate ways (as Ken carried on the torch of the band) became examples of what it meant to be a stand up member of your community. They taught me about love and service, community and family, and what it meant to remain teachable. The men I looked up to from three thousand miles away merely ten years prior, were no men I looked up to and learned from while sitting across a coffee table.
And now I am 36 years old. Trump has just been elected president, bigotry and hate crimes have become commonplace all across the country, and neo-nazis are slowly but surely moving back into Portland, Oregon after years of being chased out. I now feel a pull from my old life to re-engage, at least on an anti-racist front. And I look back to the old Dropkicks material that used to light a fire under my ass not but minutes before coming face to face with a group of bigots. The Dropkicks have gone on and become household names with songs in big time cinema like the Departed, Sons of Anarchy, and The Fighter. They went from practicing in basements and playing all-ages shows to a handful of drunken punx and skins, to playing Fenway Park alongside the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Foo Fighters. I am in a financial place where I am contemplating buying plane tickets just to go see them during their weeks worth of shows surrounding St. Patrick’s Day.
The band and the members of the band have been pivotal forces in my life in one way or another for the last 20 years. I cam e across this video of my friends from 20 years ago, 10 years before I would meet any of them, and I am moved to tears to think of what is possible if you decide to “dream out loud,” like Mike used to always say. They were four kids with a dream. Now they are four men penning the soundtracks for a whole new generation to dream to. From voices crying from out a damn near broken stereo to voices that cry out from every stereo, the Dropkicks, and the bands that have sprung up from them, namely the Street Dogs and Continental, I am honored to have just have heard their music one day and felt inspired. But to know them and count them among some of my closest friends is proof of a life well lived. Thanks a lot guys.
Now hurry up and get your asses back to Portland.