In 20 years, Dropkick Murphys have gone from playing anywhere that would host them on the South Shore, to soundtracking championship Boston sports teams and selling out arenas.
It all started in 1996, when the band formed in Quincy. According to singer and bassist Ken Casey, one particular Boston venue gave them the opportunity to grow.
“The old Rathskeller was absolutely 100% our home, the place that gave us our break,’’ Casey said. “We would play all-ages matinee shows in the daytime and they would just give us the run of the place. They’d let us book shows and bring in bands that we were friends with from other cities.
Dropkick Murphys would play all ages matinee shows at the Rat and bring in six or seven bands all from other cities. In turn, those bands would hook up the Dropkicks in their hometowns when it came time to book U.S. tours.
“That was kind of how we really got our chance to get out of town and spread our roots,’’ Casey said.
Two decades later, Dropkick Murphys have long since solidified their status as a marquee Boston act, but they’ll continue to play for the people and honor the city that has helped them along the way.
While Casey is quick to admit that “the world has changed so much in those 20 years,’’ he credits the band’s annual string of St. Patrick’s Day shows, which began informally in 2001, as a way the band has taken its Boston fame to another level. Over the course of five days, the band will play five Boston shows and host an afterparty on Friday that features boxing, a Dropkicks acoustic set, and special musical guests.
“It’s taken on a life of it’s own with the core fans that we have and that we know—you know, the ones who are at the barricades that I talk to afterwards and I’ve met 1,000 times,’’ Casey said.
He explains how this string of shows becomes a destination for fans from out of town, and how Boston “rolls out the red carpet,’’ to welcome these folks. In Casey’s opinion, the tradition has brought the fanbase closer together.
“We’ve had some people say they’ve met at these shows and then got married, so it has a lot of history,’’ Casey said.
The band also sees these shows as a family affair—a time to reconnect with friends and family between tours.
“Behind the scenes is what means the most to us,’’ Casey said. “With all of the travel all year, you miss a lot of things: weddings, family events, getting together with friends. During this week, it’s like they’re all coming to us. We have parties afterwards where I’ll have everyone from my youngest child to my 93-year-old grandmother.’’
Dropkick Murphys have four nights left in their St. Patrick’s Day run. The band plays Wednesday and Thursday at House of Blues, Friday at Agganis Arena, and Saturday at Brighton Music Hall. For more information, visit Dropkick Murphys’s website.
Scenes from night one of Dropkick Murphys’s 2016 St. Patrick’s Day run: