BERLIN, GERMANY – JUNE 15: Singer Ken Casey of the American band Dropkick Murphys performs live on … [+]
After their widely successful 2020 St. Patrick’s Day virtual show, Dropkick Murphys are now gearing up for their second ambitious virtual holiday performance, “Dropkick Murphys St. Patrick’s Day Stream 2021…Still Locked Down.” In large part, Dropkick Murphys were one of the first rock acts to spearhead the virtual concert movement back in March of 2020. While the hardcore/metal outfit Code Orange were pinned as the first heavy music act to put on a virtual concert, Dropkick Murphys might’ve been the first modern rock act to do so. In fact, both Code Orange and Dropkick Murphys debuted their first ever livestream concerts within a matter of days of each other last year. And in doing so, both bands have consequently opened the door for a number artists in their genre and beyond, specifically when it comes to virtual rock show etiquette.
With that in mind, not only are Dropkick Murphys pioneers on the virtual concert side of things, but the band has become notorious for their one of kind St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. To date, their 2020 virtual St. Patty’s day show has garnered over 13 million views across multiple platforms, with the full recording on youtube sitting at nearly 2 million views. The band even took it one step further by opting to not charge tickets for the event, but instead invited viewers to donate if they could. Both of the band’s 2020 livestream events had this in place, and together their St. Patrick’s Day and Fenway virtual shows raised over $760,000 in donations. All the funds were spread across a number of charities including the band’s own charity organization, The Claddagh Fund.
With their 2021 St. Patrick’s Day, show Dropkick Murphys will be keeping this charitable tradition alive, all while raising the bar for what to expect from their second virtual holiday spectacle. Recently the band announced that their new album Turn Up That Dial, is slated for an April 30th release, and given the timing they’re eyeing to premiere a few new tracks at this year’s show as well.
Speaking more on next week’s livestream concert and their upcoming 10th studio album, Dropkick Murphys’ Ken Casey shares the details.
After your first St. Patrick’s day livestream, did it ever cross your mind that in 2021 you might have to do another virtual-only show?
We did the first one and it just seemed so crazy with what was happening, but by the time we did the May [livestream] I was already kind of like I don’t think we’re going to be touring at all [this year]. And now I don’t think we’re going to be touring at all until 2022, so yeah I don’t think I saw this one coming.
Are there any major aspects from the first St Patty’s day show that you and the band kept in mind for the future, in terms of what to do and what not to do when putting on a virtual event like this?
Oh yeah, well when anything is live it’s a bit of ‘cross your fingers and hope everything goes okay’ just from even the technical side. But with the first one we only had 48 hours from the time we got officially shutdown to the live show, so we were thrilled that the first came off as it did, but we didn’t really have a lot of time to put much creativity into how we could make it unique from a performance perspective. And then I think with [the Fenway livestream] we spent a lot of time thinking how we could make it unique, and we did that with playing on the infield and using the positions of the players and the drone cameras. Now we have a pretty unique plan where we’re not in a round space but in a square so to speak, and we have a video wall on all four sides so we’re kind of facing in at each other with content going behind us all of the time. I think it’ll be a unique setup.
BOSTON, MA – MAY 29: The Dropkick Murphys perform during the Streaming Outta Fenway performance with … [+]
Obviously it seems like you guys had way more time to plan with this second St. Patrick’s Day livestream.
Yeah the first one we had to find a place where we could do this at, and we lucked out with a little niche where it was so early on into the shutdown that when we did it we could still do a whole band performance. At the time I think Massachusetts [allowed] no more than 25 people together, so it wasn’t long after that where musicians were being forced to play acoustic on their couch. We never really wanted to go that route so then using the extreme social distancing at Fenway was our other option. And now we’re still in a pretty big space but we also have a doctor there to test everyone daily. So we feel like we’re doing it the right way, and we’re keeping everyone masked up except for when we’re playing and we’ll all be tested too, but we didn’t even have those kind of options before.
In the age of virtual concerts, so many artists are putting on these immense stages and live concerts all while charging tickets for their virtual shows. What made you guys go the route of asking for donations instead charging tickets for your St. Patty’s days show?
In fairness to anybody that does charge tickets, pulling off a high-end livestream is probably more expensive than playing a real live concert. But we just kind of took that gamble and we liked the ring of “give if you want, don’t if you want” and I bet you when it’s all said and done it’ll work out to a similar if not better end than if we had charged a ticket. And from the early stages of it what we’re seeing is some people are giving $5 dollars and some people are giving $200. But that’s the story of the pandemic, some people thrived in their business and some people are starving. So it gives us the ability to say “hey if you’re doing alright throw in a little or more, and if you’re not then no worries.”
Overall, how have you and all the bandmates and crew been holding up in these times?
I mean it’s like everyone in the world, we’re definitely home for a longer period of time then normal, and that’s been the glass half full side of it — getting to spend some quality time with your children without an upcoming tour looming. But on the other hand I think whether it’s kids staying home from school or people staying home from their jobs, after a while it starts to take away from that kind of learning curve of using your mind. That’s why we’re grateful we had the album to work on this year, it really gave us something to stay focused on and feel like we had a purpose. And those first few months on the couch during the pandemic and watching CNN, I mean I was turning into a freaking couch potato. Luckily I was able to use the album to snap out of that, but when you can’t go anywhere it’s a pretty good excuse to do nothing, and when you have a pretty good excuse to do nothing you take it for a while and then you snap out of it, hopefully.
When did you all begin the writing process for your new record, Turn up That Dial?
We were doing it in late fall of 2019 and we had some basic tracks done and then we got stopped in our tracks on the recording side of it with the shutdown. But that gave us the ability to work on it a little further and write some more songs. Things changed a little bit and you know you’re kind of in the rush to finish an album and make deadlines, and on every record there’s that one song or two things you wished you changed. With this record I don’t have that because we had plenty of time to think about it and rethink about it, and you never would’ve had that luxury in normal times. We would have already been out on tour on this record for six months if times were normal.
With 2021 being the band’s 25th anniversary, are there any special plans in the works to celebrate the occasion?
Well we’re going to do a record release party on May 1st for the album, so we’ll do another livestream for that. I feel like we’re getting kind of getting ripped off with our ability to go on that 25th anniversary tour, I guess maybe we’ll end up having to go on the 26th anniversary world tour. But it’s a milestone, I mean 20 was a big deal but 25 man, I’m just so grateful that we’ve been able to do what we do for so long and we’re lucky we’ve had the fanbase that’s stuck with us, so it’s awesome and we’re eternally grateful.
I’m a freelance music journalist, aspiring sound designer, and professional rock guitarist/teacher based in Washington D.C. I graduated from Berklee College of Music in