Dropkick Murphys (Photo by Dave Stauble)

Known for hard-driving Celtic punk-rock, the Dropkick Murphy’s are shipping on down to the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence Friday, October 21.

But don’t expect a typical Dropkick Murphys concert – instead of the usual highly-charged show, the Boston-based band will be playing a full night of acoustic music highlighting songs from their new album This Machine Still Kills Fascists. (The album title references the famous quote on legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie’s guitar.)

I learned more about the band’s latest project in a recent interview with lead guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Tim Brennan.

“It was a sort of natural progression,” explained Brennan. “When we decided to do these Woody Guthrie songs, initially we were going to approach it as we would any other Dropkick’s album, and then we started thinking more along the lines of what his songs actually sounded like. He was acoustic-based. We decided to challenge ourselves to see if we could keep ourselves interested in music when it’s not roaring electric guitars. We’d never done that before, we’d have to construct these purely acoustic songs.”

There’s a cool vibe on the record, the vocals still have an aggressive, high-energy feel, but the music is played solely on acoustic instruments. The band introduced a couple of songs at recent shows.

“On the last couple of tours, a couple of the songs had come out, the opening track, ‘Two 6’s Upside Down,’ we were playing that, and then we peppered in one or two others as they came out as singles,” said Brennan. “The response to the new album was strong. Normally on release day, I’ll get a couple of texts from friends saying ‘good job’ and ‘congratulations.’ I got more texts on release day for this one than I ever have for any other release day, so that’s a good sign.”

The warmer, acoustic sound has the potential to broaden the band’s appeal.

“As someone who has a mom and dad in their late 60s, who want to support their son’s music but maybe have a harder time listening to some of the louder stuff, this album is great for them. The decibel level doesn’t get too high but the songs still have the same sort of impact,” said Brennan.

Brennan officially joined the band in 2003, right around the time they began to gain notoriety. He started off working at the merch table.

“One of our old guitar players Mark Orrrell and I were buddies growing up… one summer the band was going on the Warped Tour. He knew I could play the accordion and tin whistle, weird Irish instruments and stuff. So he told Ken (Casey) that he had this buddy who could sort of play a number of things. So I went out on a three-month tour in the summer of ‘03 selling t-shirts all day. When the band played, I’d run over and play one, maybe two songs on accordion, and then I’d run back over to the merch booth and sell T-shirts for the rest of the day,” laughed Brennan.

“After that tour was over I went back to school. I was there for probably two months or so and then Ken called and said ‘we need a guy to play the Irish stuff,’ and asked me to join the band,” Brennan added.

The rest is history. The band plays medium and large concert venues around the county, has numerous commercial endorsements, and continues to be among the leaders on the Celtic rock music scene.

“It’s unbelievable, we certainly never thought we’d get beyond playing bars and such,” said Brennan. “To get to this level is beyond our wildest dreams. With something like ‘Shipping Up to Boston,’ it really helped that it was in a movie (The Departed) with an all-star cast directed by Martin Scorsese. Soundtracks were always pretty big in my household growing up. I think when you have that sort of visual thing to associate a song with, sometimes it enhances the feeling that the song can bring when people associate it with a movie they love. It reaches a wider audience.”

“Personally, I come from a Notre Dame family, and the fact that I can turn on the Notre Dame game every Saturday and before kick-off at home games, they play “Shipping up to Boston” and the crowd goes crazy… to be able to sit there with my Dad and watch the game, and have that on in the background, it’s one of the more surreal feelings that I’ll have,” said Brennan.

The band has been busy rehearsing and Brennan was quick to point out that the upcoming tour is not simply an “unplugged” session.

“This is the first time we’ve done an acoustic tour, and we’ve worked really hard to make sure that we’re not just playing our songs on acoustic guitars. There are a lot of old songs that have been reworked and of course, we’re going to play the new stuff,” he said. “We have another whole album’s worth of Woody Guthrie songs in the can, I’m not exactly sure when that is slated to come out. I’m sure we’ll be plucking through that on the tour as well. We’re super excited to showcase this stuff for people.”

Special Guests Jaime Wyatt & Jesse Ahern open the show. For details on Friday’s show, click here.

Ken Abrams

Lifestyle Editor Ken Abrams writes about music, the arts and more for What'sUpNewp. He is also a contributor to Providence Monthly, SO RI, Hey Rhody and The Bay magazines.
Ken DJ's "The Kingston Coffeehouse," a roots/folk/rock radio show every Tuesday, 6-9 PM on WRIU 90.3 FM. He is a former educator in the Scituate, RI school system where he taught Social Studies for over 30 years.
Ken is presently on the board of the Rhode Island Folk Festival and Newport Live (formerly Common Fence Music), a non-profit that brings diverse musical acts to the Newport area.