St. Patrick’s Day weekend kicked off at House of Blues Anaheim with Street Dogs 3rd Annual Crooked Drunken Sons St. Patrick’s Day Slam! On Friday, March 14th the Street Dogs brought their Irish infused working-class punk to a packed show and some of the By the Barricade team were on hand to see what all the fuss was about. This writer talked with the band after the show about what makes them tick, and Street Dogs’ future plans.
Street Dogs came straight out of Boston, Massachusetts in 2002 after former Dropkick Murphys lead vocalist Mike McColgan decided he could not stay away from the spotlight. After a few lineup changes and adventures, this current rendition of the band is eager to prove they are here to stay. The band has been on tour away from the United States for several years spreading their Irish sound all over the world. The Street Dogs haven not released a full studio album since 2010, but that did not hurt attendance at the nearly sold-out St. Patrick’s Day show. The first act of the night was Jason Cruz and Howl warming up the quickly filling house. Popular songs from their EP, Loungecore, kicked off the evening and laid the groundwork for a rousing night and provided a stark contrast to the other bands at the show.
Next on the bill was The Interrupters. Their young, fun and energetic ska punk drew some eye brows. It’s not often you see a band of that age resembling the forefathers of punk. The crowd quickly opened up the mosh pit and was singing along to their favorite tracks. Fans were in for a treat because at the end of their set, The Interrupters were joined onstage by Tim Armstrong (Rancid, Operation Ivy, and Transplants) for collaboration on their song We are the Family. It was truly like a family re-uniting because The Interrupters opened for Rancid and the Transplants on tour this past fall. What a fantastic, dysfunctional, and punk rock family they are.
Devil’s Brigade featuring Matt Freeman (Rancid, Operation Ivy vocals and bass), OC punk veteran Ron Milucky (guitar) and DJ Bonebrake (X) on drums ignited a surge in the crowd both in numbers and activity. The ever-expanding circle pit started back up during their opening track, stretched across the full length for the floor, and didn’t slow down for the rest of the show. It was nice to see Matt taking more the spotlight compared to his time in Rancid. Tim Armstrong hopped out on stage once again to finish up the set, and make sure the crowd was ready for the main event.
The fully pumped-up and eager crowd went crazy for the Street Dogs when they took the stage. These Boston natives sure know how to start a St. Patrick’s Day party! “This time of year everyone is a little bit Irish.” – Mike McColgan (Street Dogs Lead Vocalist). It wasn’t long before the circle pit encompassed most of the floor. Once Street dogs got to their hit single Punk Rock and Roll mid-set, venue security had to step in. This catalyst only fanned the flames and prompted even more moshers and crowd surfers to get in on the fun. There was even a young kid who must have been under the age of ten with a huge Mohawk that climbed his way on stage.
For the second half of the night, the Street Dogs took a softer tone with an acoustic backdrop. Needless to say, ditching the electric guitars and replacing them with harmonicas caused the crowd to sway back and forth, half due to the lyrics, and half from the massive amount of pre St. Patrick’s Day drinking most of the crowd had been participating in. The night ended with the crowd begging for an encore after the encore, but the Street Dogs were already making their way to the merch tables to meet and talk with fans. After their performance, this writer grabbed a quick interview with the Street Dogs and learned more about their history, motivation, and future.
Mike McColgan – Lead Vocals
Johnny Rioux – Bass / Backup Vocals
By the Barricade: I saw a lot of kids at tonight’s show. Would you guys bring your kids to a show like this and let them crowd surf like the little kid with the green Mohawk?
Mike McColgan: That was an amazing moment. You can’t script stuff like that. That’s Johnny on the spot. It is just something that you have to make happen and deal with after the heat of the moment. Kids like that are the future of this music. He threw down pretty much like no other tonight I would say … Sometimes we really take for granted what this music really means to people young and old alike so when we play live they all come together.
By the Barricade: How would you compare the Los Angeles / Orange Country punk scene to the Boston punk scene?
Johnny Rioux: The cool thing about California, in general, is it seems like there are all these new generations picking up on the music. In a lot of other places in the country it feels like punk is becoming a lost art form. That’s cool too, but it just means another generation is just going to pick it up as a cool thing again.
By the Barricade: By “lost art form” do you mean like MTV isn’t playing it… or what exactly? I see punk rock as being stronger than ever now that there are shows and places all over, even up-and-coming bands. I think people are supporting more than ever.
Mike McColgan: From a live touring standpoint it’s still alive and kicking, but it’s certainly not a hot commodity or genre right now. It’s just not in the mainstream or anything. I suppose with all that considered it’s better now.
Johnny Rioux: If you’re a punk band now you’re doing it because you love it. You’re not doing it because you want to have a hit record, or be on MTV. When Rancid was on MTV you would see a lot of people with Mohawks because it was the next big thing that came up. Those same people with the Mohawks that were doing it for all the wrong reasons were doing whatever the next cool thing was.
By the Barricade: Johnny, you were the Dropkick Murphys’ tour manager, how has that affected how Street Dogs tours today? Has it changed the way you set schedules or…
Johnny Rioux: Not really. With Dropkick Murphys it was always a kind of machine. We are a machine to some degree but I think we are more laid back. We don’t stress small things as much. There is an attention to detail for sure, but there are a lot of cogs in the wheel in the Dropkick Murphys machine, and I can’t believe the magnitude it grew.
Mike McColgan: There is a lot of history there. There are a lot of deep-rooted friendships and a lot of stories.
Johnny Rioux: Mike and I have never taken the business side of Street Dogs as seriously to our betterment or detriment. It’s a really great, but at the end of the day chasing stuff down at a show from the business perspective can do a lot to rattle your psyche.
By the Barricade: What bands influenced you the most while growing up?
Johnny Rioux: U2 is a big one especially for Mike.
By the Barricade: Has U2’s stage presence and antics influenced Street Dogs in any way?
Mike McColgan: Me personally, to some extent I’ve always liked how they always strive to try and be intimate at their shows. They are arguably the biggest band on the face of the earth so it is difficult when you are playing in front of 60,000 people. If you do a big tour like that, and you are playing sold-out arenas you can feel really detached from the crowd. I think they have always strived to make that connection with their fans, and I felt that when I’ve gone to their shows. On some level weather conscious or unconscious I always try to make a connection with people who come to see us. There’s really nothing more important that and that’s why we do it.
By the Barricade: Street Dogs has not had a full-length album since 2010. Does Street Dogs have any plans for another full length album?
Mike McColgan: I’d say in the next two years. We strive to spend time with our loved ones and reflect on everything we have been through. We were on tour from 2003 until 2012.
The full interview transcripts can be found on www.soundcheck411.com.