On October 22nd, Dropkick Murphy’s brought their “Fall Tour” to Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio with support from Jesse Ahern and The Interrupters. It was a night of lively music where everyone stood in solidarity and lifted each other up.
Opening the show was Jesse Ahern, a folk-rock musician from Boston, Massachusetts. Though the arena was still filling up during his set, those who were present were utterly captivated. With a combination of catchy beats and bold lyrics, Ahern’s music had the crowd stomping their feet and clapping their hands. It was almost impossible to stand still. The crowd especially loved his rendition of The Clash’s “Bankrobber,” which he kept classic, while still adding his own flare. During the chorus, the entire arena sang along with Ahern, and when the song was finished, the crowd was cheering for more.
My favorite part of Ahern’s set was his interactions with the crowd. Between each song, he would speak a bit with the audience, whether it was about which song he was going to play next, or just relating how he was feeling. It’s easy to overdo these types of interactions, but Ahern’s balance was well-kept. In addition, these moments showed just how much he enjoys performing, which was sure to bring a smile to any observer. While most of his set was played with an acoustic guitar, for his last two songs, he brought out an electric guitar, which was the perfect way to end, as it energized the crowd and had them hyped for the coming sets.
In a heartwarming moment, Ahern dedicated a verse in his final song to anyone who was struggling, and encouraged anyone and everyone to reach out for help if they needed it. It was a great way to end a beautiful, yet energetic performance.
Next to the stage were the Interrupters, a ska punk band from Los Angeles, California. From the moment they stepped on stage, each member of the band brought all of their energy. Bassist Justin Bivona and guitarist Kevin Bivona were especially dynamic and a lot of fun to watch as they ran across the stage and leapt off the small platforms at the front.
The band’s music was invigorating, and frontwoman Aimee Interrupter’s vocals were quite impressive. She would expertly mix in unclean vocals with her clean vocals, making it seem effortless. The light show, which was colorful and bright, just added to the performance. Everything about the Interrupters set felt like one big party, which was fitting as Kevin Bivona encouraged the crowd to really get into the music and dance, since it’s “a dance party, after all,” as he put it.
The crowd loved the idea and took it upon themselves to jump and dance along to the music. I loved the fact that the Interrupters were so invested in making sure everyone was connected and having a good time. When a fight broke out between two people in the pit, Kevin Bivona stopped the show, and the band refused to resume until the situation had been remedied. As Kevin Bivona stated, “if you bring violence to a punk rock show, you gotta go.” Instead, he reminded the crowd to only spread love. Towards the end of the set, Aimee Interrupter stood on the barricade and sang to the fans. The band encouraged everyone to stand if they were able, seats or no, and almost everyone could be found dancing and clapping along.
Once the anticipation in the room had built to a climax, the Dropkick Murphys began their set to thunderous applause. The crowd was filled with fans who shouted all the lyrics along with vocalist Ken Casey. The whole room bounced and swayed to the music as the band opened with the iconic “Worker’s Song.”
The stage’s set up was interesting, while also capturing the themes in many of Dropkick Murphys songs. Surrounding the stage were candles that added ambiance to the setup, as well as strike signs advocating for the union, something the band is very vocal about, and not just in their music but in their daily lives as well. The band also took extra steps to make sure they were constantly interacting with the audience. Several times throughout the set, Ken Casey would step down onto a platform over the barricade and fist bump and high five those in the first few rows. He’d also hold his microphone out during certain lines so that crowd members could have their moment in the spotlight and sing their hearts out to the songs. It was clearly a highlight for many, since it always had people smiling and cheering, and any time Casey stepped towards the crowd, many would swarm to him in excitement.
Something that especially stood out to me about Dropkick Murphys set was how well their sound translated from record to stage. They have such a distinct sound, something I wasn’t sure would be able fully come through in a live performance, but I was entirely wrong. Even though the band’s performance was technical and clearly played with an expert hand, it was their energy that truly captivated the room. The songs themselves are easy to move along to, but combine that with the band’s endless enthusiasm and it was impossible to sit still.
My personal favorite moment of the night was when they played a cover of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.” Led by guitarist Jeff DaRosa for vocals, it was a brilliant cover that mixed the Dropkick Murphys iconic sound with AC/DC’s classic song. It’s certainly an instant I won’t forget. Not a moment went by during the show that the crowd wasn’t loving every second. In fact, when the band left the stage before the encore, the audience began a chant of “Let’s go Murphys” to call them back up. People from all walks of life were in attendance, which Ken Casey pointed out before their final song, saying how he was glad their music can bring people together. Before they began “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced,” Casey encouraged everyone to wrap an arm around their neighbor, even if they didn’t know them. Together, the whole arena swayed back and forth, singing along as one to finish the show.
I’ve been to many concerts over the years, but there was something special about this one. Whether it was because each band brought their own message, or whether it was because of the music itself, or even the crowd–maybe even a mix of all of it–I can’t be sure. Regardless, this is a show I won’t be forgetting any time soon, and if you have the chance to see it, I hope you do.
I’ve always been the creative type, but nothing quite beats how it felt the first time I picked up a camera. Once I photographed my first concert, I knew I had found my passion. As an avid concert-goer, getting to combine my love of music with my love of photography is like a dream come true!