Nothing Says ‘Punk’ Like Rancid and Dropkick Murphys

Last week, thousands of punk fans gathered at Northerly Island to see two of the greatest bands to ever grace the genre: Rancid and Dropkick Murphys. Both bands have been huge since the '90s, but to see them together at one show is unprecedented. Joined on the midwestern leg of the tour by The Bouncing Souls and Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers, the bands have been taking turns opening for one another. In Chicago, Rancid went on before Dropkick Murphys, but this type of camaraderie between bands is a rarity. Most bands would not want to share the limelight, but when you’ve been around as long as these two groups have, you know your fanbase will be there whether you open or close the show.

Rancid's Tim Armstrong

Rancid started out in 1991 in California after Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman gained popularity in the popular ska-punk band Operation Ivy. The two decided to form their own band alongside Armstrong’s roommate, Brett Reed, and Lars Frederiksen. When the band released their album ...And Out Come the Wolves in 1995, it was revered as one of the greatest punk albums of all time. Rancid has been credited as being one of the few bands to bring punk to MTV and mainstream media in the 90s. “Ruby Soho” and “Time Bomb” are iconic songs: even if you don’t know who did them, you know the words. The band has released nine studio albums, including Trouble Maker, which was released in June to mostly positive reviews. Onstage, the band is still as raw and real as ever. Armstrong and Frederiksen took turns running back and forth to different sides of the stage, making sure the audience was always engaged. Every few minutes, those in the back would see a pair of legs flying up in the air as someone crowd surfed into the photo pit. Drummer Branden Steineckert, who replaced Reed in 2006, was just as energetic as everyone else, flailing and throwing his entire body into the performance. When Rancid closed with “Ruby Soho,” the entire pavilion filled with sound as the crowd shouted and screamed along.

Rancid's Lars Frederiksen and Tim Armstrong

It’s impossible to hear the words “Irish” and “punk” together without thinking of Dropkick Murphys. The band has six core members and several touring members who play everything from the bagpipes to the mandolin.Their stage presence is unmatched at their shows, and even with so many people onstage, no one ever steals the spotlight. Although the band formed in 1996, they weren’t nationally known for a while; their name was however synonymous with punk in their hometown of Boston, where they would frequently play local clubs and host a full week of shows around St. Patrick’s Day. Dropkick Murphys gained immense popularity after their song “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” was prominently featured in the Academy Award-winning film The Departed, and they haven’t slowed down since.

Dropkick Murphy's Al Barr

“The boys are back!” songwriter and guitarist Ken Casey shouted when the band came onstage, and he definitely was right. Dropkick Murphys released a new album in January, 11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory, and debuted at #8 on the Billboard Hot 200 charts. Vocalist Al Barr followed Rancid’s cue and ran the entire length of the stage to make sure he could sing with everyone in the front row. Barr often jumped onto the barrier and held the mic out so that the crowd could sing along with him. When one person crowd surfed up to Barr in the pit, Barr leaned in so they could fist bump before the excited fan was rushed out of the pit. Both Rancid and Dropkick Murphys put on nearly flawless shows, and although they’re only likely touring together due to the timing of album releases, it’d be incredible to see them on the same bill again in the future.
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Kate Scott

Kate Scott Daly specializes in music journalism. Her body of work includes live documenting over 200 bands, reviewing several albums and concerts, and multiple artist interviews. Kate continues to brave the photo pits of major music venues and outdoor festivals throughout the Chicagoland scene.