It may have been Mardi Gras in Soulard, but Saturday night in University City, you would have assumed St. Patrick's Day showed up a little early. Covered in green, Mardi Gras beads and Guinness-infused grins, thousands shuffled into the Pageant to take in the beloved Boston punkers' spirited Irish wail.
Minneapolis' Off With Their Heads popped the cork on the festivities. Although the band had just cruised through town with Less Than Jake at Pop's a few weeks back, you could tell OWTH was pleased to be back in St. Louis. Wasting no time, the band ripped through thirty minutes of economical, albeit spazzy, snot-core punk. Considering the majority of the band's songs are about depression and struggle, OWTH was in good spirits and all smiles. Although singer/guitarist Ryan Young is never one to go out of his way to be the "animated front man," OWTH's new lead guitar player kept things interesting with an animated scowl and flashy swagger. He viciously strummed in the same manner Johnny Ramone attacked his signature Mosrite guitar. By the time OWTH hammered through its final song, "Fuck You, I'm Out," the Pageant crowd was primed and ready for more raucous rock.
The folks who attended Against Me!'s Live On the Levee show with Silversun Pickups last July may not have recognized this version of the band. Only two members of Saturday night's lineup were present last July. And even singer Tom Gabel may have looked like a stranger, considering he apparently fired his barber and now dons shoulder-length, mop-like hair. The most glaring addition, though, was definitely drummer, and rock & roll royalty, Jay Weinberg.
In last week's Riverfront Times, Gabel hinted at the fact that Weinberg has brought a sense of urgency to the band. This urgency was ever-present throughout the band's high-intensity, fourteen-song set. As Gabel unleashed his signature howl, and guitarist James Bowman and bassist Andrew Seward delivered back-up vocals and on-stage flare, Weinberg (whose leg was in a cast, mind you) destroyed every inch of his kit. The guy just couldn't stop playing, which added a new continuous, seamless transition from song to song that AM! never had in the past. And when the band lunged into its crowd favorite, "Thrash Unreal," it sounded every bit of the stadium anthem it was intended to be.
As the house lights dimmed, it was quite fitting for Dropkick to approach the stage to "The Boys are Back in Town" by Irish rock legends Thin Lizzy. There was almost a parting-of-the-seas when the die-hard hooligans scrambled from downing shots of Jameson at Halo Bar, to rushing the front of the stage. While the band came out spirited and primed from the get-go, it wasn't until three songs into the set before the crowd settled into the fanatical frenzy one would expect at a Dropkick show. As Scruffy Wallace squeezed out the intro to "Barroom Hero" from his ornate bagpipes, the crowd woke up and flew off the handle for the remainder of the set.
A huge Dropkick Murphys banner backed the band, as head-level bright-as-hell lights flashed throughout. At times the lights were so bright you could hardly see certain members of the seven-piece band. As DKM ripped into "Never Alone" from its classic 1998 album Do or Die, various members traded verses in their classic Southie drawl as over-served hooligans in the pit hugged it out with their buds and screamed every word. Singer Al Barr criss-crossed and served as the proper ringleader for the night's festivities. But it was bassist/founding member Ken Casey who served as the band's official spokesperson. Deep into the set Casey took a moment to go on a pro-union spiel and dedicated "Take 'Em Down" and "Worker's Song" to all the hard-working, and dwindling, union force.
And as fans heard the signature banjo pluck of "Shipping Up to Boston," the place erupted. Al Barr's vocals were hardly noticeable over the thousand-person chorus and floor-shaking stomp. The band left the stage shortly after but treated fans to a rousing encore which featured another giant sing-along in "Kiss Me, I'm Shitfaced." At this point the crowd rushed the stage and madness ensued. The band closed with a rousing version of "Boys on the Dock" and gracefully tapped out.
Ever wonder what it would be like if you combined Mardi Gras with St. Patrick's Day? That was the Pageant Saturday night.
Against Me! setlist: Pints of Guinness Make Us Stronger New Wave White Crosses Rice and Bread I Was a Teenage Anarchist White People for Peace Walking is Still Honest Slurring the Rhythms You Look Like I Need a Drink Turn Those Clapping Hands into Angry Balled Fists T.S.R. (This Shit Rules) Because of the Shame Thrash Unreal Sink, Florida, Sink
Dropkick Murphys setlist: (Missed a few; please help fill in any holes or miscues...)
Hang 'Em High
Captain Kelly's Kitchen
A Few Good Men
Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye
Watch Your Back
The State of Massachusetts
Road of the Righteous
Going Out in Style
Take 'Em Down
Tessie The Dirty Glass
The Auld Triangle (?)
Shipping Up to Boston
Encore: Kiss Me, I'm Shitfaced Skinhead On the M.B.T.A. Boys On the Dock