Monday, August 3, 2009
The Street Dogs: Let Them Save Your Soul
How often do you get your mind (as well as your eardrums) legitimately blown at a rock and roll show? Especially when you have never heard of the band? Especially, especially when you've been stumbling around the Dublin (OH) Irish Festival in a vaguely been there-done that haze of familiar faces and a half dozen Killian's?
That's where Lisa and I found ourselves yesterday on the closing day of the second-largest (I'm told) Irish festival in the United States. There were the usual local suspects (whom we love) reeling and jigging the day away with homegrown talent and professional vigor. Sure there were new faces — the Celtic Tenors, Pogey and Dervish, to name a few — and they, too, gave very entertaining, good, clean accounts of themselves.
But it fell to the festival's closing act, out in the hinterlands of the Killian's Celtic Rock Stage, to deliver bone-rattling, hair-raising, fountain-of-youth inspiration to geezers like us.
All we knew about these guys was that the lead singer had been the original lead singer of the Dropkick Murphys.
Then the Street Dogs took the stage promptly at 6:30 and, for the next hour and a half, made me love punk rock all over again. Far less overtly Celtic than their Dropkick brethren or Flogging Molly or The Tossers, the Street Dogs come on like a Billy Bragg/Clash/Ramones car crash with louder and faster everything and an idealistically manic frontman in Mike McColgan.
More astounding than their brilliant, searing and utterly genuine show was learning that the Street Dogs have been around since 2003 — evidently saving rock and roll one sweaty, ear-splitting, pogoing show at a time. They have four records out. I don't own any of them.
That will change in about nine minutes.
No band appears to believe more than the Street Dogs and no frontman believes more deeply than Mike McColgan.
Believes in what?
The power of rock and roll.
And the son of a bitch is right.
It's hard to beat the pure joy of a great rock and roll show.
McColgan and his mates just ripped it — from the opening strains of Amazing Grace (courtesy of the Cyril Scott Pipe Band) which led to the blistering sing-a-long Not Without a Purpose to a knockout call-to-arms cover of the Joe Hill song (made famous by Billy Bragg) There is Power in a Union to McColgan's heartbreaking PTSD lament War After the War (dude's a Desert Storm vet and a former firefighter — talk about walking the walk) and on and on through a breakneck, ecstatic set.
There were pleas for unity, instructions on how to correctly and effectively pogo, Bono-esque climbs up the scaffold, Townsend-like leaps off amps, dedications to the active duty soldiers, heartfelt exhortations to fuck MP3s and go buy The Clash and The Pogues on vinyl and the most supportive mosh pit in history.
It was a Woodstock moment for the Anti-Flag generation.
And it didn't matter how old you were. Or how long you've been married or ...
I'm fairly certain that a marriage (or any meaningful relationship, for that matter) is not truly consummated until you have pogoed together to Tobe's Got a Drinking Problem.
No one was immune to the joy ... the electricity ... the tinnitus.
This was the loudest show I've ever attended.
(Yes, even louder than when Scotty Mac opened for the Smithereens.)
The Street Dogs were so loud I thought Lisa might suffer a concussion. I thought I might crack a rib. I thought the bass player might stroke out.
And it was just loud enough.
Go see the Street Dogs. Buy their music. Be saved.