April 26, 2018
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Dropkick Murphys to bring unique strain of punk to Bangor Waterfront

By Andrew Neff, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — You can call Al Barr, the lead singer of the Dropkick Murphys, a lot of things: husband, father, singer, even songbird.

But don’t call him a rock star.

“No, that’s not me. I don’t like that. I don’t look at my life as a rock star experience,” Barr said. “If someone recognizes me, which might happen at venues we’re playing, it’s cool, but it’s not something any of us expect. I don’t relate to it at all. To me that’s some unrealistic fantasy by someone living in a room with a Shawn Cassidy poster on the wall.”

Barr’s dating himself with the late-1970’s pop culture reference, but although he wouldn’t divulge his age, he did say the first MTV music video he saw was Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman.”

Like most members of the Dropkick Murphys — who will bring their unique blend of punk, rock and Celtic music to the Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor Saturday night for the Shamrock-N-Roll Festival from 1 to 11 p.m. — Barr is a New Englander.

“We are all from New England, except our bagpiper who was born in Scotland and raised in Calgary,” said Barr.

A child of the ’80s, Barr grew up in New Hampshire.

“I’ve been singing since I was a kid. I’ve sung in bands since I was 14, but I’ve been singing in front of an audience since I was 10,” Barr explained.

So maybe the hardworking, blue-collar frontman’s not a rock star, but songbird? Really?

“I was just a songbird of my generation,” he said. “I’m kidding of course. I was in choir as a kid, and when I was in fourth grade, I got picked for all-city choir with high school kids.”

From school choir to world-renowned septet in just over three decades, it has been quite a ride for Barr and the heavily Irish group opening its current tour in grand fashion with back-to-back sellout shows at Fenway Park in Boston Thursday and Friday.

“We had definite Celtic musical influences, but a lot of kids in the punk scene didn’t aspire to play bagpipes or banjo. Then as we came along, we found more people to play what we call the wacky instruments,” explained Barr, who replaced Mike McColgan as the band’s frontman in 1998. “When we went to a seven-piece band 11 years ago, our sound really changed.

“The sound we’ve managed to cultivate has come from many different waves of accordions — we went through four in a year because they don’t travel well,” Barr said of their trademark mix of American rock ’n’ roll, classic punk rock and Celtic folk music. “It’s been a lot of different changes before we got to this bus accident on stage we have now, and I hope we continue to grow.”

The Dropkick Murphys are on tour promoting their seventh studio album, “Going Out in Style,” with a 24-date concert tour covering five months (with a two-month holiday break), 21 cities, four countries and three continents.

The group some still underestimate as a bar band has sold well over 3 million records worldwide in the last 15 years and has one platinum hit single (“I’m Shipping Up to Boston”) as well as an album (“The Meanest of Times”) that debuted in the Billboard Top 20.

Then there are other perks, such as hanging out with celebrities, having one of your singles (“Tessie”) adopted as as the team song of the Boston Red Sox, and — as Barr did Tuesday night — partying with the Boston Bruins at a Stanley Cup party.

“I became a [Red Sox] fan through the whole ‘Tessie’ experience, and playing Fenway is an amazing thing,” said Barr, calling the Fenway sellouts a landmark experience for the entire band. “What an honor. It’s one of those big moments and rewards for us.”

Not bad for a bunch of guys whose families had urged them to get real jobs for the last 20 years.

“This has been something that I was told by everyone I was wasting my time with,” Barr said. “I heard that my whole life, so to get where we’ve gotten to now is very humbling because I remember where we came from and what it took to get there.”

Band members Barr, Tim Brennan (guitar, accordion, whistles and vocals), Ken Casey (lead vocals and bass), Jeff DaRosa (banjo, bouzouki, mandolin, harmonica and vocals), Matt Kelley (drums and vocals), James Lynch (guitars and vocals) and Scruffy Wallace (bagpipes) have been together for the last five years.

“I don’t know about bowling together, but we do all get along,” Barr said. “We all know our boundaries. We’re kind of a big, dysfunctional traveling family.”

A family that doesn’t care much about merchandising, packaging or publicity.

“There’s no image … period,” Barr said. “We are what we are and you get what you get. We don’t go through a makeover before we go on stage. Nobody drives us anywhere or dresses us. We’re not high-maintenance.”

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