The Dropkick Murphys, Rancid, and The Bronx Team Up to Tear Up Richmond!

The Dropkick Murphys at Virginia Credit Union Live in Richmond, VA on 8/25/2021. Photo Credit: Dave Pearson

Richmond VA – Darkness had fallen over Virginia Credit Union Live on the evening of August 25, 2021. The soothing sound of an Irish ballad filled the air, giving the awaiting audience a sense of peace. Honestly, the lovely, calming Irish vocals, second only to a Celtic Woman performance was but a mirage. Not to be cliché, but the calm was an illusion, as the storm called The Dropkick Murphys was about to unleash a thunderous musical downpour on Richmond.  

The good news was, we were prepared. The first 2 bands, The Bronx and Rancid, had brought the venue to its knees with a mix of hard and harder punk, rock, grunge, and just great fun.

I did question why a band, known for its overwhelming support of all things Boston sports, especially the Red Sox, would occupy a venue with another act called, The Bronx. Seconds after they took the stage, I knew they had made a great choice (and they are from California anyhow, it is not like they had any ties to the Yankees). From the moment Matt Caughthran (vocals), Joby J Ford (guitar), Ken Horne (guitar), Brad Magers (bass) and Joey Castillo (drums) took the stage, it was obvious it was going to be one hell of a night. The timing of this tour for The Bronx was very special also, as their new album (give a listen) was released 2 days after the show!! We were treated to several songs from the album (Bronx VI) including “White Shadow” (WOW!), “Superbloom”, and “Curb Feelers”.  After listening to their set, their Ramones influence was obvious, and Matt’s T-shirt put a seal on that deal.

The Bronx at Virginia Credit Union Live on August 25, 2021. Photo credit Dave Pearson

Co-headlining with the Dropkick Murphys was the band, Rancid. Hailing from Berkeley, CA, this is the second time the two have toured together, this being their aptly named, Boston to Berkeley II tour. Their punk style complimented that of the Bronx. Tim Armstrong (vocals, guitar, and beard), Lars Frederiksen (vocals and guitar), Matt Freemen (bass and vocals), and Branden Steineckert (drums and vocals), kicked their set into high gear immediately with “Root Radicals” and never looked back. The train was leaving Berkeley and on a collision course to Boston.

As it turns out, the last time Rancid visited Richmond was 1995. Obviously they had a lot to catch us up on. Keeping in line with the Bronx, Rancid delivered a full set of hard core, punk ass music. Power cords rained down as they played a plethora of tunes from an arsenal that goes back 30 years. “Fall Back Down” had some heads moving and bodies slamming, “Journey to the End of East Bay” upped the volume a little more.

Rancid performs at VA Credit Union Live in Richmond, VA on 8/25/2021. Photo credit Dave Pearson

After a little Rancid ‘dance tune’, “Where I’m Going”, they went into “Salvation”. To make things interesting, a little crowd skirmish led to a repeat of “Rejected”. Once the dust had cleared, the rest of their set was uneventful (in terms of audience bloodshed), finishing up with “Time Bomb” and “Ruby Soho”.

Now back to where we started… sure, we all know the night was not going to end with soothing Irish lullabies. Anyone who has ever seen the Dropkick Murphys had a very good idea of what was to come. I admit, my previous DKM experience was limited to their two virtual St. Patrick’ Day shows (read review #1 and #2 here) and while the two performances were phenomenal, they did not fully prepare me for what was about to come.

Jeff DaRosa took the stage first, banjo in hand (he also plays, bouzouki, mandolin, harmonica, acoustic guitars, vocals). The rest of band, consisting of Al Barr (lead vocals), Tim Brennan (guitars, accordion, mellotron, whistles, vocals), Ken Casey (lead vocals, bass guitar),  Matt Kelly (drums, vocals), James Lynch (guitar, vocals), Kevin Rheault (bass) and Lee Forshner (bagpipes) followed. They kicked off the show with “The State of Massachusetts”, after which another photographer and I exchanged exhausted glances as we were having a hard time keeping up with the movement from the pit. This was going to be fun!

Jeff DaRosa from the Dropkick Murphy starts off the night in Richmond, VA on 8/25/2021. Photo credit Dave Pearson

The third song was the title track from their newest album (completed during COVID), “Turn Up That Dial”. Even though it was new, it was obvious the crowd had lived the song and the sing along had begun! Not to be outdone, “L-EE-B-O-Y” was next, which was also a sing along tune to hold the best ‘World’s best piper, you can’t deny’ on the pedestal where he belongs! As it turns out ‘he fights back, his hits keep coming like a boomerang. He tells it like it is, won’t kiss your ass, won’t start trouble cuz he’s got class’. The entire band was tearing up the stage and the crowd was loving every minute of it.

Everyone needs a theme song and the next song in the set is about to be just that for many. If you ever have the urge to express yourself non-verbally, “Middle Finger” is for you. For those who did not understand the reference (like there were any?), Al provided a complete demonstration of the gesture to all.

Al Barr with DKM lighting it up in Richmond, VA on 8/25/2021. Photo credit Dave Pearson

As the set continued, we learned the history about one of the newest songs, “Queen of Suffolk County”. As it turns out it is about an ‘angry ass Boston Woman’. Now that I go back and listen, I can see that.

Ken talked a little about what they did during COVID, “While you were home collecting your stimmy checks, we were making a new album!” Going back to the two virtual shows I had watched, it was obvious they were not letting COVID sideline them (by the way, the new album is a must have!).

Tim and Jeff from the Dropkick Murphys in Richmond, VA on 8/25/2021. Photo credit: Dave Pearson

We were witness to two songs off their first album, Do Or Die, including “Get Up” and “Road of the Righteous”. Just as with their more recent songs, these were powerful, fun, and… well, Irish! DKM has a style that will endure as long as they play.

All through their set, the level of moshing had been escalating. The moshing reached its peak with another form their current album, “Smash Shit Up”. Give it a listen, you will understand why.

A little pit action with the Dropkick Murphys in Richmond, VA on 8/25/2021. Photo credit: Dave Pearson

Then came the moment I had been waiting for, “H.B.D.M.F.”, which also happens to be their over-the-top newest video. As Ken introduced the song he asked if anyone was celebrating a birthday. We all got a good laugh when he noted that several younger people (not quite children, but close) shouted with approval. It was entertaining watching him explain that the song is targeted at ADULTS who go about the months leading up to their birthDAY advertising the event (it is a birthday, not a week). 

Ken from The Dropkick Murphys in Richmond, VA on 8/25/2021. Photo credit: Dave Pearson

As the night wound down, they continued to wind us up. Finishing the night was “Rose Tattoo”, “The Boys Are Back”, and “I’m Shipping Up To Boston”.

As quickly as the storm began, it had ended. The several thousand who attended all looked exhausted, in a great way, as they filed out of the venue. The night had been filled with music from three bands that worked very well together, each band playing off the energy created by the other. While Boston to Berkely II has only just begun, I cannot wait for tour III the next time the show comes to town.

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So you are over 18 and want to celebrate your birthday at a Dropkick Murphys concert? Better think again (their latest video):

Dropkick Murphys Setlist

The State of Massachusetts
Boys on the Docks
Turn Up That Dial
Middle Finger
Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya
Barroom Hero (with Lars Frederikson and Tim Armstrong)
Queen of Suffolk County
Mick Jones Nicked My Pudding
Good as Gold
The Bonny
Citizen C.I.A.
Get Up
Road of the Righteous
Smash Shit Up
Going Out in Style
Rose Tattoo
The Boys Are Back
I’m Shipping up to Boston

Show Date: August 25, 2021