Maddie Malhotra / Boston Red Sox / Getty Images – Streaming Outta Quarantine
Dropkick Murphys put on one of the most high-profile – and most-viewed – livestreams early in the pandemic, with Streaming Outta Fenway at the famed Boston Red Sox ballpark on May 29.
Looking back on it, Dropkick Murphys frontman Ken Casey is shocked he didn’t contract the coronavirus a year ago.
As the pandemic began to spread, reshaping the world and the concert industry as we know it, Casey and the beloved Celtic punk band were finishing up a European tour that wrapped in London on Feb. 21, 2020.
“I usually stay after the show and shake hands and meet people, and I went the whole tour without ever letting the crowd get near me,” Casey says. “The one show I didn’t was Milan [on Feb. 17], because the Italian fans are so passionate. … You say hello to one and you can’t really get away. I must’ve shaken hands and taken pictures with 400, 500 kids after the show.”
Within days, Lombardy – the Italian region where Milan is situated, and the epicenter of the country’s outbreak – was locked down. Anitbody tests suggested no Dropkicks members had contracted the virus, but the band was still shaken.
Back home in their native Boston, the band soon faced another conundrum: With cases rising on the East Coast, should it abandon its traditional run of St. Patrick’s Day concerts, which has taken place in Beantown annually for more than two decades?
The decision wasn’t easy – “We’re touring all year … it’s a nice feeling to come home have that,” Casey says – but the band called the gigs off, even before the Massachusetts government mandated such a cancellation.
“We had about 24 hours to sulk, and then we had about 48 hours to change gear and plan a livestream,” Casey says.
Recorded at a soundstage in Derry, N.H., Dropkick Murphys’ Streaming Up From Boston event turned heads as one of the first COVID-era livestreams to go beyond couches, iPhones and acoustic guitars, and it garnered millions of views across Twitch, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
In May, Dropkick Murphys upped the ante again, playing from the field of an empty Fenway Park during a show that included a two-song cameo from Bruce Springsteen and garnered 5.9 million views, securing a No. 3 rank on Pollstar’s top 2020 livestreams chart.
“No matter how many times I’ve gotten to be on the field and do cool things at Fenway through the band, it never gets old,” Casey says. “They never let musicians play on the infield, that’s always covered up. I was running around singing and half the time, instead of thinking about what’s the next line, I was thinking about, like, I want to do a slide. We were kids out there, and it was so fun.”
The band went the rest of 2020 without another streaming gig, but it’ll reunite March 17 for Still Locked Down, a free livestreamed show to celebrate a second St. Patrick’s Day during the pandemic.
Like the St. Patrick’s Day and Fenway Park gigs in 2020, Boston-area software company Pega will present Still Locked Down.
“We’re very picky about who we align ourselves with from a sponsorship angle,” Casey says. “Pega being a local company, started in one of the guy’s garages in Cambridge, it’s like, ‘Oh my god, could there be a more perfect fit for Dropkick Murphys?’ We’re doing a free livestream and to do a high-production show, it’s not cheap. If it wasn’t for those guys, we probably would be on our couches doing it!”
For Still Locked Down, Dropkick Murphys will perform facing each other – “In the square,” Casey jokes – with video walls behind them on all four sides. Says Casey: “If we’re not playing to people [in person], how can we make it different?”
Expect material from Turn Up That Dial, Dropkick Murphys new studio album completed in quarantine and due April 30. For the record, Casey says the band made “a conscious effort to be fun, uplifting, positive” to counteract the bad vibes still lingering from 2020, and he suggests the record could be “the soundtrack of the way out of the pandemic.” For now, those tunes will have to satiate Dropkick Murphys fans waiting to see their band in the flesh once again.
“We’re not going to mess around with the rest of 2021,” Casey says. “We’re just keeping our fingers crossed, and the plan is 2022, go like we’ve never gone before.”
And if that tour routing doesn’t come through your market?
Streaming “is something we have to do even after” the pandemic, Casey says. “Hopefully, we can continue to stream one of the Boston shows, even when there’s an audience so that all those people around the world that will never get to come to Boston on St. Patrick’s Day can still get a feel for it.”