Dropkick Murphys
Dropkick Murphys
John Gilhooley

From Berkeley to Boston, Punk Icons Fight On At Its Not Dead Fest

You know summer’s almost over when Game of Thrones is killing off its main characters and the walking dead becomes part of its most recent storyline. It also means there are a few end-of-summer kick-ass music festivals right around the corner. The coolest show on this end of the summer spectacle is the second installment of It's Not Dead Festival in San Bernardino this weekend. This event could possibly be the last time you’ll be able to see all these bands together on one stage in Southern California. This gathering of icons is by far a must do punk-rock migration to live this seminal-punk-rock moment.

This time around, show organizers Kevin Lyman (4Fini) teamed up again with John Reese (SGE) and Rich Best (LiveNation) to put together a spectacular lineup of classic and a few newer bands. Lyman is a heavyweight in the tour world; he’s responsible for so many great memories being he is the organizer of Warped Tour. He’s teamed up with Reese and Best on a few projects that have all been successful. The first It's Not Dead Fest was in 2015, and it featured great punk and ska bands. This year, the trio had to think about this in order to give the festival a new lineup, with the same feel.

This year, the organizers looked towards Boston and Berkeley for their inspiration. The headliners are Dropkick Murphys and Rancid. It doesn’t hurt that they are both Warped Tour vets. Let’s start with Dropkick; mainstream America fell in love with them in 2006 when their music was featured in Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece, The Departed. The film had a lot of heavyweights like Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Wahlberg. The Dropkick tune that captured everyone’s ear was "I’m Shipping Up To Boston."  The band was already established, and had a solid fan base, but the movie sent them into the uber-coolness-sphere with music lovers worldwide. They also have a kick–ass song called "The Walking Dead"; it’s a miracle somehow AMC hasn’t used that yet for obvious reasons. Other Dropkick hits include "Tessie," "Amazing Grace" and more recently "You’ll Never Walk Alone." Ask their fans, and they have song after song that draws them to this band.

Dropkick were established in 1996, they’re named after Dr. John "Dropkick" Murphy's Alcohol-Detoxification Facility, and they hale from Quincy, Massachusetts. They’re dubbed a Celtic Punk band, but they are more than that. Their music style is a virtual cornucopia of sound. Consider the Sex Pistols, Ramones, Clash, Pogues and AC/DC got together at a party, and nine months later, they had a baby, it would be Dropkick (hypothetically speaking of course). That’s their sound… it’s a weird comparison, but it definitely works! Dropkick has 9 studio albums to their credit and countless professional and personal accolades. These guys have done it all from putting out their own music on their own label, to having their tunes on Billboard, to having their music featured in video games, to playing at Fenway before a Red Sox game.

Truthfully, it’s the personal contributions to charities that define this band. There are plenty of bands or solo artists that have a spotlight on them, and waste that opportunity to help and inspire others. Not Dropkick; these guys constantly have charities they are involved with that, in the end, help our friends or family from situations that could impact any one of us. For that, this band is the real deal, and a very good reason why they are as successful as they are, and why they are so highly regarded within the music industry. That, and they play some loud and insane very cool tunes.

The band is simply electric and garnish a sound that make you want to dance a jig. The current lineup includes Al Barr (vocals), Ken Casey (guitar) Tim Brennan (guitar), James Lynch (guitar), Jeff DaRosa (banjo,mandolin,bouzaki) and Matt Kelly (drums). What’s very interesting about Dropkick is they have been intertwined with Rancid directly, indirectly and by happenstance for years. For example, Tim Brennan remembers being a kid watching videos by Rancid like Salvation on Mtv. As a band, in 1998, Dropkick released their first full-length album, Do or Die, which was produced by Rancid's Lars Frederiksen. Over the past year, Dropkick has toured with Tim Armstrong’s prodigy The Interrupters. They’re a newer ska-punk band that is coming into their own.

From Berkeley to Boston, Punk Icons Fight On At Its Not Dead Fest
John Gillhooley

Since Dropkick was on the bill, it only made sense to have Rancid on it as well. They’re currently on the road together for the Boston to Berkeley Tour. Rancid is the center of a Punker’s Paradise. This band has been dubbed under a few different umbrellas. Notably, they are considered a punk and ska band. They’ve been credited for bringing the punk and ska genres back to the forefront of music genres. Lead singer, Tim Armstrong, has had other successful band incarnations like Operation Ivy and The Transplants. As for Rancid, they’re from Berkeley and formed in 1991: Some of their hits you’ll see the kids moshing or skankin’ too are "Ruby Soho," "Time Bomb," "Fall Back Down," "Last One to Die," "Roots Radical" and "Salvation." Armstrong had a solo hit entitled "Into Action." Rancid is just an insane band to see live; they’ll literally knock your socks off. Truthfully, you just never know what any crowd at any festival is going to be like until you’re there. The organizers got this part very right, Dropkick and Rancid fans may want to bring their most comfortable dancing and/or moshing shoes!

That said, you may want to have those shoes on from the beginning of the festival. There are just so many cool bands playing this festival that there will be a little something for everybody. This Saturday, August 26th at Glen Helen Festival Grounds, aside the headliners, it has juggernauts The Adicts, Buzzcocks, Me First and the Gimme Gimme’s, The Selecter, Buck-O-Nine, Channel 3 (CH 3), GBH, US Bombs, Mad Caddies and The Interrupters just to name a few. For the ska-core crowd, this may be the last appearance ever by icons of the genre, Voodoo Glow Skulls.

Crowd at last year's It's Not Dead Fest
Crowd at last year's It's Not Dead Fest
John Gilhooley

If this isn’t enough for you, there’s a lot more. Photography legend Lisa Johnson as well as several other accomplished photogs and artists will be featured in the creative world of the Art’s Not Dead Exhibition. This gallery will display original art inspired by the punk scene, and those who are in it, including never-before-seen works and artifacts from the hardcore and punk scenes. This year Art's Not Dead celebrates the early days of the scene in photographs, flyers and artwork. That’s not all, there’s a literary center of the festival. The festival will be hosting special author appearances with readings and signings throughout the day. You get to hear directly from authors like Jeff Alulis, Shawna Kenney, Jim Lindberg, Jack Grisham, Keith Morris, Haley Rose, Bob Oedy, Tom Desavia, Mike Gitter, Jordan Schwartz and a few other uber cool writers.

In the end, what may drive many of us old enough to have these bands as part of the soundtrack of our life is that all children 10 and under get in for FREE with a paid ticket holder. Not to worry, kids will have a fun zone with a jumpy castle and more. Bring your little punker to see the biggest punks around.

FAIR WARNING: Listening to punk rock at a young age may cause creativity and individuality. Needless to say, all bases are covered for an epic event!

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