REWIND: St. Patrick’s Day is for Dropkick Murphys and other Celtic punks

Dropkick Murphys, Celtic punk

Dropkick Murphys, seen at the Greek Theater in Berkeley on Aug. 20. 2017, are American Celtic punk legends forever. Alessio Neri/STAFF.

It’s time for my semi-annual St. Patrick’s Day column.

There are quite a few examples where genres really shine when brought over to a different culture than the one that initially developed them. Heavy metal, for example, which originated in the U.K. and U.S., really shines when transplanted to Mongolia. In the same tradition, the punk music that grew up in Detroit and New York City really meshes well with Celtic influences.

What I’m saying is I’m finally doing a Celtic punk list. I’ve espoused my love of the genre for years but, to my knowledge, I’ve never delved into it. You’re welcome.

Dropkick Murphys — “I’m Shipping Up To Boston”

Sometimes the easy pick for a list like this is just lazy, a decent song coasting on fame. I try to avoid those in favor of deep cuts. But sometimes it’s just legitimately a really great song.

Not everything popular is overrated, guys. I had that “ugh, popular things are uncool” phase, too, and sometimes popular things are garbage. But sometimes things rise to the top because they deserve it. “Green Book” may have won Best Picture, but sometimes “Everything Everywhere All At Once” wins instead.

Flogging Molly — “Drunken Lullabies”

You may have picked it up from the song title, but Dropkick Murphys are from Boston. They’re not alone. A shockingly high percentage of Celtic punk bands have no connection whatsoever to Ireland other than being from Boston, which has made its Irishness part of its municipal identity, right up there with having absolutely insufferable sports fans.

Yes, I’m still bitter about being thrown up on by a Red Sox fan in the Oakland Coliseum bleachers. Because it happened more than once.

Anyway, Flogging Molly singer Dave King is actually from Ireland! He’s so Irish that his Wikipedia page says he grew up in a flat in Beggars Bush, which is just an incredibly Irish collection of words. I appreciate the authenticity.

The Rumjacks — “An Irish Pub Song”

First off, yes, these guys are Aussies. I don’t care. I love this song.

I don’t have a nostalgic fondness for Irish pubs. I get the appeal in theory but I don’t like crowds and I don’t drink so in practice it’s not really for me, it’s just a building full of loud drunk people. But I don’t begrudge songs just because I don’t personally identify with the subject matter; I like love songs about men when I’m a cisgendered, heterosexual man, and I still like “Sweet Home Alabama” when you couldn’t convince me to go there if you offered me money.

The Tossers — “Erin Go Bragh”

The Tossers are a Celtic punk band. This is a Celtic punk song. I couldn’t tell you why.

It’s not especially punk, is the thing. There’s not the electric edge to it. There’s not the raucous energy that feels vaguely like a riot is going to break out even if you’re listening to it alone. It’s really just a very uptempo Celtic folk song. But listen to it. That’s Celtic punk, right? Genres are all made up anyway, I’m perfectly happy to go purely by vibes. If any music theorists want to challenge my vibes, you’re welcome to make that argument, as I completely ignore it.

Sir Reg — “Arrive on St. Patrick’s Day”

Finally, a song that’s thematically appropriate to the holiday.

Singer Brendan Sheehy, is, first of all, named Brendan Sheehy. That’s not a misdirect because he’s from Dublin. So there’s an authentic pedigree there.

But where are they based? Köping, Sweden, a city so Swedish it’s got an umlaut. The other band members have much less Irish names like Karin Ullvin and Olle Karlsson. Though it’s geographically closer, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Sweden is somehow less Irish than The Rumjacks’ home of Australia.

But if there’s one lesson from this list, it’s that the actual location doesn’t matter. If you want to write sublimely chaotic songs about drinking and the working man, no matter where you’re from, Celtic punk is there for you. Just don’t try to make me listen to it in a pub.

Follow publisher Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at

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