Last weekend marked the twelfth installment of Boston street punk veterans Street Dogs‘ annual Wreck The Halls festivities. The shows have taken a variety of shapes and sizes over the years, but remain one of the annual occasions where all of the old punks and skins and hardcore kids get together for a few debaucherous nights to celebrate the holidays and the music and the scene (oh, and to raise money and toys for a few good causes). This year, Wreck The Halls took place in a new spot, Sinclair in Cambridge, and spanned three overwhelmingly successful nights. Street Dogs guitarist Lenny Lashley’s other main project, The New Darkbuster, opened the first night (Thursday) alongside Boston hardcore act Taxi Driver, though sadly, we weren’t in the house for that night. We were, however, in the house when The Abductors and The Pinkerton Thugs came with the throwback ’77-inspired working class punk rock on night number two; check out our review and pictures here. And of course, we were back at it Saturday night when the lineup had a bit of a different feel and just might have been the best of the bunch.
Where the first two nights of the three-night affair focused on a more throwback street punk vibe, night three showed a little bit more of the range of local acts that have been influenced by – and continue to influence – the headliners. As such, Worcester, Massachusetts’ Michael Kane and the Morning Afters got things rolling on the third and final night of hall-wrecking. It’s probably easiest to classify the four-piece as a garage rock band, as the catchiest song in their set – “Old Men Die In New Suits” – owes just as much to the Replacements as it does to mid-70s Bruce Springsteen. Perhaps not coincidentally, both of those name-dropped bands had covers featured prominently in the Morning Afters’ half-hour set, including a set closing rendition of “Born To Run,” a track considered hallowed ground for most in the scene but which the band handled with expert care.
Keeping things in-state, A Wilhelm Scream from New Bedford, Massachusetts, were next out of the chute and my lord did they come to play. If you follow our instagram feed, I think I commented that of all of the bands I shot over thirty-three shows this year for Dying Scene, A Wilhelm Scream were simultaneously the tightest and the heaviest of the bunch, evoking all of the best parts of vintage Strung Out. As a matter of fact, the band play so fast and tight that they blazed through their pre-written setlist in record time, pulling a few older rabbits out of their collective hats. In what was a pretty cool moment for someone that’s an amateur photographer but more importantly a dad, a couple of the AWS guys had their grade-school age kids on stage for the occasion, including frontman Nuno Pereira’s five-year-old son, who was seeing daddy play for the first time ever. Pretty cool moment that further demonstrates what a family the scene really is.
All of this set the stage, of course, for Street Dogs, playing their final area performance of the year. After taking the stage to the sounds of the timely, poignant Springsteen-led “This Land Is Your Land” singalong, the band came shot out of the gate on all cylinders once again, this time kicking things off with “Rattle and Roll” from their 2010 self-titled release. The followed in rapid succession with the anthemic “Up The Union,” “Punk Rock And Roll” and, of course, “Savin Hill” before coming up for air. Once again, the local working class heroes did a stellar job of mixing a few deeper cuts like the self-titled album digital bonus track “Ballad Of Detroit” into a lengthy setlist chock full of crowd-surf-inducing favorites like “Not Without A Purpose,” “Back To The World,” and “Tobe’s Got A Drinking Problem.” McColgan led the band in a particularly poignant rendition of “Final Transmission” during the set’s midway point. It’s tough to not be moved by even just reading the lyrics of a song like “Final Transmission,” but McColgan seemed to be particularly dialed in on this night, channeling something bigger than any of us.
And, because it’s a hometown Street Dogs show, there were of course some special guests in attendance. The multi-talented Hugh Morrison, who played with Street Dogs’ Mike McColgan, Johnny Rioux and Pete Sosa on the stellar FM359 album a couple years, jumped in on squeeze box for a few numbers. The band’s tour manager, Ryan Packer, who himself is a member of hardcore bands like Slapshot and American War Machine, pitched in on acoustic guitar on “Tobe’s Got A Drinking Problem.” They were also joined on co-lead vocals on “Elizabeth” by Heather Waters, the same voice who sang the original on 2008’s State Of Grace. The one-two punch of the Joe Strummer-inspired “General’s Boombox” directly into a pitch-perfect rendition of the Clash classic “Complete Control” was another particular highlight. No matter what their make-up, the Street Dogs roots have always been planted firmly into the soil that Strummer and The Clash tilled for many years, and they paid true, moving homage to the man on what was just shy of the fifteen year mark of his death. And, of course, there was the stage invasion during “Boston (Borstal) Breakout” that brought the show, and the three-day weekend, to a fitting close. To paraphrase a line from the Street Dogs classic (and personal favorite) “In Defense Of Dorchester,” no matter how far the bands branches might stretch, this town and this scene and the family that they’ve amassed here will always be firmly ingrained in their core.
Check out our full photo gallery from night number three below! Night two words and pictures are still up here.