The close of 2012 marked the end, at least temporarily, of Street Dogs as we knew them. The band had recently announced an indefinite hiatus, and longtime guitarist Tobe Bean had departed for more alkaline pastures.
Fast-forward a year, and as it turns out, the Street Dogs hiatus was, as it turns out, not much of a hiatus after all. The band resurfaced with a new guitar section (Lenny Lashley and the Have Nots’ Matt Pruitt replacing Bean and Marcus Hollar), a couple new 7-inches, a European tour and, of course, their annual Wreck The Halls shows.
Wreck The Halls rolled into the band’s hometown of Boston for an early evening gig at the House Of Blues. The cavernous qualities of the 2400+ capacity venue have the ability to make for a punk-rock-show-going experience that is somewhat more detached than one might be expecting, leaving it the sole responsibility of the artist to bring their “A game” in order to establish a connection with the audience of anything approaching a visceral level. Fortunately on this evening, “Street Dogs in Boston” and “A game” were nothing if not synonymous.
The early start to the evening, when paired with family holiday party duties and obligatory Boston traffic rendered this particular writer (and I’d suspect a fair number of showgoers) incapable of arriving in time for the entire set from openers The Fenian Sons, and half the set of Stars and Stripes. For the uninitiated, the latter band is the usually off-again American oi! project featuring the inimitable Jack “Choke” Kelly of Slapshot fame.
Direct support on the evening was provided by The Unseen, themselves local legends of the street punk scene. Yours truly has never been a huge Unseen fan, though it is undeniable to say that the five-piece put on a hell of a high energy show. Frontman Mark Unseen did his best to break the fourth wall (and the photo pit), using the willing-and-able audience as the group’s sixth man. Even a brief cameo by well-renowned (tongue-in-cheek) Unseen hater Lenny Lashley was in order.
To start their set, the Street Dogs were ushered out by the Bunker Hill Pipe Band, setting the stage for what would become an evening filled with collaboration and audience participation; a truly communal experience. The band ripped into “Savin Hill” and “Punk Rock & Roll” right out of the gate, and never really took the gas pedal off the floor. The retooled lineup seemed to hit the ground running, and showed no signs of being a band with maybe less than three-dozen shows under their respective belts. Frankly, and without mincing words, the band sounded just as tight as ever.
While the band is certainly capable of shining in standalone fashion in their own right, the varied setlist provided by such a headlining opportunity provided more than a few noteworthy moments. More than one homage was paid to the late, great Joe Strummer (“The General’s Boombox,” “Coma Girl” and “Guns of Brixton”) on the eve of the eleventh anniversary of his passing. “Two Angry Kids” featured a return appearance from Bean, providing a three-guitar assault that reappeared on probably half of the remaining songs. A Lashley-led mini Darkbuster set (“Try To Make It Right,” “Stand and Deliver” and “Skinhead”) provided myriad singalong moments of the drunken variety. Longtime McColgan friend/collaborator and founding Dropkick Murphys guitarist Rick Barton (now of Continental fame) joined the band during the encore for a mini-DKM set featuring “Get Up” and “Never Alone” from the classic Do Or Die LP. Kelley Costello joined on vocals for a rousing rendition of “Elizabeth.” Local boys Matt Charette and Hugh Morrison contributed on mandolin and accordion respectively. Current Dropkick’s piper Scruffy Wallace joined on tin whistle, and the entire crowd joined in the excitement for show-closer “Boston Breakout,” the band’s rework of the Sham 69 classic “Borstal Breakout.”
I’ve spent my fair share of words on these pages lamenting the loss of the “scene” in Boston, at least in the traditional sense. If Wreck The Halls was any indication, though, the scene is very much still coming together and throwing down like the good ol’ days. And while future remains very much unwritten for the Street Dogs, given the urgency and vitality that the current lineup have displayed since getting together a scant few months ago, it is clear that whatever is written will be loud, bold and bright. We can only hope for it to come sooner rather than later.
Check out our Wreck The Halls photo gallery below.