by Jane Roser
Ferocious, unique and powerful have all been words used to describe a Street Dogs live performance. One iTunes reviewer took it a step further, praising the band for constantly performing ‘the best live shows in the world’. It’s no doubt, then, that founder and frontman Mike McColgan couldn’t stay away for long when the band tried to take a break from touring recently.
“The first couple of dates have been unbelievable,” McColgan says about their annual Wreck The Halls tour. “It’s great to get out there and talk to people and to play live. At the end of the day, it’s the most important thing we do. What we look forward to the most is being on stage.”
Street Dogs wear their heart on their sleeve and deliver exactly what the audience is craving: raw, emotional, passionate and honest punk rock. “We always take our live shows seriously,” says McColgan, “people take time to come see us, they’ve invested their hard-earned money to come see us, so no matter what the circumstances are, we want to rise up and give all that we can. But, we have fun, too. We try not to take ourselves so seriously and that transmits to the fans. It’s like that saying ‘If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.’ It’s truly a gift. I dreamt about this when I was a kid and we’re so lucky and grateful to be doing what we do.”
Street Dogs formed in 2002 by McColgan, who was the original frontman of Boston’s Dropkick Murphys, and today consists of band members Johnny Rioux, Marcus Hollar, Pete Sosa and Lenny Lashley. They have been hailed by fans and critics as one of the best punk rock bands out there and their motto, “Not without a purpose, not without a fight!” echos in each song, including their new release on the independent label Pirate Press Recordings, “Crooked Drunken Sons”. The title track is a haunting song about a friend of McColgan’s from Chicago who served in the army. “It’s his story,” McColgan says of the song, “he used to send us a journal from combat and I got inside of the human condition with him. It was very powerful and I knew of the conflict my buddy was involved in. I’ve touched on this subject in the past, but never hit the gas like we did with this song.”
McColgan is a veteran of the first Gulf War. Having several family members myself who are veterans and understanding firsthand the intensity and reality of PTSD, this song truly hit home for me. The lyrics speak for themselves: “What we all went through has changed us all for good; made us old before our time like our fathers knew it would. Seen so many brothers cut down in their prime; drink brings back the replay almost every single night.”
Giving back to several charities, especially those helping veterans, is very important to the band. McColgan tells me the one that is near and dear to his heart is Veterans, Inc. whose mission is to help veterans re-gain control of their lives and in doing so, eliminate homelessness among veterans. Another organization, Oxfam, is dedicated to righting the wrongs of poverty, hunger and injustice. “They try to empower people and help in impoverished areas to give locals the tools and the means to be self sufficient,” McColgan explains.
McColgan grew up with rock and roll, folk and rap music and attended several shows when he was growing up in Boston which fueled his love for music. “I wanted to write lyrics and sing. I was forced into the choir by the nuns when I was a kid,” but that helped to hone his skills. Then in the mid 1990s, he got involved in a band called The Snots. The Dropkick Murphys followed and then McColgan decided to take some time off from music and dedicated himself to the life of a Boston firefighter.
However, he couldn’t stay away from music. “There’s so many different types of music and artists that inspire and stimulate me. Inspiration can come from unexpected places. I was born into an Irish family, so the family listens to Irish music as a source of identification and pride. One of my all-time favorite groups are The Pogues, although of late, I’ve also been listening to a lot of Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, The Downtown Struts and The $wingin’ Utter$. I have their new album on repeat-it’s great!”
The Street Dogs will be performing at Union Transfer in Philadelphia on December 19th, which is a show they always look forward to. “Philly people are the salt of the earth, “McColgan says, “they’re no frills, working class people and what you see is what you get. They’re very similar to Boston in that respect, so we can really identify with them. We always have a blast at our Philly shows and, of course, it’s also obvious that they have the best sandwiches in the world.”
Street Dogs next venture is a live album and a DVD to accompany it. “We’ll be splitting the album with a band called Noi!se, we’ll each have three new songs on it,” exclaims McColgan. And fans can look forward to a new studio album that they plan to track in early fall of 2014.
If you haven’t heard of Street Dogs yet, go check out a show soon. They’re very grateful for their fans and give as much as they receive. You couldn’t ask for more at Christmastime.