Flashback to 1998. I'm in Southern California on a road trip and every tape we brought with us had been played about 100 times. Needless to say, we were in desperate need of something new. Cassette tapes were on their deathbed and the selection at our friend's shop proved it. The other guys picked out a bunch of metal and tongue-in-cheek rock stuff. I picked up Do or Die by the Dropkick Murphy's. After the barrage of speed picking and satanic references it was finally my turn.
I popped in the cassette and was instantly hooked. The music was good, but pretty typical of the genre. The thing that struck me most was the singer, Mike McColgan. There was a passion in his voice that couldn't be faked. Dropkick took off and quickly became one of the biggest names in punk. Shortly after, Mike quit the band to live out his childhood dream: becoming a Boston fireman. Although I thought this was great, I was kinda bummed that my favourite part about DM was gone.
Fast-forward to 2002. I'm in Vegas slinging clothes at a punk rock shop. A cross-eyed, buck-toothed kid named Nick stops by with a CD that I "have to hear." The record is Savin Hill and the band is called Street Dogs.
I'm a little hesitant because this kid comes in like every day. And on most days, he's got a CD with him by some Boston band that I "have to hear."
He tells me to put the CD on.
I tell him to buzz off.
He tells me they are from Boston.
I tell him he should move there. That way he'll be able to see them play all the time.
Finally he says, "But it's the old singer from Dropkick." I put the CD on. But not before busting him a bit more by telling him I'll put on his Pound Puppies CD if he goes and gets me a drink.
Surprisingly, I like the CD. A lot.
Fast-forward, again. But this time to present day Philadelphia. I read somewhere that Street Dogs are playing in town. Immediately, I get a hold of the band and ask them if they'd like to stop by. Johnny gives me a call and we set everything up.
It's my day off so I meet the band up at the shop. They grab some gear, hook us up with copies of the new CD and head off to the venue. Excited, I put Back to World on and I'm immediately treated to some grade A rock 'n' roll.
The record is laced with Cock Sparrer-esque guitar riffs, driving bass, solid drumming and, of course, Mike's unique voice. The subject matter ranges everywhere from corrupt governments and homesick vets to drinking. It's all sung with a sincerity that most bands of their ilk desperately lack. After a few spins of Back to the World, I was more than ready for the show.
As much as I dig the records, the best way to experience Street Dogs is in person. They easily have one of the best live shows around, and the packed crowd was eating up every bit of it. Even if it was a Monday night. By the time the band wrapped things up everyone there was soaked in sweat and smiling from ear to ear.
Street Dogs are the real deal.
The following weekend I was up in NY to see the Pogues. After a citywide pub-crawl and the show, I found myself at a dive bar in Greenwich Village. It was there that I ended up running into a couple of Boston-Irish firemen who had recognized me from another pub. The conversation, for some reason, led us to talk about the Street Dogs. When I told them that I had just run into them their faces lit up with joy.
"We know Mike McColgan," they told me. "He used to be a fireman up in Boston. He's a great guy. He quit the fire dept to be in that band ya know. It's not my cup of tea, but they've got to be pretty good. He gave up a great job for them!"
We chatted a bit more and I decided to retire to my hotel. I said my goodbyes and Mike came back into the conversation.
"It was nice talking to ya. If ya see Mike tell him we said hi and good luck!"
Band site: www.street-dogs.com
Label Site: Brass Tacks
All photos and content by Justin Rosenthal