Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Coachella Festival #2 review: Day 2 (afternoon)

My review originally appeared in the OC Register. Photos by Kelly Swift. 

Dropkick Murphys have always taken pride in their hometown of Boston, a fact that has shown up in lyrics on virtually all of the group's albums over the years.

But, as might have been expected given the marathon bombing and aftermath since the band's set last weekend, that allegiance took on new meaning during the Celtic punk band's fiery return to Coachella Saturday afternoon.

"A big thank you to everyone for showing such incredible support to the people in Boston," Bassist/singer Ken Casey said halfway into the set, just before tearing into "Your Spirit's Alive," written for a friend who passed away five years ago. "It's very fitting this week," he added.

Taking the stage to a traditional Irish tune sung by Sinead O'Connor, the group (with Josh Wallace, pictured above) launched with the fast and furious "For Boston," off 2001's Sing Loud, Sing Proud. From there, it was one blitzkrieg, bagpipe-enhanced tune after another from gravelly voiced frontman Al Barr & Co., in a changed-up set list that included "Broken Hymns," "The Boys Are Back" (during which the singer mixed it up with fans and a slam pit commenced) and the title track from latest release Rose Tattoo.

Violent Femmes singer Gordon Gano also joined them on fiddle for a traditional Irish tune, and they closed with their rousing take on Woody Guthrie's "I'm Shipping Up to Boston."

Just a few years ago, members of Violent Femmes weren't speaking, instead caught up in a lawsuit over the use of band's music in a TV commercial. But spurred in part by the 30th anniversary of their eponymous debut LP, a modern rock radio classic, as well as Coachella organizers' knack for reunions, they're back together.

On the main stage, the folk-leaning trio sounded as good as ever while playing that angst-ridden acoustic staple from front to back. (Gano thought he accidentally skipped one when he finished "To the Kill," though it had come after "A Promise" as it should. "That's not the way I hear it in my head," he joked.)

Half the songs got a enthusiastic reception, thanks no doubt to heavy KROQ airplay back in the day. Standouts included the jaunty "Blister in the Sun," a dynamically frantic "Add it Up," the xylophone-driven "Gone Daddy Gone" and, after the album had been finished, the ebullient call-and-response number "American Music."

Earlier in the day, the Wombats began their set late (having been in San Francisco just this morning) and it was cut short.

Fortunately, the Liverpool alt-pop trio made the most of their time with an exuberant performance, highlighted by the appealing mid-period Cure-ish "1996," a more aggressive "Jump into the Fog" and the angular rock of crowd singalong "Let's Dance to Joy Division."

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