Wednesday, June 3, 2020

War/Peace: The Warrior’s Code

I suspect that many of you who read this blog also attend live music performances—or at least, you did before that stopped being a thing (temporarily, I hope). Musicians have been trying different ways to get live music out to their fans, some for free, some charging, some seeking “tips,” and others seeking charitable donations, while some are trying to use Patreon or other similar subscription type programs to try to partially replace the revenue lost from cancelled tours. I think that it is pretty well known that these days, most musicians make the bulk of their living from touring and merch, and not so much from streaming and music sales.

Since the pandemic closed most venues, I’ve watched some of my favorite musicians from the comfort of my house—Richard Thompson, Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, Dan Bern, Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi, as well as her fellow Native Daughters, Amythyst Kiah, Allison Russell and Leyla McCalla, Ben Nichols of Lucero, Jeff Tweedy, Raul Malo, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Indigo Girls, and I’m sure I’m leaving some out. Most of these performances have come from the performers’ homes (or, at least where they are sheltering), except for an Isbell/Shires album release show from the stage of an empty Brooklyn Bowl in Nashville. These performances aren’t the same as being at a live show, but on the other hand, they are also more intimate—as one friend mentioned to me after we separately watched Richard Thompson, her husband was excited to be able to see the master’s hands close up while he played the guitar.

Last Friday, I watched most of an unusual performance—Dropkick Murphys, a band that is closely associated with the Boston Red Sox (they even were given World Series rings by the team one year), playing live on the field at an empty Fenway Park, with the band members all more than the now traditional six feet apart. The concert was organized to promote a number of charitable organizations, which is common for the band. For nearly two hours, the band ripped it up with their trademark Celtic flavored punk, and they were amazing. It wasn’t the same as when I saw them live at Warped Tour 15 years ago, but then again, what is? I had to reluctantly step away after two hours for a virtual college reunion Zoom session, but the next day, I found the video, and watched the end, when Bruce Springsteen appeared on the giant video screen in centerfield and performed two songs with DKM—one of theirs (“Rose Tattoo,”) and one of his, “American Land,” an appropriate anthem for our times, with its message of an America made up of immigrants and people of all races. Remarkably, considering the logistics, the entire concert sounded great, and I give much credit to whoever did the sound.

One of the songs that they played that night was “The Warrior’s Code,” which technically isn’t about war, but about a boxer, "Irish" Micky Ward. But since boxing and war often use each other’s metaphors and terminology, I’m OK with this. Also, back in 2016, I wrote about a different DKM song, a cover of “Fields of Athenry,” which is about World War I (and it is far from the only song by the band that references actual war, for example “The Fighting 69th” (Civil War) and “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye” (anti-war song written in Ireland in 1867), all of which were played at Fenway, along with a cover of The Standells' “Dirty Water,” which has nothing to do with war, but which I wrote about, here.)

The video of the show is still available here, among other places, so check it out, and send a few bucks to the charities.

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