Cracking Uplifting Band: Travelling with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones from Boston, Massachusetts

If you‘ve read my earlier contribution to this blog reporting on the trip to Boston for the MMB Hometown Throwdown #20 you will immediately understand that it was an absolute no brainer to decide on following them as much as possible on their current UK/Germany tour. After all the first chance to see them again on the other side of the pond since 2011, and back then you only got to see them at 2 club shows in Vienna and Stuttgart. So I booked a flight to Manchester on Thursday, June 27, for their first show and a flight back from London on Sunday, June 30.

The Mighty Mighty BossTones (Watts Warehouse, Manchester (c) Johnny Rioux)
The Mighty Mighty BossTones (Watts Warehouse, Manchester (c) Johnny Rioux)

Arriving in Manchester early I did the usual tour visiting some record stores in the Northern Quarter not far from Piccadilly Main Central station and my hotel. After enjoying a very nice meal (recommended: Pasta Factory!) I was on my way to the British Football Museum nearby which I paid a quick visit. Again a high recommendation to anyone with the slightest interest in football, a lot of history on display.

After a short rest I made my way to the Ritz, where MMB where going to play their first UK show since early 2003. Entering through the doors I immediately met Grat, my good friend from Holland and MMB’s #1 fan, travelling to Boston for the Throwdown each and every year! Almost missed the Barstool Preachers, 1st support band fronted by T.J. McFaull, son of Collin McFaull, who’s on vocal duty for the legendary Cock Sparrer. A smart and entertaining young guy, fronting a poppy SkaPunk Band, very nice lads overall and very regular guests in Hamburg’s clubs.

Next up was Sonic Boom Six from Manchester and they play quite a variety of styles, mixing SkaPunk with Electronic Music. To be frank I didn’t really like the female singer’s voice and found their musical style rather uninspired. Their 2nd support slot made it difficult for the upcoming shows as I rather turned up late, straight to see the Bosstones perform, whereas I would not have mind to see the Barstool Preachers more often…

Then it was time for one of the best, if not THE BEST Live Band of this maltreated planet, to hit the stage. The 9 band members storming on stage as usual following the soulful introduction theme and lead vocalist Dicky Barrett introducing the band: „We are the Mighty Mighty Bosstones from Boston, Massachusetts“. Kicking the set off with the classic „Dr. D“ made everyone going nuts from the very start. They follow up playing a „very, very strong set“ as one of my best mate‘s and fellow Throwdown traveller Wriedt put it and Dicky is apologizing that the Bosstones had not played Manchester for such a long time, taking all the blame entirely on himself.

Further highlights of the set include old classics such as „Hope I Never Lose My Wallet“ or „Someday I Suppose“ as well as 3 hits of their latest album „While We’re At It“, the setlist spanning all of their 30 odd year career. As I already wrote in my Throwdown report their cover version of „I Can See Clearly Now“ is meant as a clear political message, and as I still can’t see a better way to put it:

I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day.
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day

 „Look straight ahead, there’s nothing but blue skies“, that’s what we’re all hoping for once the so called „POTUS“ Trump and his fellow mischief-makers and hatemongers Bolton, Bannon aso. have hopefully disappeared without a trace. I honestly can‘t think of another band right now that has expressed their discontent and anger about the current state of political affairs in a more clever way than the Bosstones did with their latest album „While We’re At It“. Reception in Manchester was great, crowd absolutely enthusiastic, just the way it should be and what the Bosstones deserve.

Next morning I took the train to Birmingham, UK’s 2nd biggest city and a place I’ve never been to before. Finding my hotel was really easy, not far from Central station and even closer to tonight’s venue, the O2 Institute. Birmingham’s city is all new, a big, neverending shopping area with plenty of restaurants inbetween. Not really my cup of tea, I prefer cities with old buildings, nice architecture, more identity and charm to them. I still managed to visit one of the best record stores that you can find in Europe or North America. Rich, owner of Ignite Records, is a wonderful person (rather unusual for a record store owner), who manages to offer a great selection of Punk & Indie albums in his tiny little store, many of them already hard to find and up for very reasonable prices.

Arriving late at the O2 Institute I still failed to miss Sonic Boom Six as the show started later than announced. Not an issue, because that gave me the chance to have a proper talk on all things personal and MMB with Grat outside in the foyer. The O2 Institute is a rather small old theatre with a nicely decorated balcony. Again the place is well packed and I decide to join Grat in the front row for a change.

He already believes that it could be a very rowdy crowd tonight, and he was right: From the start people went apeshit in the section closer to the stage and I had to concentrate on keeping people flying about away from me. Most probably it was that, or the imperfect sound (very unusual for the Bosstones as they generally manage to have a great sound), or MMB not wearing a uniform stage outfit tonight (again:very unusual), that made the show a little less enjoyable for me.

Picture by: Juliet Hounam
Picture by: Juliet Hounam

As it would continue over the course of this tour there are a few slight changes to the setlist. The fabulous „Toxic Toast“ and the ultra classic „Devil’s Night Out“ are new treats for this show which does close with the perfect „A Pretty Sad Excuse“ as the final song.

After the show Grat & me plus some fellow MMB travellers decide to visit a pub for a drink. What started very unspectacular with a handful of people in a small pub should turn into a really crazy and memorable night. I love it when you expect absolutely nothing and than you are suddenly in for a big surprise.

The following 2.5 hours we had a couple of pints with a nice Punk Rock couple from Chesterfield, Rebellion Festival Blackpool regulars who had also traveled to Birmingham for the Bosstones show, we followed the regular pub DJ from spinning some 2-Tone classics, to playing Clash, Upstarts, Sham 69, UK Subs and the Members, pleasing 2 old mods (almost 70?) all dressed up in suit and tie, doing their dance moves to „Poison Ivy“ from the Lambrettas and the Spencer Davis Group, having the pub singing along to Tenpole Tudor and Jilted John: „Gordon Is A Moron“!

Just before the last call a Liam Gallagher Lookalike got Stone Roses‘ „I Am The Ressurection“, what an anthem! It was also really nice to meet a couple of Aston Villa and Birmingham City fans, who were part of the Football Lads Against Fascism movement and loved the fact that I am from Hamburg and a long time St. Pauli supporter. Great to see just how much our club and what it stands for is respected in the world.

A night to remember, probably even unusual for British standards looking at the blank expression on the DJ’s wife face watching people singing along and dancing crazy. And a night that can only happen this way in an English Pub with the subcultural background that the UK has. 

… and on to the capital, the City of London. After arriving midday I met with my english friends from Worthing near Brighton, Jay and Andrea. I had met Jay 2 years ago in Munich when I was „on tour“ with Rocket from the Crypt. Great guy and RFTC supporter, who was keen to see MMB again, same as his lovely wife Andrea. It was extremely hot in London, approx. 35°C, feeling even hotter with the high humidity. We went to Camden, had a few drinks (too many!) and Pizza, meeting a couple more friends, and headed late to the Forum in Kentish Town, formerly known as The Town & Country Club.

I’ve seen a lot of shows here while I was living in London 30 years ago in the late 80’s and really love the place. Great turnout, almost sold out, and the most enthusiastic and friendly one yet. Everyone dancing, happy faces all around, people thoroughly enjoying themselves & being ever so grateful to be able to see the Mighty Mighty Bosstones again.

MMB all in uniform suits again today, black trousers & pink jackets, looking great, and they even changed the bass drum facing to reflect this. Once again they change the setlist a little and play „Wasted Summers“ tonight, an absolute fave of mine. A song that they will always play is „Let’s Face It“, the band’s credo I believe. And although we put the lyrics up in this blog before, let’s do it again as it is so bloody important in these troubled times, and there is no better way to put it:

Why were we put here?
What for?
We’re unsure
We sure weren’t put here to hate

Be racist, be sexist
Be bigots, be sure

If you want to tattoo a meaningful phrase, why not let it be this one.

Back to the lighter side of life: if you have to pick 3 songs that made fans dance the most it’s got to be „Rascal King“, „Don’t Worry Desmond Dekker“ & the inevitable smash hit „The Impression That I Get“: People literally storming the dance floor and dancing all over the club up to the very last row.

The band at it’s absolute best tonight, just like the crowd. Looking at Dicky while the band played an instrumental part it looks to me as if he is absolutely overwhelmed, really enjoying the great crowd reaction and response MMB are getting in London, letting it all sink in. The headline for my travel review comes from a text message of Jay’s friend, who stated that tonight’s show and the Bosstones were „cracking uplifting“.

Great comment and I guess there are no better words to describe tonight’s enjoyment and seeing the Bosstones perform live. After a nice afternoon at London’s Brick Lane – just love the multicultural setting – I arrived back at Hamburg late that Sunday night.

After a fabulous show in Hamburg, my Hometown Throwdown so to say (very accurately reviewed by Dos Alert in this blog), I did miss MMB’s Berlin show because of clash of dates. I was in Berlin that Wednesday night with my mate Wriedt but we „had“ to see the Stray Cats return to the live circuit. Probably a mistake, as Bosstones shows in Berlin in the late 90’s/early 00’s always ranked among the very best for me, and although the Stray Cats received an enthusiastic welcome from the sold out Columbia Club crowd I found their performance rather routine and half-hearted.

But this is still not the end of this (long, sorry…) story as we had booked a trip to the Mission Ready festival in Würzburg the following Saturday. It was the first MMB show that we booked at the beginning of the year and at that point it looked as if the Bosstones where only to come over for a festival weekend beginning of June. Me & my mates try to avoid festivals really, exceptions are Rebellion Blackpool and the wonderful Punk Rock Raduno in Bergamo, but as Mission Ready is a one dayer we could all agree to go on that 4 hour train ride down South.

Leaving Hamburg early morning Saturday we arrived at Würzburg without much of a delay early afternoon, rather unusual for Deutsche Bahn train services. Travelling with a group of 9 people 5 of us decided to make their way to the festival straight away, 4 stayed behind to share a cab later that afternoon.

So Wriedt, Frank & Yvonne plus me decided to relax a little in Würzburg first and have some lunch plus a couple of drinks – obviously… Then we went on our way to the festival grounds, approx. 20 km away at an old airfield in Giebelstadt. When we arrived the Rumjacks from Australia were playing the Punk Rock Stage, and as often the case I prefer to see their Irish Punk Rock in a smaller club, fits much better from my point of view.

As I never cared for the Ryker’s we kept on drinking Keiler lager and made friends with some locals. Sitting on the long benches in the sun (it was really hot), talking to strangers that are sharing the same taste in music and enjoying the great selection of drinks and food on offer was a major part of the fun being here. Nice people all around, no aggression or violence (not even too many complete drunks), really clean sanitary facilities plus wonderful, independent catering made this festival one of the absolute better ones, or as Dicky put it later: „We play many many festivals, but the one’s in Europe are so much better than the ones in the US“.

We made a break talking/making friends and went to the Punk Rock stage to see No Fun At All from Sweden play. Also in the game for almost 30 years I must admit I never cared much for them, do not own any of their records and can’t recall having ever seen them play live. They do sound pretty similar to Pennywise for my ears, not bad at all, but not too special either, might as well stick with the original.

Without any break music continued on the 2nd stage, the Hardcore stage where Cro-Mags were up next. I do prefer John Joseph’s Cro-Mags, always liked his way of stage acting and singing, and after reading his Autobiography „The Evolution of a Cro-Magnon“ I had even more respect for him. Most definitely a real, streetwise hardcore guy, and when he sings about „Street Justice“, „Hard Times“ or „Survival Of The Streets“ you can believe every word of it.

They put on a really good show, I liked it much better than seeing them some time ago in Berlin supporting the magnificent Modern Life Is War, and it was one of the last shows playing as Cro-Mags as they have to rename themselves into Cro-Mags JM from now (J=Joseph/M=Mackie, the 2 original members). Bass player and madman Harley Flanagan keeping the Cro-Mags name. I’ll stick with Cro-Mags JM, although you cannot see them that often, with their set only consisting of the legendary „Age of Quarrel“ album in full plus a few others already for some years now.  

Straight after Talco from Italy played the Punk Rock Stage and pulled a really good crowd. People love their left wing politics brass sound, we enjoyed their St. Pauli song of course (well, apart from father and son Schreiber that is, as they support HSV, „that other“ Hamburg football club): „pirati a St. Pauli, banditi a St. Pauli“…

Then it was back to drinking and talking, making friends with the Southeners as I do not care for Ignite anymore and was not impressed by Millencolin from Sweden either. Meanwhile we had a new arrival at our long bench, Volker, who had come to the festival with his family, and his story is one of the stories I absolutely love, and remarkable enough there are quite a few of these stories surrounding MMB, just shows passion of people for the band.

Volker had convinced his family, wife and kids, to drive to the camping at Mission Ready as part of their holiday, and after cooking a nice meal for them he left them and made his way to the festival to see his favorite band of all time, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. What a lovely person, same as the young Vic Ruggiero (The Slackers) Lookalike from Stuttgart who had a tattoo of his little daughter on his chest and a 1 Liter cup of Cuba Libre hanging around his neck. We instantly decided to buy one of those at the festival Cocktail Bar prior to the Bosstones hitting the stage.

It had turned dark now and the Hardcore Stage headliner Agnostic Front had taken the stage. By now almost everyone at the festival was in attendance, I guess approx. 7.000 people. We heard Agnostic Front play a really great set, including all the old and new classics, from „Friend Or Foe“ or „Crucified“ to „Gotta Go“. As planned we had bought our Cuba Libre and took our positions in front of the Punk Rock Stage for the Bosstones show. Different than the usual MMB club show they had their banner already hanging on the stage and we took the opportunity
to shoot some nice photos:

After Agnostic Front had played the last chord there was only a very short intro and the Bosstones directly took the Punk Rock Stage with „Old School Off The Bright“. We all agreed that the sound was brilliant, especially for an Open Air festival, great! So we were treated to the brilliant „Everybody’s Better“ one more time, another setlist regular with it’s witty chorus: „To Be King You Don’t Need A Castle“. Pinpoints & Ginjoints‘ „Graffity Worth Reading“, „Sunday Afternoons On Wisdom Ave.“ from The Magic of Youth album or „Green Bay Wisconsin“ from their latest „While We’re At It“ album.

Having met Dave Vermillion, bassist of Washington DC’s terrific Ska band Pietasters at Bosstones Hometown Throwdown 1.5 years ago, and staying in touch with that nice guy since, I still wonder what

She met the guy that plays the bass for the Pietasters
She had little to no interest, but he chased her
Scalawags Scally cap and Sherman suit
Inequity and ill repute
She drank a pint of Guinness Stout and got away      

is all about… Have to find out sometime when the Pietasters are playing some shows in Europe again (hopefully), having a drink with Dave.

It was great to see MMB playing another wonderful set, Dicky introducing the band one more time and of course I could go on and on praising every one of the Glorious Nine, but this report has become very, very long already. Thanks Dicky, Joe, Ben, Chris, Tim, Lawrence, John, Joe and Leon Silva, „the newest, youngest and some say best looking Bosstone of all time“ – you made a lot of people very, very happy!

Having followed this tour to some extent I can report that I’ve met a lot of people who told me that finally seeing the Bosstones live is a long dream come true for them. Young and old, different backgrounds, this band truly unifies, same as only Rancid, Specials, and a few others can from my point of view. Hope to see you play Europe again soon(er).

With the very last chords of „Pretty Sad Excuse“, which was mixed with „Unified“, and MMB leaving the stage, there was lightning in the sky and some heavy rain came down. Seemed like the gods are angry about MMB finishing this set and their European tour… Luckily only for a short moment so that we could make our way to the bus shuttle to take us back to Würzburg and our B&B.

After a rather short night we were lucky to get on an earlier train around noon. So it was back to Hamburg in the train restaurant for the 9 of us. Drinks again and lots of fun, including playing Kerresinho‘s Hardcore Bands quartet game (with contribution by Dos Alert).

It must have been the alcohol and too little sleep (again) that made me laugh hysterically when it was my turn and I had the Cro-Mags card up for play: I knew immediately that you can’t beat the Cro-Mags when it comes to the  „Distance from CBGB’s“ question: 0km, that’s close and as Wriedt asked: „Did they live there?“. We must have been extremely loud and noisy and really wondered why the train crew really seemed to like us, even being sorry leaving the train because of a crew change.

One of those unsolved mysteries…

Finally I would like to promote touring and travelling for the bands and music you love once more. At least for me there is a hardly anything better than seeing live music in various places, being able to compare venues, sound, band form, cities and last but not least meeting fans and people – ideally and as happened quite a few times already making long or even life lasting friendships with people of other countries.

Cheers Grat, Jay & Andrea, great to know you!

Thanks to Jay for London Pics.

And fanx to Frosch for providing this excellent storyline … indeed #thereaintnuthinbetterthanlivemusic!