Originally published October 9, 2008 – Red Pulse Magazine

Time to dust off that kilt and put on your shit-kickers because the Street Dogs are coming to town again, with Time Again and Flatfoot 56 in tow.

Hailing from Boston, Street Dogs play blue-collar, no-holds-barred punk rock in the vein of Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly. In fact, lead singer Mike McColgan was the original frontman for the Murphys, singing on their first and arguably best album, 1998’s Do or Die. The release of that LP ushered in an era of acceptance for Celtic punk music, a genre initiated by the seminal punk group The Pogues.

After serving in the Gulf War, McColgan became a founding member of Dropkick Murphys in 1996. Despite releasing one of the best punk albums ever, he yearned to become a Boston firefighter like his uncle. With no regrets, he left the band in 1998 to pursue his dream. He describes his time in the fire department as one the most harrowing and gratifying experiences of his life.

Mike McColgan always had a flair for the dramatic

Mike McColgan always had a flair for the dramatic

In 2003 he was faced with a difficult choice. He had been drawn back into his love of music and singing, so he formed Street Dogs with Johnny Rioux, Marcus Hollar, Tobe Bean III and former Mighty Mighty Bosstones drummer Joe Sirois. They released their first album, Savin Hill, which earned them a touring spot with Flogging Molly. The success of his new band forced him to decide between firefighting and music. He chose Street Dogs.

“All of this goes above and beyond my expectations for Street Dogs. We just wanted to have some fun on the weekends,” said McColgan.

His experiences in the Gulf War and as a firefighter have played a significant role in Street Dogs’ gritty approach to chugging Celtic punk. He credits his service for making him less of a whiner and more pragmatic.

“Whining constitutes just complaining about everything and not appreciating argument or logic,” McColgan said. “With our music we try to write substantive lyrics and things that are tangible.”

After signing with legendary punk label Hellcat Records in February 2008, the band released State of Grace. The album stays true to the band’s working class roots, offering ballads of lost love, musings on life and reflections of the past. The music comes fast and hard, but occasionally slows down for moments of Irish pub-style rejoicing. The Street Dogs have their own beliefs about politics and social issues, but are motivated to just make good tunes.

“I think music has always been something that shakes and stirs the soul, mind and body. Makes you dance, makes you move, makes you think, makes you feel. No two people are going to feel the same way about a certain song,” McColgan said. “Some bands clearly are more political in their lyrics than others. With us, we touch on it, it’s not a mantra or movement and we aren’t trying to indoctrinate people. If they don’t feel the same way, fine. That’s what democracy is all about.”

"This is the last time I let my girlfriend dress me for a photo shoot"

"This is the last time I let my girlfriend dress me for a photo shoot"

Still, some songs address some concerning issues. “Guns” looks back at illegal gun proliferation in Boston in the ’80s, highlighting an event where a baby on a mailbox was killed by stray sniper fire. The song questions the merits of allowing irresponsible people to own firearms. In spite of the Street Dogs’ brash approach to punk music, McColgan is a strong advocate of nonviolence, saying that conflicts should always be talked out, with violence used as a last resort.

The album also drifts toward a more lighthearted side of life. On “Two Angry Kids,” McColgan sings the praises of childhood friends who helped pull him into redemption. It’s an ode to good friendships, one that most anyone can relate to.

Those sick of emo bands devoid of substance should be excited for the opportunity to catch Street Dogs’ energetic, fist-pumping live performance this Friday.

McColgan is waiting for it.

“Here’s our music, it comes along at 1,000 miles per hour. Come along if you want to jump on the ride.”