Dropkick Murphys and Rancid at Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville, TN

Dropkick Murphys @ Ascend Amphitheater, Nashville | Photo by Zach Birdsong

A different type of crowd took over Nashville when Dropkick Murphys and Rancid brought their co-headlining Boston To Berkley II Tour to Ascend Amphitheater.

A typical Friday night in downtown Music City sees patrons in their boots, jeans with the bell-buckle, topped with the occasional Stetson as they make their way to one of the many honkytonks. While there were those aplenty, there were also several spiked jackets and mohawks as punk rockers made their way through Broadway.

Jesse Ahern opened the night with a nearly 35-minute acoustic performance, which is the opposite of what you might expect to see at a punk rock show. However, the Massachusetts-based singer was able to pull off a fun set that those on hand seemed to enjoy. 

What made things more fun was Ahern’s ability to connect with the audience. He would tell stories about his career and get the crowd involved with quips here and there in between songs. Those on hand responded well as the opener did his job and got the crowd revved up and ready for the rest of the night. 

After a quick stage shift, the Nashville crowd didn’t have to wait long to keep that momentum going, and Rancid was greeted with a huge ovation. After his bandmates had already taken the stage, guitarist/singer Tim Armstong raced his way behind the curtain and immediately commanded the audience’s attention. Armstrong was a constant ball of energy, moving from side to side on stage, even jumping at times as he was clearly enjoying his time playing for Music City.

On the other hand, security was put to work early when several drinks were thrown in the direction of the stage and there were a few crowd surfers. The rowdiness was welcome and only enhanced the experience. Amidst a pandemic, the lively crowd made it feel like a real punk rock show. The only thing that would have made it feel more authentic was the show had been taking place at a rundown seedy club instead of a pristine outdoor venue in downtown Nashville.

Longtime Rancid fans were in luck as the band incorporated their whole catalog into its hour-long performance. Most of the California punk rockers’ set came from the 1995 platinum album, …And Out Come The Wolves. The tracks from that LP were the ones that received the most applause from the Nashville crowd. Those on hand sang back the words, while others were up and dancing along to the tunes. 

After performing fan-favorite “Time Bomb,” Rancid singer/guitarist Lars Frederiksen addressed the Music City audience one last time. Before his band concluded its set with “Ruby Soho,” the singer made sure to tell the group’s fans just how much he and they appreciated them being on hand.  

“We want to say thank you for the last 30 f***ing years of our lives, ladies and gentlemen,” Frederiksen said. “You’ve changed our lives for the better, and we will always be eternally grateful. It’s an honor and a privilege to come and play music all the way here in Nashville, Tennessee. So, for the last time tonight, thank you for your time, your patience, and your applause because we are Rancid and we always will be.” 

Before Dropkick Murphys even graced the stage, it was clear that they had already won over the Nashville crowd. Several on hand were trying to make the band feel at home as there was plenty of Boston paraphernalia on hand. Then there were a few other fans who were wearing kilts to celebrate the Irish punk rock blend.  

Like Rancid, Dropkick Murphys received massive applause as their name appeared on the stage’s backdrop. As the lights went down and the band came out, singers Al Barr and Ken Casey immediately came to the front, welcoming and celebrating with the fans on hand. 

“We’ve been away, like most bands, for a year and a half, and we realized how much we love this job and how much that we love you guys,” Casey said. “We already knew it, but man, s**t, we hadn’t taken a break in over 25 years. So we felt like maybe we could handle a break, but we couldn’t handle it. We need you guys!”

Unlike during Rancid, fans kept their drinks in hand during the Dropkick Murphys performance. However, there was a more noticeable uptick in the amount of dancing that was taking place in the crowd. The group was able to do that by basing its setlist around the fan favorites, including closing out the night with their biggest hit, “Shipping Up To Boston.”

The more fascinating thing to witness during the performance was the diverse age group in the crowd. On one end, you had fathers bringing their young children out, holding them, and dancing along to the music. On the other side, there were college students, arm in arm with much older fans, while there were smiles aplenty.

The Boston To Berkley II Tour continues until October 16. The complete list of tour dates can be seen here

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About Zach Birdsong 39 Articles
A current communications specialist with a background in journalism, where he served as a multiple award-winning newspaper editor, photographer and designer. In eight years, he received 18 awards from the Tennessee Press Association, the majority of which stems from his photography. He's also been fortunate enough to have had photos used by publications around the world including Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Today Show, Vanity Fair, Vogue Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and more.