Back in February 2001, I was 22 years old and six months into a new job working for a rock magazine, when I was given my very first overseas assignment: go to Boston and interview Dropkick Murphys. Easy enough, right? Not exactly…
Blog: The day Dropkick Murphys got me arrested
Misadventures in Boston with the celtic-punk mob
I have been told in the years since, that what transpired on that trip is a story that the Dropkicks still like to tell. I do too because nothing that’s happened to me in the course of my career since, has ever compared to the trouble the Dropkicks got me into.
The trip got off to a rocky start -- I got into Boston from London in the early evening, but was held at the airport for two hours because immigration considered my short trip suspicious. I was questioned aggressively and only free to go once I’d dropped the Dropkick Murphys name. (“I love that band!” yelled the guy who’d been grilling me.) When I finally got to the hotel, I was thoroughly exhausted, but when bassist Ken Casey called my hotel room and asked me to go for a drink, it seemed like a good opportunity to get some colour for the story.
Thirty minutes later, half the band pulled up to the hotel in Ken’s mini-van and whisked me off to an Irish bar somewhere. (I know it was an Irish bar because every human in there had either an Irish flag or a shamrock tattooed on them and everyone was drinking Guinness.) The band was quiet and awkward and I wondered why they had even asked me there in the first place. I grabbed a beer. After 20 minutes of stilted conversation, vocalist Al Barr asked me if I’d like to go outside and smoke some weed with him. Desperate for the awkwardness to subside, I agreed. Once down the nearest alley, Al put some weed in a small pipe and smoking commenced. Approximately three seconds later, a voice boomed down on us from a loudspeaker: “HANDS ON THE WALL! HANDSONTHEWALL!”
A police van had us cornered.
“Shiiiiiiiit…” Al muttered. We immediately complied. So here we are. Side by side. Getting frisked against a graffiti-covered wall, in an area of Boston I don’t even know the name of yet. The cops treated us like we were complete idiots. They emptied our pockets and went through my bag. They found my Dictaphone: “Wha’s this fo-ah?” one of the cops asked.
“I’m a journalist,” I replied.
The cops laughed and I settled into the idea that I was never going to be sent anywhere to write about anyone ever again. After 20 minutes of thoroughly going through all of our belongings, the police confiscated Al’s weed and threw his pipe onto the roof of a neighbouring warehouse. They told us they were surveilling the bar we had been in because of a gang shooting that had occurred there a week ago. They didn’t trust us not to blab to other patrons, so they insisted we leave the area immediately, or risk being taken to jail for the night. We returned to the bar, swiftly retrieved the rest of the band under the watchful eyes of the cops, and got the hell out of dodge… in Ken’s minivan – the least gangsta getaway ever.
We headed to a new bar. This one was more relaxed and the band and I commenced having a genuinely good time. They were jovial and chatty now and we all had a good laugh about the bust earlier. An hour in, I was feeling boozy and having a great time.
That was until two cops rolled into the bar.
These weren’t the same cops we’d dealt with earlier, but still they approached me sternly, and asked me to confirm my name. I did so and asked what this was about. They told me to come outside with them. I grabbed Ken, in a panic, and begged him to come with me. He frowned, visibly concerned, and obliged. Once outside, the cops pushed us into the back of their waiting patrol car.
Then we drove. We drove around in circles for 25 minutes. The cops were gigantic Boston cop stereotypes. At one point, one of them actually said: “Sweethaaaaart, we can do this the hahd way, or the easy way. Just tell us where you got tha drugs.”I just kept saying the same thing over and over: “I’m a journalist. I’m following the band for a story. I had zero drugs on me. I just got into the country tonight.” They weren’t listening.
“You wanna spend tha night in ah cell? Do ya? Just tell us where ya got tha drugs.” This was a nightmare. Ken was completely and utterly silent. Eventually, the cops turned down a dark alley, pulled in and parked. They were silent for a minute or so. I panicked. “If you want me to pay a fine, I’ll just pay a fine. I just don’t understand what’s going on right now.”
At that moment, Ken turned to me slowly, still next to me in the back of the patrol car. Then, swiftly, he pulled out a camera, took a photo of my stressed out face and burst out laughing. So did the cops.
This was a joke.
Ken, shit-eating grin on his face, went about explaining what just happened. Dropkick Murphys had just released third album, Sing Loud, Sing Proud, and a week before my trip, a colleague at the magazine had given it a poor review, lambasting it in his trademark sarcastic manner. Incensed, the band decided then and there that they were going to get the journalist interviewing them in Boston, thrown in jail for the night, as revenge. The way Ken told it, they were fully prepared to exact this revenge – until they met me and realized I was both a nice human and a fan. The reason they were quiet in the first bar was because they were all having second thoughts. Then Al and I got into genuine trouble with the cops and they decided it was too good a set up to waste. They called a couple of friends on the force when I was in the bathroom at the second bar, and told them to come arrest me. The band liked me enough to not have my ass thrown in jail overnight, but not enough to refrain from pulling such a great prank.
The next day, during the photoshoot, they left me alone in the minivan, parked illegally in a tow-away zone and said “If you hear sirens… just go with it. You should be used to that by now.”