We live in a era that loves to celebrate all types of anniversaries. But 1997 was certainly an important year for The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and now, two decades later, the Boston titans are commemorating the occasion by closing out 2017 with nothing short of a slam-dancing ska-punk soiree.
Let’s Face It, the band’s biggest commercial success to date, celebrated its 20th anniversary this past March, and it brought the plaid-clad nonet out from their fortress of ska-litude for their first jaunt around the East Coast since 2015. In addition to celebrating the platinum-certified album responsible for bringing “The Impression That I Get” to the world, the platinum anniversary of the Hometown Throwdown, the Bosstones’ annual holiday shin dig, will also be a cause for celebration.
And like the holiday season, the Throwdown is now upon us.
To get us all in the mood, Vanyaland caught up with Barrett to reflect on the milestone year, and to look ahead at what lies in store for the ska-punk legends and their fans during their mini-residency on Lansdowne Street.
Jason Greenough: It’s been a pretty big year for The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, especially with the 20th anniversary of Let’s Face It. How does it feel to see it stand the test of time? The songs are still relevant, and people still know them when they hear them. Are you surprised that it’s stood the test of time?
Dicky Barrett: I would say yes. It’s surprising, and somewhat shocking. I think of myself, at a younger age, and how I thought how 20 years old was 20 years old. but I also think times have changed, and I think the type of band we are the type of music we create, if you’re into ska punk, which kids are into, you have to see the Godfathers of the genre. So that allows us some longevity, and I just think things are different now, than when I was younger.
With as popular as the album was back then, and continues to be, the lyrics are still relevant in certain ways, with the title track becoming an anthem for fighting racism and sexism. Is it at all disheartening to see the resurgence in relevancy given the current social climate?
Yeah, I certainly didn’t write it thinking how this is a problem that need to be addressed 20 years later from that point. Those issues were a problem 20 years before I wrote it, and they’re still a problem 20 years later, so yes, disheartening is good word for it. It’s disheartening, it’s depressing, it just doesn’t make me happy.
I would prefer the issues being addressed in the song, the subject matter, was something in our rearviewmirror at this point, and at the time I wrote it, although it was a simple message, and maybe even little wide-eyed and a tad optimistic, it didn’t seem like I was asking for too much. I was simply just asking for people to get along with each other, and not judge each other based on their skin color, or religious background or sexual orientation. It seems like a basic and sort of almost primitive desire. It seems like it’s the very least we can do, and yet we still haven’t managed to be able to figure it out.
Looking twenty years into the future from today, do you see these issues getting taken care of?
I do. I really do. I have children, and they’re so much smarter than the generations that have preceded them. Yes, I do see it getting better. I just hope I’m not surprised, but I still have hope. That’s the key element. But as of right now, I almost feel like we’re going in the opposite direction at this point.
If you could say anything to the Bosstones of 1997, having seen how huge Let’s Face It and “The Impression That I Get” have become in the punk community, what would you say?
What would I say to the Bosstones of 20 years ago? I would say “You’re still gonna be friends, you’re still gonna be playing music that you love, and people are still gonna care about it,” to which the Bosstones of 20 years ago would reply “Shut the fuck up!”
Let’s Face It also made 2017 the busiest year that the Bosstones have seen in awhile, at least touring-wise. How did it feel going back on the road to pay tribute to the record with the guys? Will you be closing out the year on the same note?
It felt great! That tour we did this past year celebrating the twentieth anniversary Let’s Face It was great. I think we were as tight as we’ve ever been. We’ve never played the album back to front, so it was a blast to take that on. It wasn’t easy, but once we buckled down and focused, which it required a lot, it felt good. It was great, and we had a blast doing it, and it was just fun being with each other.
I think there will be an element of celebrating that album at the Throwdown, as well as celebrating the twentieth Throwdown, but the Throwdown is technically older than that, believe it or not. There were five years where we didn’t do the Throwdown, but this is the twentieth time doing it. My numbers could be off, but not by much. I’ve been keeping count, and last year’s was the nineteenth, so you do the math! [laughs]
The number 20 will play an important role, and there are some extra things that are gonna go this year, which is not unusual when you look back at the other years, but it will be a celebration of 20, so look forward to that. This is the twentieth year for Let’s Face It, but we’re also working on the tenth full-length Bosstones record, and that should be out next year.
Does the popularity of the Throwdown, and how it’s become sort of a tradition for the city, surprise you at all?
It kinda surprises me, but then it doesn’t. People like having a nice warm feeling at the end of the year, and I think the Hometown Throwdown is just that for a lot of people. Whatever your holidays feel like for you, where many people have great ones and many people don’t, I think that getting together to listen to music that you enjoy and be around people you want to be around, as well as taking in the atmosphere and the energy is very positive, so why not end the year that way?
So, I’m not really surprised, but I would say I’m proud of it, and that we’ve been able to achieve that. I wouldn’t be able to do it without the rest of the band and the fans that come out to see it, so they deserve a majority of the credit.
What factors play into putting together the line-up for the weekend? How do you decide which openers to have on?
They come to us, they come to Boston, and they make a huge sacrifice, because it’s their holiday too. There’s a band coming from Tokyo [Rude Bones], and they want to come and celebrate with us. I think bands rise to the occasion, and they enjoy it, and it’s a great time, but we’re also asking them to come to Boston, to give up part of their holiday, and we’re very thankful for that. There are a lot of great openers, and for that I can give a lot of the credit to [bassist] Joe Gittleman. He’s always very interested in making sure the right combination of bands are on the bill each year, whoever they may be.
Looking at the bands, and the special guests like Tim Brennan of Dropkick Murphys, who have come to join you for the weekend, do you see that as a testament to the influence of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones?
Now, that’s a bit strong, but I appreciate the sentiment. I see it as more of a testament to the scene we came from and sort of the family vibe that was created with the type of Warped Tour Boston punk, and it’s a scene in which we’ve made very good friends. It’s more definite to them than it is us, and values their friendships. Whether it be any single member of the Dropkick Murphys, or the laundry list that goes on and on, it’s nice to think “it’s cool that they’re coming to worship at the altar of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones,” but I think it’s much bigger than that. We’re friends, and we have a good time. Same thing can be said about the band members, or the scene members.
Tim [Brennan] loves it. It’s always an honor to have him, and it’s to the point where if we don’t ask him, his feelings get hurt. He loves being a part of it. All the guys we have come and join us, whether it be Pete from Less Than Jake or whoever it may be, they seem like they enjoy doing it, even when they have their own obligations, it’s always nice having them.
Over the years, you’ve done the Throwdown in different venues, starting at The Middle East, and now you’re at The House of Blues. Is there any definitive difference you can see from venue to venue?
Yeah, I think the Throwdowns are different now than how they may have been, and there’s definitely something to be said for the classic Middle East Throwdowns, which was a certain kind of animal, but now being at the House of Blues, from my vantage point, up on the stage, I love them all. They’re apples and oranges, and I think they’re all great experiences.
From this point, can you see the Mighty Mighty Bosstones going another 20 years?
Nah. Even if you asked me that 20 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to see it then.
THE MIGHTY MIGHTY BOSSTONES 2017 HOMETOWN THROWDOWN :: Thursday, December 28 to Saturday, December 30 at The House of Blues, 15 Lansdowne St. in Boston, MA :: 7 p.m., all ages, $27 to $46 :: Advance tickets and event info: Night 1 + Night 2 + Night 3 :: Live Nation event page