The Larkin Brigade
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The Larkin Brigade


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"The Larkin Brigade in the Dochester Reporter"

Irish music brings old friends together again
January 19, 2006
By Bill Forry
Managing Editor

Back in 1985, when Pat Kennedy and Dennis Doherty met as first-graders at the Richard J. Murphy Elementary School in Neponset, Irish music was often more foe than friend. Then, as now, Saturdays spent in an authentic Boston Irish kitchen or station wagon meant a steady diet of soda bread, scones, and 'cross the pond ditties on the radio.

For Dennis Doherty, growing up in a solid Irish-American household in Dorchester's Clam Point neighborhood, there was no escaping the jigs and reels of his grandparents' homeland.

"We grew up listening to the Irish Hit Parade on WROL as kids - and, personally, I hated it," Doherty recalls. "Then, once we got to high school, I heard the Pogues and said, 'This is sort of like what our parents listen to, but it's rock and roll.'"

Today, Doherty, 29, and his childhood pal Pat Kennedy, also 29, represent half of The Larkin Brigade, a local band that specializes in playing an amped-up, drum-heavy American brand of the same soundtrack that tortured them as kids. Together with Kennedy's younger brother Paul, 25, and fiddler Joe Wyatt, 23, the foursome typically play to stout-soaked Irish-American crowds who, like them, crave the boisterous rebel anthems of the ould sod. Following in the tradition of groups like the Wolfe Tones and Black 47, the boys of the Larkin Brigade like their Irish music loud and with more than a hint of revolution.

The story of how Kennedy and Doherty came to form a band together could itself make for a sweet ballad. The two classmates who were fast friends at the Murphy lost touch after the Kennedy family relocated to New Hampshire in the second-grade. There was no contact between the two for more than a decade, until Kennedy went to check out a concert in Boston featuring a band called Epileptic Disco. He was floored to find that the madman laboring behind the drum-kit was none other than his first-grade pal, Dennis. Kennedy, who was also in a college band and has a solid Irish music pedigree (his uncle Bob McCarthy toured with Irish legend Tommy Makem), caught up with Doherty at a second show at the old Rat club in Kenmore Square and rekindled their friendship.

"We had no connection for about 12 years, but it was mainly the music that brought us together again," says Doherty, a Latin Academy and Northeastern alum who works as a nurse at Children's Hospital.

After their own projects ran their course, the duo formed the nucleus of what is now The Larkin Brigade in 1999. Pat's brother Paul was recruited to play bass guitar and the trio enlisted a series of fiddlers for their gigs, which soon became regular stops at venues like Dee Dee's in Quincy, the Midway in J.P., and the Paradise in Boston. After a brief hiatus, the Larkins returned to the stage in 2003 and, this summer, added regular fiddler and vocalist, Wyatt, a freshman at Berkley who adds some serious musical chops to the band's admittedly rough-hewn style.

Pat Kennedy, who writes most of lyrics to the Larkin Brigade's growing line-up of original songs, bangs out lead vocals and plays piano. The band's own material that Kennedy pens with arrangment help from Doherty is "Boston-centric," with an emphasis on tall tales and legit stories from Boston Irish lore. His raucous "Planxty John L." is a romp through the story of the famed Irish American boxer John L. Sullivan, with roots in Roxbury and the South End. Another Larkin original, "Dot Day" is a tribute to this neighborhood's June blow-out.

The Larkin Brigade, named for an Irish labor leader who helped to ferment the 1916 rebellion that freed much of Ireland from British rule, pays homage to the country's nationalist heroes, but also has some fun with their own identity as the loud, borderline obnoxious American cousins. Decked out in scally caps and tweed shirts, it's sometimes hard to know whether the Larkins are earnest about their Irish heritage or just frolicking in their full Yank glory.

Whatever the motivation, there's no question that the Irish-rock hybrid has a ready audience in the beer halls and underground rock clubs of Beantown. That, says, Dennis Doherty is enough for him and the Larkin boys.

"We're not looking to be famous, but it's just a lot of fun," says Doherty. "People are into the music in Boston and we'd like to go other places, too, like New York."

In fact, the brigade will be on the road to the Big Apple in March for a show at Rocky Sullivan's, where one of Irish America's best known pub bands, Black 47, were once the house regulars. This Saturday night, though, is a good chance to sample the Brigade's arsenal locally, as they open up for U2 tribute band The Joshua Tree at the Beachcomber bar on Quincy Shore Drive. And, the Larkin Brigade is busy planning for the release of their first full-length CD due out on St. Patrick's Day. A special concert is planned for that night at the Milky Way - Dorchester Reporter

"All Ages Zine reviews PKFM"

With bands like Flogging Molly, the Tossers, and Street Dogs tearing up an Irish driven scene, The Larkin Brigade has thrown their
hats into the mix. This 12-song album demonstrates a combination of Irish Folk influence combined with the spirit of punk rock and
is complete with fiddles, harmonicas, and more. The vocals remind me a lot of Chicago based band, The Tossers. It’s a little rough
on the edges with enough pop in the voice to help carry the songs. As with any good Irish influenced band, look no further than
“This Is A Rebel Cry” for a wonderful drinking song. Overall the Larkin Brigade will fit perfectly into the Irish rock scene that
somehow finds them usually lumped into punk. My advice, pop this album in your CD player, lift up your pint of Guinness, and have a
fun time, but don’t forget that at most times you will find yourself getting up to dance around with the catchiness of these songs
so don’t spill your drink. (JK)

- Jeff Jurtis

"Brian Mosher reviews "Paddy Keys For Mayor""

Much more than just a bunch of songs about whiskey and stout, Boston’s The Larkin Brigade have produced a record of real depth and significance within the genre of Celtic rock. Not that there aren’t any songs about drinking (“We’re All Wicked Liquored Up At The Upscale Downtown Irish Pub”, for instance), but there’s a whole lot more. Loaded with pride in their old-world heritage as well as in their new-world home, the songs on Paddy Keys For Mayor are heart felt and honest, and delivered with passion and sincerity. And there’s none of that phony brogue you often get with American’s trying to sound Irish. The vocals are a bit thin in places, but after a few listens I found that kind of endearing, and more like a live performance. This is real good stuff.


"Screams from Boston's Gutters"

Brian Mosher's Monthly Column #8
Screams from Boston's Gutters

By Brian Mosher
Sunday, June 18 @ 00:00:00 EDT

The umbrella that is rock’n’roll is big enough to cover a pretty huge variety of bands and artists. Here’s a sampling of three very different bands, all of whom are making a name for themselves in the sticky-floored rock clubs of greater Boston.

First up are The New Frustrations, who have risen from the ashes of ‘90s punk greats, The Johnnies, to bring a fresh new pop sensibility to an era which was beginning to become overrun by lo-fi garage fuzz. They’ve got a demo recorded and are shopping for distribution. In the meantime, they’re bringing their hook-filled The Jam meets The Pointed Sticks schtick to every barroom and basement party from Plymouth to Somerville. Fueled by the passion of rhythm guitarist Timmy Frustration (aka, Marsman) and the twin lead vocals of Dicky and Mikey Frustration (not to mention the ultra-coolness of my personal favorite, Tommy Frustration), The New Frustrations are definitely going to be making some serious noise. Remember, you heard it here first.

Then there’s the high-speed Celtic balladry of The Larkin Brigade. These guys are all former hardcore veterans (around here we pronounce it “hahdcoah”), who grew up listening to traditional Irish music in their Dorchester neighborhood, south of Boston. What they bring to the pub, and to your CD player via their new release Paddy Keys for Mayor is more traditional Celtic than, say, The Pogues or Black 47, but played faster than you might think possible. Piano-playing front man Paddy Keys sings with a pleasantly real-sounding tenor that brings a live feel to the entire recording. The Larkin Brigade are equally at home at an outdoor Irish music festival or a dimly lit dive in Quincy.

Lastly, but certainly not least, is The World’s Greatest Sinners, among the forefront of the Northern Soul revival. Start with an honest-to-goodness horn section and a rhythm section featuring the original drummer from the legendary Outlets, add the ultimate guitar player’s guitar player (the one and only Tony Savarino), and then top the whole thing off with the powerhouse vocals of Miss Jordan Valentine, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a dance party. Valentine is part Billie Holiday part Otis Redding part Varla Magazine girl. And did I mention the band is hot? They play forgotten soul classics like they were all born in Memphis, and if you don’t dance when they’re playing, you probably need to get yourself a blood infusion, stat.


" Review"

Boston based Paddy punk act are able to stand out from the crowd from the start on their debut album ‘Paddy Keys For Mayor’, courtesy of front man and pianist, the wittily monikered Paddy Keys. His ivory tinkling brings to mind a strange fusion of Jerry Lee Lewis style stomping alongside Irish music hall, country, trad and a great big dollop of street punk/hardcore. The way they approach rebel standard ‘Sean South Of Garryowen’, is a lesson in itself. They’re assured, humourous, inventive and able to pull off an original and imaginative reading of the classic yet still stay true to the beauty of the original tune. A Larkin Brigade self-composition like ‘Banana Republic’ is all barrelhouse piano, hardcore vocal chants, meandering and scraping fiddle alongside a ballad of the blue collar Irish-American experience. Full marks too for including a Scott Joplin lick within a song called ‘We’re All Wicked Liquored Up At The Upscale Downtown Irish Bar’, where both keys and the evocatively named Heavyset Joe on fiddle flex their considerable musical muscle. Smart, infectious and inspired. I’d vote for Paddy Keys!
5 out of 5
Review by Sean McGhee -

" Reviews PKFM"

Paddy Keys For Mayor" by The Larkin Brigade
by Catherine L. Tully

Artist: The Larkin Brigade
Album: "Paddy Keys For Mayor"
Year produced: 2006

Named for a Dublin labor-union founder and republican Jim Larkin, The Larkin Brigade's sound is unlike the typical Irish music that the band members remember growing up on. Taking the energy of punk music, (read--they like the Pogues) and the music of their youth, they have tossed it all in the mix and wound up with something truly their own.

It was an interesting ride that resulted in this mixture--after all, you don't get much more traditional than Irish music, and you don't go too much further out on a "musical limb" than punk! The band members went out into the world, experienced all different types of music, and then later came back to their roots--but with their own ideas about how to play.

The really neat thing is that it gives the music an unmistakable Irish stamp, but allows for an improvisational feel -- sort of along the lines of some types of jazz music. Although the songs don't wind up sounding like jazz, they have a similar energy.

The nice part is -- these guys can play. Some punk-style bands wind up just banging away on their instruments--sometimes literally--but the Irish sound lends a definite musicality to the tracks that make them work. It also widens their appeal, because fans of both musical styles will see a fit here. It just goes to show you, sometimes letting up on the rules is a good thing.

Oh, and in case you are wondering (or have not heard of the Molly Maguires) . . . Paddy Keys is a member of the band . . .

"Skope Magazine review"


I saw the Larkin Brigade live for the first time at the Abbey Lounge last month. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a crowd so into the music being played. People were (fake) Irish step dancing and clapping along to the music. They put on a really fun live show and the album is pretty damn good, too. All the guys – Paddy Keys on piano, Diesel Dennis on drums, Heavyset Joe on fiddle, and Paulie Thunder on bass – play their instruments very well. It’s really the piano and the fiddle that stand out, though. The piano work on “Tabhair Dom Do Lamh” is beautiful and the fiddle work throughout the whole album blew me away. To top it all off, they’re smart and funny. For example, “We’re All Wicked Liquored Up At The Upscale Downtown Irish Pub,” which is so whip-smart funny because we’ve all seen the type of pub they’re singing about. The shout outs to all those coming in from Weston, Marblehead, etc is pretty damn funny, too. A quick disclaimer, though; I love Irish music, I love the fiddle and I love punk, which The Larkin Brigade mixes in with heavy doses, so this is right up my alley and I feel just fine about gushing about it.

- Stacy Coronis

"The Larkin Brigade @ The Squealing Pig"

The Squealing Pig, Mission Hill, MA 9/23/06
The Larkin Brigade starts off to a very receptive crowd. Boston may be supersaturated with Irish-oriented bands, but The Larkin Brigade’s not another carbon copy. The set is anchored by Pat’s electric piano which adds a sing-along feel that the crowd clearly enjoys as they raise their beers and chant lyrics. Pat’s vocals are a bit low and occasionally get overpowered by the audience, especially during “The Upscale Downtown Irish Pub” and “Dirty Old Town.” Aside from that and occasional cries of “more fiddle!,” the sound is clear and not too loud. However, I’m frequently distracted because the only standing room is right at the bar so people keep reaching past each other to get drinks, and at this show they’re getting LOTS of drinks. Still, I manage to squeeze forward past all the tables when the big skinhead with the fiddle sings a half-serious and very effective “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”
- The Noise

"Northeast Performer Review"

People ‘round these parts love green things. They love leprechauns and the Celtics and Guinness. They especially love brothers with the surname Kennedy.
They really love things that remind them of these things. This accepted, Boston residents should begin mailing their wallets to The Larkin Brigade without delay. Doubters should be sent to the pub with a copy of Paddy Keys for Mayor and given some time to think it over.
Two of the main influences called to the witness stand by The Larkin Brigade are Ben Folds and a general sense of All Things Musically Irish. While Patrick Kennedy’s piano is the lead instrument on the record, the Celtic flavor overtakes any Ben Folds influence outside of Kennedy’s rhythmic piano playing in tracks such as “Planxty John L.” Kennedy (or, as he is known in some circles, “Paddy Keys”) shares the forefront of the sound with fiddle player Joe “Heavyset Joe” Wyatt, backed by bassist Paulie Thunder (Paul Kennedy) and drummer Diesel Dennis (Dennis Doherty).
The Larkin Brigade simply saunters into the pub and takes over. Paddy spins the stool twice and jumps on the piano and Diesel Dennis starts thumping on the bar and Heavyset Joe probably works his way back behind the bar while Paulie Thunder teaches the words to all the patrons. Before you know it, The Larkin Brigade is in full swing. The pipers even stop by for a while, working a keening wail over Keys’ piano melodies in tracks like “Sean South from Garryowen.” This is, after all, a “concept” record based upon a theme, even if that theme is the piano player’s play for mayor.
While those not in the know mess around with scally-cap twisting acts such as Dropkick Murphys, the real kids will be passing out dark pints amongst themselves and rocking out to The Larkin Brigade and their brand of honky-tonk piano pub sing-along.
(Squealing Records)
- Northeast Performer

"The Larkin Brigade @ Rancho Relaxo, Toronto, ON (March 4, 2006)"

When the Larkin Brigade took the stage, they owned it, confidently filling the space and hammering out the music that is so obviously a part of their every day lives. The music is an attitude, to understand is to enjoy

- David Missio


Paddy Keys For Mayor (2006)- Full length out now on Spit Shine International/Squealing Records

Self titled EP- 7 song self released EP featuring orginal tunes as well as covers of traditional favorites

Boston Harpcore- 7 inch released August 2005



The Larkin Brigade were nominated for a Boston Music Award in 2006- Outstanding Folk Act, participated in the 2007 WBCN Rock and Roll Rumble, Annual Evacuation Day Extravaganza SOLD OUT in advance.

Paddy Keys, Paulie Thunder, and Diesel Dennis have been playing together since the turn of the millennium. They've known each other since the early '80s, when they were wee tykes in Dorchester. And the music they play has roots considerably deeper than that.

Boston natives, the lads' forebears came from Ireland, an island with a musical tradition centuries old. Growing up, they learned the rebel songs, the drinking songs, the romantic ballads, and the jigs and reels of that tradition by accident. The music was one part of their real-life soundtrack as youngsters, heard on the Irish Hour on local radio, on record albums by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, and played live at church variety shows and family gatherings. (Brothers Paddy and Paulie, nee Patrick and Paul Kennedy, have a ton of musician relatives, including an uncle, Bob McCarthy, who has regularly toured with Tommy Makem.)

As adolescents in the Boston Public Schools, they naturally got into rap, soul, rock n' roll, metal, and punk rock. Dennis (last name Doherty) played drums in a memorable hip-hop/funk-rock band called Epileptic Disco. They were regulars at the Rat in old Kenmore Square, and played on bills with acts such as Shootyz Groove and the Lordz of Brooklyn.

Paddy eventually started a hardcore punk band called the Molly Maguires, who almost exclusively played VFW and church halls with bands like Darkbuster and the Explosion. At the same time, he was listening to more Irish folk than ever. He hosted the Celtic program on WZBC 90.3 FM and wrote music reviews for the Boston Irish Reporter.

One cold night in December 1999, with all that in the past, Dennis and Paddy rolled to BC to catch the Prodigals, an Irish rock band based in New York. Halfway through the set, a light bulb exploded over Dennis' head and he exclaimed: "We should start an Irish band." Before long, they recruited Paulie to play bass, formed a band called the Bogtrotters, and (despite Paulie being 19) wowed the crowds at downtown bars for months. With a ridiculous amount of energy and rawness, they covered songs by the Pogues, one of their favorite bands, and the Wolfe Tones, whom they regularly went to see at the IBEW hall in Dorchester. Good times were had. The drink flowed and so did the puke. (Well, once.)(We shan't name names, but he was only 19.)

For various reasons, that band came to a halt in early 2001. In 2002, another band came to a halt as well: Melee, an underground thrash act known for inspiring fans to mosh naked and spray paint "Melee Mosh Hogs" on buildings all over town. Now bandless and bored, their drummer, a friend of Paddy's named Dynamite Jack, talked Paddy into starting an Irish band once again. Paddy talked his brother into playing bass again -- perhaps "begged" is the best term -- and in 2003 the Larkin Brigade was born. They took their name in honor of Big Jim Larkin, a labor-union founder who took part in the fight for Irish freedom in 1916. This time, Paddy was not only playing piano, but singing lead -- an activity much more in keeping with his not inconsiderable ego. Furthermore, he began writing a few of his own songs for a change, rather than strictly ripping off the Pogues and the Wolfe Tones. The three-piece went through a series of fiddle players -- Smokin' Joe Kessler (whose claims to fame include a stint with Page & Plant, making the Larkin Brigade two degrees of separation to Led Zeppelin), Big Paul Harty, and Christie Catastrophe.

In spring 2005, Dynamite Jack was called into service to stick it to the Man as a negotiator for the UAW, headquartered in Detroit. The job required that Jack move to Motown. Things looked grim for the Larkin Brigade until their old friend Diesel Dennis blew the dust off his sticks and began pounding the bejeezus out of the drums once again.

Soon after, thanks to their hanging out in the local ska scene, the three old friends found a new fiddle player: Heavyset Joe. Nee Joseph Wyatt and raised on the icy, snowy plains of Wisconsin, Joe brought a tremendous versatility and musicianship to the band, not to mention complex musical glossary terms they had never heard before, such as "verse" and "A minor."

Today, the Larkin Brigade is ready to rock your socks off. They sing the songs they remember hearing around the house as kids, and they sing their own songs that they intend as part of that tradition. Some of the songs are serious in subject, many less so. They appeal to punk rockers and to old fogies. But no matter what, the energy and power of their live show is a shot in the arm for everyone who likes a good night out in a loud pub.