No one in rock ‘n’ roll has a resume quite like Mike McColgan’s. Aside from fighting fires, he was US Army soldier, E4 specialist (1989-1991, first in Germany and then in Iraq and Kuwait during Operation Desert Shield/Storm) and then singer for early Dropkick Murphys (1996-1998).
Since 2002 he’s been lead singer for Street Dogs, the politically charged punk rock band play it fast and furious – agitated music cut from the cloth of late-‘70s punk bands like the Clash and Stiff Little Fingers. “Those are examples we’ve never forgotten,” said McColgan. “I think punk bands back then took the road less traveled and talked about politics and injustice, how common everyday working class people got railroaded.”
. “If you fast-forward to now, that is still the road less traveled,” McColgan added, “to champion the cause of the working class person.”
The Street Dogs begin their annual, three-night “Wreck the Halls” skein of shows tonight, Dec. 18, at Brighton Music Hall. (Also the 19th and 20th.)
McColgan grew up in a union family, and pro-union sentiments are strewn throughout the Dogs’ catalog. That’s driven home during the anthemic “Up the Union,” from the quintet’s fifth CD. And there are plenty of songs about where he used to live, Dorchester, and rooted in what he used to do.
A harsh economic climate can lead to hard-edged music. Street Dogs’ songs are full of struggle, strife and occasional triumph. McColgan said his politics are neither left nor right – “the GOP has been particularly buffoonish as of late, but I have a lot of disenchantment with both parties” – but he’s certainly a proud part of the 99 percent.
“We’ve heard people say ‘I’ve lost my job’ or ‘I just got back from Afghanistan, or Iraq and I want to thank you for writing these songs.’ We are seeing people fall into our music because of the difficulty of the times, and because of the difficulties our veterans face. I’m being honest about what I’ve been through. It gave me an understanding of what it’s like to be away from your loved ones, to be far away from home, to be in danger’s way. And then you come back home and you try and readjust to civilian life. In 2002, there wasn’t much of an audience for that. Now, there’s definitely an audience for it.”
It’s an audience that also digs his former band, the Dropkicks, a group he left to pursue his childhood dream and follow in the footsteps of his uncle.
“I had a desire to be a firefighter,” McColgan said. “In ‘98 I took the civil service exam and got contacted. They wanted me to go through the process, so I told the guys in the Dropkicks, ‘Hey I want to do this,’ and they were nothing but supportive. I served for four years and it was an amazing experience, a great profession. I left it on good terms. I still have close ties with a lot of guys on the job. Music just called again in 2002. I moved forward and I’ve never really looked back.”
Said Dropkicks’ bassist-singer Ken Casey in an e-mail: “Me and Mike are kind of cut from the same cloth and have literally grown up doing this together – from being in Dropkicks, to touring all over, and now each of us having families and kids. But most importantly, I think we’ve brought the same mentality to music and the music business and that’s to treat your fans the way you’d want to be treated yourself. Good things happen to good people and Mike and the Street Dogs are a perfect example of that.”
“The whole goal from day one was to make an impact in this genre with our music,” McColgan said. “The beautiful thing is right now people are identifying with it and making the songs their own. And I’m so grateful.”
Though McColgan and his family currently live in Los Angeles, he said he wouldn’t be surprised if they moved back to Boston in a few years. And Boston is never far when the songwriting beckons. “Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” McColgan said.
“Poor, Poor Jimmy,” a Celtic-flavored paean to the Rat, the old Kenmore Square punk club and stomping ground, closes out the latest album
“It really became our spot, the nucleus of the Boston punk rock underground movement,” McColgan said. “And when it went away in 1997 it felt like a part of our heart was ripped out of us. We struggled for a long time to write a good song about that. Rick Barton [former Dropkicks guitarist] was the co-producer of the album and co-writer of that song, and we shared some experiences. That’s one of my favorites, an end of the night singalong.”
158 Brighton Ave., Allston, 617-779-0140 http://crossroadspresents.com/brighton-music-hall