MISSIONARIES: Fading American Dream is Street Dogs’ most defiantly politicized album.
It’s just after 7 Saturday on Lansdowne Street, and Avalon is already swimming with bodies and charged with excitement. The headlining band — Bouncing Souls — may not be hitting the stage for another hour, but this is one tour stop that doesn’t belong to them. No, the early turnout is for Street Dogs, the band fronted by founding Dropkick Murphys frontman Mike McColgan, also known as the Desert Storm veteran who quit the Dropkicks to become a Dorchester fireman just as 1998’s Do or Die (Hellcat) was breaking the Boston Celtic punk band to a national audience. The DKMs, as McColgan and his Street Dogs partner, former Bruisers bassist Johnny Rioux, refer to them when we meet for coffee on Newbury Street, soldiered on as perennial Warped Tour mainstagers with Al Barr singing. And McColgan left a career in music to follow in his uncle Kevin’s footsteps, seeking a career in what he calls “fire suppression. When I was growing up, I was always enamored with the fire services. I pretty much held my uncle as a hero. I’d always go over to Engine 18 in Dorchester. It’s something I always wanted to try, to see if I could make it.”
His days of fire suppression behind him, McColgan is back in his element on stage at Avalon in his trademark scally cap, as he barks out hoarse lyrics, takes one of several dives into the crowd, and bemusedly asks the kids up front how they already know the lyrics to the new Fading American Dream (DRT), an album that won’t hit stores till October 24. Those are just the kind of fans he attracts — committed legions of true believers who, given his résumé, have good reason to look up to him as a hero. There’s irony in that: McColgan doesn’t seem to have any rock-star ambitions. He sees himself as just one of the guys — albeit a guy who’s been given a platform to reach thousands with his words. Indeed, the initial track on Fading American Dream, “Common People,” opens with the salvo “I’m tired of American socialite culture/God it makes me sick/I’ve got so much fire burning down inside/The time has come to face the truth and bring about a change.”
If McColgan seems particularly happy to be back in Boston, that’s because it’s been a while. Once he and Rioux realized that Street Dogs could be a full-time job, they made it one. Along with recording three albums in three years, they’ve spent the bulk of the past two touring. Says Rioux, who now lives in Houston, “It’s weird when we come back, because we spend so much time on the road, like at least 200 days last year.”
“Eight months,” interjects McColgan, who moved to LA after 2004’s Back to the World (Side One Dummy).
“Mike and I are both married,” Rioux explains. “Mike’s wife is from LA and my girl’s parents live in Texas. They both lived here when we started the band. We were just doing the band for fun, like poker night. But when we started taking it to the next level, it was difficult for my wife because we have kids and she’d be alone for weeks on end. And it was the same deal for Mike.”