Eye of the Hurricane

March 11, 2010

I’m Shipping Up to … Ft. Lauderdale?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Austen Gregerson @ 12:29 am

When one thinks of Ft. Lauderdale, the term “Irish Drinking Music” rarely comes to mind. “Sort-of Miami”? Sure. Even “Home to Professional Ice Hockey” makes more sense, while that itself isn’t totally accurate. But red hair and Guinness? Not so much.

These were the thoughts that went through my head when I heard that Dropkick Murphys, a popular Irish-influenced band from Boston, was going to have a tour stop there. How would their pasty-white skin handle the sunlight? If we can learn anything from Conan O’ Brien, fair-skinned people and high UV exposure rarely go well together. But regardless of my stereotypically-oriented hesitations, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

I went to the show with three of my friends – all of who are from the Northeast. Up there the Dropkicks enjoy a much broader fan base than elsewhere in the country, often aligning themselves with the various sports franchises and city of Boston. Just a few of their more popular songs include “Tessie”, an ode to the mythical creature that lives within the Green Monster of Fenway Park, and the song that floods the TD Banknorth Garden for every Celtics home game, “I’m Shipping Up to Boston”.

The four of us got to the 2,000 occupancy venue just in time to catch the tail-end of the first act, leaving just one more act (Strung Out, a great punk band from my home city) to perform until the headliners came on. I took the opportunity to survey my surroundings.

The place itself wasn’t all that big. But with bars scattered throughout the bottom floor, a walkway that wrapped around the top of the building and a sunken area in front of the stage clearly not meant for the faint of heart, you could pick and choose your experience for the show. My group decided that we didn’t scalp tickets from a man who very well could have murdered the previous owners to enjoy a tranquil night of music: we wanted an experience.

While the venue’s capacity is listed at 2000, there had to been at least 2500. The group consisted of what I deemed as a surprising(ly good) 65 – 45 ratio of men to women, a fair amount of Latinos in attendance, one black guy, and a whole lot of rough-looking white dudes. Tattoos, beards and a prior seemed to be the dress code. My kind of crowd.

Navigating ones way from the entrance to one of the various bars, or God-forbid the pit area, took the hole vision and elusiveness of Barry Sanders. In between acts I took up watching the other drunks come back with their drinks, cradling them while weaving like a running back with fumble-itis, and wagering not if, but how much of their beer would be spilt before they made it back (hint for my fellow degenerates: Always bet the Over. You’ll never make easier money).

Not surprisingly, being from Los Angeles I was the only person at the concert with enough rationale to understand that Laker Purple is better in every way than Celtic Green. Luckily for me, my drunken logic did not lead me astray into informing everybody else of my sporting allegiances. I believe the interaction would have gone like this:

Me: “Hey buddy, how about that Kobe Bryant? He’s not a World Champion for nothing, amiright!?”

Guy wearing custom hybrid Ted Williams/Paul Pierce Jersey: “I’m going to murder you.”

One cannot overstate how intrinsic sports culture was with that crowd. Shirts and jerseys adorning the logos of the Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots and Bruins easily outnumbered anyone in punk attire or donning the band’s insignia. Conversations overheard through the noise ranged from Boston being “wicked-awesome” to New York being “full of total fa[MILY ORIENTED PEOPLE WITH DIFFERING ROOTING INTEREST]s”. For that night, Ft. Lauderdale turned into the southernmost end of Lansdowne Street.

During intermissions, chants of “Let’s go Murphys” were interrupted only with “F@*k-the-Yank-ees”, or another about Derek Jeter and a bird associated with San Juan Capistrano. There’s no way all of these people had made the trek to South Florida all the way from Massachusetts, but from inside the venue, it was hard to tell what area code you were in.

When it was time for the Dropkicks to come out, the curtain opened with a stage full of only their equipment, and a lone bagpipe player. Yes, they somehow managed to sneak a bagpipe over multiple state lines. After about a minute of his lone instrument wailing to the crowd, the rest of the band that played more traditional rock instruments rushed on stage to their places.

Did I mention the bagpipe player was wearing a kilt?

The band played, the crowd thrashed against each other in perfect accord with the rhythm of the drums, and after it was all over I was left with an overpriced t-shirt, some bruises, and a set of jumbled memories from the past 90 minutes.

What does any of this have to do with sports? Probably nothing, although now I know that moshing is more of a competitive sport than anything that requires a judge. But one thing I did take away from that Saturday night is a deeper appreciation for how the culture of sport has so deeply permeated our society. We tend to think of our sports culture as nothing more than a niche of men aged 18-54 with too much time on their hands. It’s looked down upon as a frivolous expenditure of energy that could be put to use in much more productive ways.

Anyone who believes that has obviously never seen a group of complete strangers form such a strong sense of community with only a few dumb groups of millionaires to bond them. I have, and it’s a feeling of togetherness that rivals any religion, nationality or ethnicity. You can’t tell me sports don’t matter, because if they didn’t, I wouldn’t have kept my Angels hat at home.

Also, don’t bring up 1986. It still pisses them off.

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