The Arts Beat: The Mighty Return

The Bosstones are back and they have charisma to burn.


Illustration by Jason Lenz.

When the Dropkick Murphys announced that the Mighty Mighty Bosstones would join them for two nights at Fenway September 8 and 9, it seemed like a killer summit of local music royalty. But then the Dropkicks added more bands and turned the shows into an Irish rock festival called Shamrock-N-Roll, leaving the Bosstones lost in all the hoopla. Then again, they must be used to being forgotten by now.

Time has passed the Bosstones by, and that’s a shame, because they’re in the pantheon of best bands ever to emerge from the Charles River Basin. Their punk-ska hybrid is fun, frantic, and feisty, and they created the template—which the Dropkick Murphys were wise to follow—for capturing the real Boston in song. Unlike, say, the Pixies or the Cars, the Bosstones are both from here and of here. For example, just listen to 1992’s “They Came to Boston” and you’ll get a dead-on, witty and weary townie lament about a city overrun by obnoxious, transient students. Factor in the group’s thrashy live shows and trademark suits and ties, and the Bosstones have swaggering charisma to burn.

And yet, this platinum-selling ’90s band went from heavy rotation on MTV to near oblivion in the past decade. The main problem was that ska flamed out, thanks to lame copycats—rock snobs still snicker about white guys skanking to Jamaican-bred music (not without some reason, mind you). But in the Bosstones’ hands, ska is great music played by great musicians. As you pogo along to them in the bleachers this month, let that be the impression that you get.