Q&A: Dicky Barrett of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones

The beloved Boston band will take the stage at City Hall Plaza for an exclusive performance celebrating Barrett's birthday.

Although it’s hard to imagine a time when the Dropkick Murphys’ “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” wasn’t the city’s universal anthem, most Boston natives today still praise another beloved Boston band—The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Since spearheading the ska-core genre in the 1980s, and putting out nearly a dozen records throughout their career, the Bosstones are still playing shows today for as many audiences as they can get to.

Next month, the band is bringing their set list to City Hall Plaza on June 21 to celebrate frontman Dicky Barrett’s birthday at the Phantom Gourmet BBQ & Music Festival. “I’m going to be on my toes, that’s for sure,” Barrett says about performing with the group.

Barrett, whose voice you also might recognize as the announcer on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, talked to us about expectations for his “Birthday Bash,” working on late-night TV, and how he still seems to be running on Dunkin’.

In terms of your “Birthday Bash” coming in June, what should the audience expect from the Bosstones? Have you determined a set list yet? Will there be cake?

Well, I don’t know if there will be cake. But I do know that we’re playing a show, and when we play a show, we get up there and give it everything we got. We deliver a rocking good time to anyone who attends. For a set list, we play the [songs] that everyone know best… It’s difficult when we have as many records as we do because people often believe we didn’t do enough from this one or that one… It’s a nice problem to have.

You’ve been out in California since 2004, but when you come back home to Boston, where are the places you’ll always revisit?

I like to hang out in the South End. I have friends who live there. But where is there a bad place to be in Boston? Tell me what you’re thinking about and I’ll tell you why that part of town is great… There are great restaurants all over town. J.J. Foley’s [in the South End] is one of my all-time favorite bars. I love that place. Red Lantern is an exceptional restaurant that I enjoy going to. I think in the city, there is no shortage of great places to eat. I’m not a foodie like my boss Jimmy [Kimmel] is, but I do know it’s not hard to find a decent place to eat in that town.

Where’s your favorite venue to play in Massachusetts?

It would definitely be in Boston. The House of Blues is a damn good club. If you’re a band, touring and going around the country, and you’re playing a House of Blues, it’s always like a destination. It’s good food, and the people that run them know how to treat bands.

Since landing the role as the announcer on Jimmy Kimmel Live! a few years ago, how have managed your time with the band?

I’ve got a great boss, a great guide, and a great friend in Jimmy. He’s always been excited about the Bosstones and what it is we do. He’s been very kind to us when it comes time for me to play shows. I try to book and play shows as often as I can with the time I have off. I have a wife and child, too, so I have a very full life. If it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not. I have a full life, but an enjoyable one. We don’t do as many shows as people would like us to do, but I think it makes the time we are together pretty special.

What’s it really like working for Jimmy Kimmel? Is he as down to Earth and personable as he seems? He’s supposed to be one of the best pranksters out there.

He’s really into pranking, and that’s been a lifelong passion of his. He’s not much different than the guys I grew up with, they’re very much the same. [That’s] one of the reasons why when I came out here, I said if I don’t like the people or enjoy being around the Kimmel show, it’ll be super-bad for a short period of time. But I love it so much, and it’s because of the people that work here. And it starts with Jimmy. He’s exactly as you see him on TV. He’s as real and genuine as you’d think he would be. He’s super, super generous. There are a lot of people around here that work very hard. I might not be one of them, but most of the people who work here work very hard on the show.

In late-night TV, it seems like it’s a one-man show, but it must be such a collaborative effort. I can’t imagine how you guys pull off a show like that on a nightly basis.

It’s impressive! A lot of it should be handed to Jimmy—nobody works harder than he does. He leads by example. He’s here at 8 in the morning, always writing, always creating. It think it pays off. It’s a damn good show. I wouldn’t hang around if I thought it sucked. It’s just not my style.

One last question for you: since moving to the West Coast, have you succumbed to the Starbucks cult or is Dicky Barrett still running on Dunkin’?

You know, I haven’t had coffee in a long time now. I never really liked Starbucks. But I love, love, love Dunkin’. I think there’s a percentage of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee that runs through my veins… The first thing I do when I touch down in Logan is get a lahge regulah.


Dicky Barrett’s Birthday Bash at the Phantom Gourmet BBQ & Music Festival will take place at 7 p.m. at City Hall Plaza on June 21. For ticket information visit phantomgourmetbbq.com.