Shipping Up to Boston


My brother purchased me tickets to see a Dropkick Murphy’s St. Patrick’s Day show up in Massachusetts. I’ve been wanting to spend a St. Patrick’s Day is Boston, so I’m glad he finally made me go make good on this. It did not disappoint.

The concert was actually in Lowell, Massachusetts, an easy forty three minute train ride northwest of Boston. There were five us going up in two cars, one from Scranton (my brother), and one from PA (myself). Now, I like Boston, and am glad I’ve been having more excuses recently to travel to New England (been there three times in the past year and a half), but will say that it’s an excruciating drive from Lancaster and Philly.  You get the pleasure of Philly, NYC, and Boston traffic all rolled into one day.  I’m no direction guru, but my one piece of advice: even though it appears to be somewhat out of the way, opt for the Tappan Zee Bridge instead of the George Washington Bridge, unless you’re anal about arriving somewhere in the least amount of time/mileage possible. I’d rather go twenty miles out of my way then sit in the NYC traffic cluster.

While my brother arrived at our hotel around 7:30, my car didn’t get there till close to 11:30.  Now, one detriment to MA is that they have a 1:00 (12:30 at a lot of places) last call unless you’re in downtown Boston.  It sort of goes against the drunken-Irish reputation Boston holds, but when you consider it’s Puritan roots, it all makes sense (sort of like PA and the Quakers).   We figured rather than spending a million dollars on a cab (Boston has the most expensive cabs in the USA) or driving (the trains stop runing at 11:30 and driving in downtown Boston is a nightmare), we’d just explore a few bars close by the hotel.

We stayed at a Ramada (I know, fancy) in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, which seemed fitting on this weekend.  Dorchester is a working class neighborhood which produced the Kennedies, Whitey Bulger, and has been immortalized in fiction and film by Dennis Lehane (one of my favorite authors), and is adjacent to Boston’s “Southie” neighborhood which is raucous come St. Patrick’s Day and holds the 2nd largest parade in the country on March 18th.  It was a perfect spot for us as it was not as pricey as downtown hotels, yet still accessible to all Boston has to offer.  The fact that it’s located in an Irish neighborhood didn’t hurt.

Friday night we stayed local, hitting Eire’s Irish Pub in Dorchester, as well as Darcy’s Village Pub and The Beachcomber in neighboring Quincy: we were aiming for dive/neighborhood type joints.   I was mildly disappointed in the first two.  Maybe it was a bit pretensious to expect thick “pahk-the-cah” style Boston accents, and happy patrons doing a drunken jigs, but our first two stops were mildly subdued and a little icy.  Eire’s was nice enough, it reminded me of a very WASPy American Legion: alot of flags, wood paneling, and the sense that we were the only people in the bar unacquainted with everyone else.

We picked Darcy’s as our second stop as it’s the inspiration for the DKM song, The Dirty Glass.  Again, nice, understated Irish Pub, but (and maybe it was just the night we were there), not much character, and very subdued.  We scored with the Beachcomber.  It sits across the highway from an actual beach (though I was warned not to walk or sit on said beach) and had outdoor “coastal” seating for nicer weather.  It was empty besides for two other small groups, and a band was rocking “The Joker” with gusto to absolutely no crowd.  The bartender, however was really friendly (and he did “pahk the cah”!) and you can’t argue with $2.00 PBRs.   He, as well as two friendly locals sat with us for a while, giving advice on where in Dorchester you can  imbibe till two (JJ Foley’s….never made it but the directions are still in my phone) and where to go (back here of course) and avoid (downtown, but especialy Fanueil Hall, unless you want to pay a $20.00 cover and wait an hour for a drink) on St. Patrick’s Day.  Little did we know, we’d be taking his advice.

After a few too many beverages in the hotel Saturday monring, and a stressful hotel shuttle- to red line-to orange line- to commuter rail trek, we arrived in Lowell.  Lowell has frightening parallels to my beloved Scranton.  Both were industrial hubs at one point, and both had fallen on hard times.  Both had subsequently started to clean their act up, but not enough to lose the charm.  The number one advice we received the night before about Lowell (after fielding questions about “why we’d venture to that dump”) was “don’t pick a fight in Lowell, you’ll find one.  Maybe it’s because I’m used to the relative decay of Nepa, but I didn’t find the city nearly as depressing as it was put on. Fun trivia fact: Lowell’s the home of “Irish Mickey Ward” for those of you who follow boxing OR have seen The Fighters. Having planned poorly (and unsure of the drinking on a train policy in Massachusetts),  we stopped in the first bar we saw: Garcia Brogans.

Garcia Brogans was advertised as “half Irish pub, half Mexican cantina”, an interesting concept.  We obviously stuck to the Irish pub half.  It seemed to be your typical “faux Irish pub”, but again, you can’t argue with $2.00 PBR’s (theme of the weekend, that I’m not going to complain about) and they had an awesome old guy singing Irish music,  who was very liberal with requests.

The concert was good.  I’ve mentioned before that this isn’t my time seeing DKM.  The energy of playing to a local crowd was palpable, but I wish they’d played “Fields of Athenry”, “Finnegans Wake”, “The Wild Rover”, or more of the traditional covers they are known for.  It would have seemed fitting on St. Pat’s.

Hynes Tavern Lowell MA
Hynes Tavern, Lowell, MA

We had an hour of time after the concert before re boarding the train and made the fantastic decision the spend it at Hynes Tavern (or rather our cabbie made the decision for us).

The place reeked of cabbage, was blasting The Irish Rovers, and had sticky notes cut into the shape of stars posted behind the bar advertising $2.00 “Pudding Shots” and $1.00 dollar shots; love at first sight (and smell).  Unfortunately in order to make the train, our time at Hynes was limited.  We would’ve stayed if we could, and the staff couldn’t have been friendlier.

Hynes Tavern Lowell MA

Upon our arrival back in Boston, we met up with two of my cousins who were at The Fours, conveniently located a block from North Station. Allegedely, The Fours is a Boston sportsbar staple, and truthfully at this point I was paying much more attention to the company, then my surroundings, so can’t offer any insight of my own.  There was a place called Sullivan’s Tap next door that I wish I could have checked out.  It looked grimey and great.

In possibly the greatest St. Patrick’s Day coincidence yet, my cousin let me know that after finishing up at The Fours their plans were to head back to a “hold in the wall bar” in Quincy to see her husband’s band play if we were interested.  The hole in the wall?  None other than The Beachcomber. **BLack 47, the Prodigals, and DKM all played here.  Not too shabby.

We piled into two cabs and made our way back.  It was a great way to end/spend St. Patrick’s Day in Boston.  The band, an Irish cover called Saoirse-Nua,  complete with a kilted bag piper, wereawesome, the drinks were cheap, and we had a good little group.  We stayed well past the crowd and ended dancing to Irish tunes on stage.  I wish I could give you more details, but with a 10:00AM start, the night got a little hazy here.

Having a good seven hour car ride home, we opted skip the parade the next day, but if in the area again at this time, I’ll make sure to hit it up.  It’s not only the second largest St. Patrck’s Day Parade in the country, but the largest military parade.  From what I gather, it comes with the requisite house parties and bar specials.

While I’m depressed about the end of St. Patrick’s season, my liver and  body are letting out a deep sigh of relief. But, good news, only 11 more months….

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