Not even a pandemic can keep Boston’s Dropkick Murphys from playing ball, musically speaking. Following the veteran Celtic punk band’s “Streaming Up from Boston” Saint Patrick’s Day livestream concert, they’ve upped the ante and will perform at the city’s historic Fenway Park on May 29 — with no live audience, per state COVID-19 social distancing orders.
There will, however, be one very important guest joining the band on the Boston Red Sox’s home turf, or at least on the big screen overhead: Bruce Springsteen is on board for a song swap-off.
Springsteen played the first-ever full Fenway Park concert in 2003. The following year, during the regular Red Sox season, the Dropkick Murphys debuted their song “Tessie,” which honors a local diehard Sox fan. That year the Curse of the Bambino was broken and the Sox won the World Series.
In 2011, the band played their first full concert at the park, which has hosted Paul McCartney, Jimmy Buffett, the Dave Matthews Band, Phish, the Rolling Stones, the Police, John Legend and that local band Aerosmith.
Springsteen and the Dropkicks will not only perform the first-ever Fenway Park livestream concert, but this will mark the first concert of the pandemic without an in-person audience in any major U.S. arena, stadium or ballpark.
“Streaming Outta Fenway” begins at 6 p.m. ET, 3 p.m. PT via the band’s Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Twitch pages. The worldwide simulcast will benefit multiple charities and is presented by Boston-area tech company Pega.
Variety spoke with the band’s founder, co-singer and bassist Ken Casey as he took a break from finishing up the band’s tenth album, which is due in September.
VARIETY: Boston is really missing Fenway Park right now. Was it easy to book the space?
CASEY: We’ve always had a great relationship with the Red Sox and we’d been really itching to do another livestream. When we did the first one it wasn’t with the social distancing orders that we have now, so we knew we had to do the next one in a massive outdoor space. Fenway Park is our national treasure here and for the Bostonian it epitomizes the summer. We will have the distancing we need and it’s a sign of hope and summer. Also, we didn’t want to look strange playing in a field somewhere, standing very far apart.
What’s the setup?
We’re using the baseball diamond to create the distance. The drums will be on second base; guitars on first and third base; the [touring] bass player where the shortstop would be; banjo player where the second baseman would be; and myself and Al [Barr, co-singer] will be singing from the infield. So it will resemble how the players would be on the field.
How did Springsteen become involved?
He’s so down to earth; he’s so cool. When the 2013 marathon bombing happened, he sang on a new version of our song “Rose Tattoo” for charity. He was so all-in for that — it was like, “Hey, let’s ask Bruce.” Normally you wouldn’t want to bother a legend like that, who has a busy schedule. But Bruce is a guy who likes to play. His schedule is open, as all of ours is now. He’s always down to help.
Which songs will you do with Springsteen and how will you perform them?
We’re working out the technology now, but the plan is to have him on the Jumbotron. That’s the goal, so we’ll see if technology cooperates. We’ll do his song “American Land,” which we’ve joined him for on stage for a bunch of times. And he will join us on “Rose Tattoo.” We’ll be the band playing; he’ll be coming live from… his studio? His couch? We don’t know.
Are there any other guests?
We had a couple of ideas to ask other people. But we’re trying to get to grips with the technology and work it all out. We might invite some other Boston folks. Not to be there — even the Boston folks can’t be with us. We had to have a rigorous safety plan and we can’t have more than 35 people total in the ballpark, including our staff and their staff.
You included two new songs at the St. Patrick’s concert. Will you debut any more this time?
I don’t think so. We decided to do those songs on the spot that night, but you feel that in these days of everyone listening to everything on YouTube all the time, you give away the whole record before it comes out. We want to have some surprises. I will say, the set that we have been practicing is at least 75% different to the one that we played on St. Pat’s.
Will you play “Tessie”?
Absolutely: We can’t play in Fenway Park and not play that. We didn’t play that song on St. Pat’s; we never play that song outside of baseball season. I feel it has some baseball magic in it and we don’t want to waste it.
The new album is due in September. What is touring going to look like for you? Could it be more of something like this?
I don’t know. The thing is, it’s hard enough in the music industry to schedule things already. There’s so much touring and not enough venues. You take that and then figure in there’s all these rescheduled gigs. I just don’t know how it will all work. But that will be a nice problem to have, because it means we can all go out and play music again.