CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- When it comes to saying thank you, no one, not even
Hallmark, the greeting-card makers, does it better than the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
The ska-rockers threw their fifth annual Hometown Throwdown last week, holding court
for five nights at the Middle East club in a fanatical show of appreciation for their
Boston-area fans and friends.
"I know I'm probably the corniest guy around, but I mean everything that comes out of my
mouth," singer Dicky Barrett said after singing the praises of his hometown. "We've been
all over the place, but the Throwdown is still the best time of the year."
Tickets to this year's Throwdown, which came less than two months after the release of
the Bosstones' Live From the Middle East -- recorded during the 1997 Throwdown
-- sold out in less than two hours. The event ran Wednesday-Sunday.
In spite of the Bosstones' phenomenal success during the past two years, which have
seen the band globe-trotting to Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and Canada, the
ska rockers remain a band of the people. Before Friday and Saturday's shows, they
hung out at the back of the Middle East, where both the Anti-Racist Action booth and the
merchandise booth were doing brisk business.
The gregarious Barrett was on the giving and receiving end of much backslapping,
hugging and schmoozing.
As much as the Throwdown is a thank-you gift to fans, it's also a home-for-the-holidays
celebration for the band. The between-set music mixed holiday tunes with punk and ska
classics. Two huge speakers were draped in shiny, striped wrapping paper and topped
with bows; white, artificial Christmas trees stood at the back of the stage; and two plastic
Santas, one white and one black, flanked the stage. Pastel holiday lights were strung in
neat, blinking rows above the stage.
The Bosstones strive to be regular guys, but they still know how to make an entrance.
To herald the start of Friday's show, the club was darkened, and the Temptations' funk
classic "Ball of Confusion" pulsed out of the speakers at maximum volume. (Middle East
bartender Walter Ginnetty said the club's amplification power had been tripled for the
When the anticipation had reached its peak, fake snow began to fall, and the Bosstones
-- Barrett, guitarist Nate Albert, bassist Joe Gittleman, horn players Tim Burton and
Dennis Brockenborough, drummer Joe Sirois, skanker Ben Carr and honorary
keyboardist David Aronoff (of the Shods) -- took their places onstage and promptly
roared into "I'll Drink to That."
Local radio personality Angie C of WFNX-FM, a longtime Bosstones fan and loyal
attendee of the Throwdown, observed that Barrett seems to be wearing his success well.
Barrett was dressed in a handsome red and blue plaid suit, a dark blue shirt and pink tie.
His signature spiky 'do was freshly dyed a brilliant, deep magenta. He whipped off his
rock-star shades and tossed them into the crowd mere moments into "I'll Drink to That."
As "Noise Brigade" segued into "Awfully Quiet," he loosened his tie, doffed his jacket and
untucked his shirt, and by "Toxic Toast," the tie had been tossed into the audience.
Many fans came all five nights, and the Bosstones worked diligently to ensure that each
show was different, drawing liberally from their back catalog. On Friday, the oldies but
goodies included three songs from Devil's Night Out (1990): "Do Somethin'
Crazy," "Patricia" and "The Cave."
The 17-song set also included the hits "The Rascal
King" (RealAudio excerpt), "1-2-8," "Royal Oil"
(RealAudio excerpt) and "The Impression That I Get" -- all from the Bosstones' 1997
breakthrough, Let's Face It.
If Barrett's goal was to make eye contact or, better yet, physical contact with every
member of the audience, he came close, slapping fans' hands with the intimacy of a
With a bad-boy grin and a maniacal roll of his eyes, Barrett doused the crowd with
bottled water as the band ripped into "They Came to Boston."
If the mood among the blissed-out Bosstones fans at Friday's show was friendliness and
goodwill, the Saturday night crowd had a more pressurized party vibe.
It was a good thing, too, because a noticeably weary Barrett seemed to thrive on the
crowd's energy. By the time the band swung into the night's second song, "Where'd You
Go?" a sizeable pit had formed, filled with good-natured slamdancers. Soon, the
sweating crowd was jammed tight against the roughly chin-high barrier at the front of the
stage. At Barrett's request, fans immediately took a step back and the party resumed.
Saturday's set list, like Friday's, spanned the Bosstones' catalog.
It included "Devil's Night Out," "He's Back," "Hell of a Hat" and "The Impression That I
Get." This time, Barrett was nattily attired in a red and green plaid suit, white shirt, plaid
bow tie and fabulous red shoes. But four nights into a five-night stand, Barrett seemed to
be struggling with his gravelly, but normally supple, voice, and was more than willing to
let the audience pick up the slack.
Despite his obvious fatigue, Barrett said he and his band have no plans to put an end to
the annual celebration.
"As long as there are the Bosstones," he said, "there'll be a Hometown Throwdown."