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Music

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones can still throw it down

Bosstones return home for another rockin’ multi-show party

Drea Catalano

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones released “The Magic of Youth’’ earlier this month and will stage their 14th Hometown Throwdown concerts Wednesday through Friday at the House of Blues.

Joe Gittleman teaches students at Lyndon State College in Vermont about the music business. Yet Gittleman’s own success as a musician has hardly been a textbook case.

Gittleman is bassist and songwriter for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. An eight-piece band that blends ska and punk into a patented ska-core sound, the Bosstones thrived in the indie underground, had an explosive period of mainstream success, dropped out of sight for four years, and are now back playing about 20 shows a year and making great albums, as is the case with “The Magic of Youth’’ released earlier this month.

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The Bosstones stage their 14th Hometown Throwdown concerts Wednesday through Friday at the House of Blues.

Singer Dicky Barrett, saxophonist Tim Burton, dancer and back-up singer Ben Carr, and Gittleman are the remaining original members of the group that came together in 1984.

“It’s pretty overwhelming that it’s still happening,’’ says Carr, who when not busting out rude-boy dance moves works at video-game producer Harmonix. “When you’re in high school, you’re just a bunch of friends playing shows for fun.’’

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Drummer Joe Sirois joined in 1991. Sax player Kevin Lenear was part of an early lineup, left in 1998 and returned in 2008. Guitarist Lawrence Katz replaced original guitarist Nate Albert in 2000, the same year that trombonist Chris Rhodes became a Bosstone.

“Sure there’s some infighting, like you’d find with a bunch of brothers. But given the size of the band, there’s always someone to get along with,’’ says Carr. “But for the most part, everyone is usually pretty happy and knows his responsibility in the band. Dicky has the vision, Joe [Gittleman] has the business sense and the music. It works, and we’re not about to mess things up.’’

The hard-touring band recorded for the Boston imprint Taang! before striking a deal with Mercury Records in the mid ’90s. In 1997, the Bosstones reached a broad audience with the hit album “Let’s Face It’’ and the signature tune “The Impression That I Get.’’

“I just paid attention. I started out as a roadie with Treat Her Right and the Del Fuegos. Then I got to be in Gang Green. I was fascinated by the way things got done,’’ Gittleman says. “Even when we were with Mercury, we took pride in being more like a pirate ship on the high seas. The work that got us to that position was based on building a relationship with the fans.’’

Burton notes that the Bosstones also have a blue-collar work ethic.

“With the Bosstones, we put in the time. Some of the other guys I play with now are not used to that. It’s common for the Bosstones to rip apart a song down to the bass-drum beat,’’ Burton says.

And though the Bosstones looked different from their punk peers - horn section and plaid suit coats in lieu of untrained players and leather jackets - the Boston crew believed in the punk creed to break down the barrier between band and fans.

Those loyalties are still quite strong. Last year, the Throwdown kicked off on a night when the region was clobbered by a blizzard that resulted in a state of emergency. Knowing that many fans had traveled to be at the concert, the Bosstones decided not to cancel the show, and likewise the fans showed up to pack the House of Blues.

The Throwdowns are as much about celebrating the broader community that grew around the Bosstones as they are meant to be concerts.

“We were passionate about the Boston music scene, and English punk and ska. If you look at the seeds, you understand the tree,’’ Barrett says. “This all started out as enjoying something to do. Turned out we sold people on the idea, and we educated each other in the process. That’s the ‘magic of youth.’ The music we produced just seemed magical.’’

The cohesiveness of “The Magic of Youth’’ belies the fact that the Bosstones are spread around the globe these days. Much of the music was shuttled via Internet between Barrett in Los Angeles and Gittleman in northern Vermont. The music made its way to Europe where Lenear is, and to Jacksonville, Fla, where Burton now makes his home.

“We worked closer together than ever before even though we’ve never been farther apart,’’ says Barrett, who is also the announcer on the “Jimmy Kimmel Live’’ show.

Barrett continues his run as a pre-eminent teller of New England tales. (After all, how many kids learned about Boston’s colorful pol James Michael Curley through the Bosstones’ “Rascal King’’ versus some history book?)

“The Ballad of Candlepin Paul’’ is a particularly catchy ode inspired by Paul Berger who bowled a record 500 in 1992 on the “Candlepin Bowling’’ program aired in Boston.

“Joe Strummer made it a point to sing about England and London. If I love the Clash as much as I say I do, I owe it to Joe to sing about Boston and New England,’’ says Barrett, adding it helped that the “they kept falling, they kept falling, they kept falling down’’ chorus was already rolling around in his head.

Though he at first thought a song about candlepin bowling was perhaps a bit too out there, Gittleman has come to embrace “Candlepin Paul.’’

“Ska-core is to music what candlepin bowling is to sports,’’ Gittleman says. “Not everybody is into it, but if you love it, you really love it.’’

Scott McLennan can be reached at smclennan1010@gmail.com.
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