The 22nd installment of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ Hometown Throwdown — a multi-day, multi-band festival hosted and headlined by Boston’s still-reigning kings of ska-punk — opened with merriness and moshing at House of Blues Friday night. The band and its assembled faithful celebrated the interregnum between Christmas and the dawning of 2020 in style, blending hard-edged, slam-dance-inspiring songs with moments for reflection.
“How are you?” Dicky Barrett asked the assembled after a particularly raucous run-through of the band’s 1997 track “The Rascal King.” “How was your 2019?” The crowd’s mixed reply elicited compassion from Barrett: “Challenging … to say the least.” Thankfully, the Hometown Throwdown, like any good holiday party, provided a fantastic way to if not overlook any agita the year’s ups and downs might have caused, at least work through it with loud singalongs, pogo-ready rhythms, bright brass, and quickly forged dance-floor friendships.
The Bosstones’ blend of ska’s brass and bounce, punk’s riffs and heaviness, and troubadours’ storytelling imbues even their most pummeling songs with soul, a blend that’s ideally suited to the holidays’ mix of big feelings and camaraderie. Over the course of 90 minutes, the band powered through 25 songs from its vast catalog, including offerings from their most recent album, 2018′s feisty, pointed “While We’re at It,” as well as their golden-age-of-alt-rock hits “Someday I Suppose” and “The Impression That I Get.” Midway through the set, an upright piano came out, and Barrett played crooner, heightening the Bostonian pathos of the Dogmatics’ 1984 lament “X’mas Time (It Sure Doesn’t Feel Like It)” (“Kenmore Square’s deserted now/ the college kids have left town,” one lyric goes) and lending an all-in vocal to his take on the rueful ballad “Handbags and Gladrags.”
But even the slower moments had a spirited feel, one that made every blast of brass brighter and every exhortation to the crowd more encouraging. “This event — if you don’t mind me saying so — is pretty magical,” Barrett said before the band launched into its finale, “A Pretty Sad Excuse.” “It gives me a feeling that’s difficult to get every year.” The Bosstones’ ability to conjure those types of feelings — goodwill and cheer, as well as a never-say-die dose of punk-rock spirit — has made the Throwdown one of Boston’s most exuberant new holiday traditions.
MIGHTY MIGHTY BOSSTONES: Hometown Throwdown 22
With Art Thieves, Walker Raiders
At House of Blues, Friday; repeats Saturday, Sunday