When it comes to Boston music, the Dropkick Murphys own Saint Patrick’s Day and the Boston Pops own the Fourth of July. And the end of the year? That belongs to the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Although the hardcore-inflected Boston ska band launched the first Hometown Throwdown in the summer of 1994, it was moved to December the following year, where — with one five-year gap during which the band itself was on hiatus — it’s remained ever since.
This year’s Throwdown runs Thursday through Saturday at the House of Blues. And even though its members are a little more scattered these days, singer and current Los Angeleno Dicky Barrett swears that the band isn’t hamstrung by the separation of distance.
“We’re always ready,” says Barrett. “It’s in our blood. It’s the air we breathe. We’re Bosstones, we know we’re the best at all times, and that’s the way we show up.” With that combination of fierce confidence and a shared mission, the band has managed to hang on to its punk ideals over the course of three decades, despite enjoying corporate sponsorship (an early sneaker endorsement deal with Converse), major-label patronage, gold and platinum sales, a No. 1 Modern Rock hit (1997’s “The Impression That I Get”), and an appearance in “Clueless.” Through it all, the Bosstones never lost touch with the town that gave them their name and their start, and as Barrett explains, the Throwdown was largely conceived with that in mind.
Q. When you were putting together the first Hometown Throwdown, did you figure that it would be an annual tradition?
A. Yes, I thought it was at least a way to make sure, no matter what we’re doing, to come back to Boston and say, “Hello, Boston, we love you the most.” So yeah, I think that that was the plan. Maybe the year before at some point, something went on where we overlooked [it] and we were like, “Holy [expletive], we may not have done a Boston show this year.” And someone said, “Well, we can’t ever let that happen again. They need and deserve the most love.”
Q. What’s changed the most about the Throwdown since you did the first one?
A. 2017 was pretty [expletive] remarkable, and that’s putting it lightly here, with a lot of things that went on that you could say weren’t good. And that’s continuing. But the Throwdown always makes me feel good. Once it’s night number one of it and we’re in there belting it out, and I’m with my best friends up on stage, and we’re playing stuff that we created to people who seem genuinely excited that we’re doing that, all is well for me. It’s the camaraderie, it’s the unity, it’s the vibe, it’s the spirit. Christmas itself, although wonderful, is its own thing, but the Throwdown is the sort of exhale that comes after Christmas. And it’s between Christmas and New Year’s. New Year’s is, “Oh [expletive], that year’s over.” I think that this is where you kind of go, “All right, everything’s gonna be OK.”
Q. Do you think you could stop doing the Throwdown now even if you wanted to? Or has it just taken on a momentum of its own?
A. I think yeah. I don’t know if we’d want to. It’s the kind of thing where you do it and you go, “Holy [expletive], that was amazing again. Will it be like this forever?” You hope you don’t get to the point where you go, “We did one Throwdown too many. Last year was sensational. This year, enh . . . ” So you fear that, sort of. I guess time will tell. At some point, we’ll know why we shouldn’t do a Throwdown next year. But as far as this year goes, it’s on. And when it’s on, it’s on.
Q. The Bosstones were in “Clueless,” which seems to have aged the best of all the teen comedies from the 1990s. I was curious how that felt being part of your legacy.
A. At that time, and if I had it to do it over I’d do things differently, but we were so immersed and so into being true to what we were doing and to not selling out and [being] punk. So we went to the major label, it was like, “Oh, [expletive]. Are we selling out? We want to continue to make records, and we need this.” Then we realized our manager wasn’t paying our taxes. Not paying taxes felt punk, but the [expletive] government wasn’t having it that way. Simultaneously, [director] Amy Heckerling said, “Do you wanna be in this movie?,” and we were like, “Euh . . .” It seemed like a horrible idea. They said, “It’s about a [expletive] Beverly Hills teenager,” and we’re like, “Aaah! We’re [expletive] Boston guys in our 20s and 30s. No, this seems terrible.” [Chuckles] But we needed to do something, and she offered a lot of money, and that would have solved the problem at hand. We were like, “OK, well, this is probably going to kill us, but it may save us financially.” So we did it and it didn’t suck. She made it cool for us and somewhat enjoyable. And it came out, and we watched it and we were like, “Wow, that was not bad. That was pretty cool.” Years later, people still like it, and once again the Bosstones squeak by unscathed.
MIGHTY MIGHTY BOSSTONES’ HOMETOWN THROWDOWN
At the House of Blues, Boston, Dec. 28-30, 7 p.m. Tickets: $27-$77, www.bosstonesmusic.com
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