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An unknown group, or are they?

July 1, 1993

This past weekend a TRRT music critic found herself in Chi-town during the peak of summer festivities. And by “music critic,” I mean…me. One of the above mentioned festivities included the Wicker Park/Buck Town festival (the same neighborhood that hosts the famous art fair), which featured an array of music and community sponsored organization, such as the Planned Parenthood stand with a 10-year-old boy handing out contraceptives. Steering clear from that uncomfortable situation, I made my way to the main stage and was greeted by a band whose name was strangely familiar—The Tossers.

A not-unheard of fusion of Irish drinkin’ music with traditional punk rock, The Tossers let the audience know various ways of using the F-word within the context of love, Irish folk heroes, and bar fights. Besides the usual rock ‘n’ roll lineup of bass, drums, and guitar, the stage also afforded room to a fiddler and a penny-whistler, an instrument that can be just about as annoying as a recorder if played improperly. Fortunately for the heat-ridden kids beneath the stage, the whistler handled his instrument like a pro, save for the occasional deliberate shrieks and squeals that had my companion that day plugging his ears in pain.

There was a sincerity about the lead singer as he bellowed out “The Irish Rover” to the crowd, and my heart was stirred with the immediate desire to go knock back a pint and get in a pub scrap. As base as these feelings were, at least The Tossers got a reaction—and their amps weren’t even turned up all that loud. It wasn’t the volume levels or any beating, raging guitars that incited feelings of rebellion, but rather the sight of a sincere-looking young man strumming on a mandolin (amped) with a pixie-like girl playing the fiddle that created the mood. Yes, The Tossers are a loud, raucous band, but not so much that one can’t distinguish a melody above it all.

The group sounded a great deal like Dropkick Murphys, which brought back fond memories of Warp’d Tour and teen camaraderie through amiable violence—you’d have to have been there, I suppose. The major difference between the two however, is that The Tossers are all “grown up.” While expressing anger, drunkenness and tom-foolery in their songs, they focus more on melody and musicianship than my heroes of the past, and even a little glimmer of Irish rebellion washed over the festival grounds. It is my theory that the mood of punk-rock has a strong correlation with Irish and Scottish rebels fighting for freedom not so very long ago. So the lack of hair dye, face metal and leather on The Tossers was not disappointing for the mere fact that the accessories weren’t necessary to emphasize their attitude.

As I mentioned before, The Tossers seemed a familiar name to me. I think that they have played the area circuit in the past, perhaps Otto’s in DeKalb? Maybe they’ve done the Kryptonite thing as well, but either way—they’re a great group and if you can find them online, call me and let me know what you found out.

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