Rock Icons: Vinnie Stigma by Dropkick Murphy's Al Barr

Agnostic Front guitarist Vinnie Stigma
(Image credit: Miikka Skaffari\/Getty)

I first saw Agnostic Front in the basement of a YMCA in Boston in 1984. I paid $3 to see them, Void from D.C., Murphy’s Law from New York City and a bunch of other bands. I was rocking my dad’s G.I. boots and the big American skinhead suspenders.

The hall was completely dark except for the light on the stage, and Agnostic Front came out and opened with the song Victim in Pain. I remember being up against the back wall when they started and the next thing I was right at the front. My friend Keith and I were the only ones dancing because those were the days when there was beef between Boston and New York, so all the Boston kids were just standing there – they weren’t going to get into it, even though they wanted to.

So the drummer at the time [Dave Jones] went up and grabbed the mic and he said, “Yo, we just drove eight hours up here and you guys aren’t gonna dance? What’s up with that?” I thought they were fantastic though, and the next day I went to Newbury Comics and bought the gatefold of Victim in Pain.

In my opinion, Agnostic Front are just as legendary as Sick Of It All. There wouldn’t be American hardcore without them. And Vinnie Stigma is one of the most interesting and entertaining people you could ever meet. There are many levels to Vinnie: he’s a skin and he’s one of the original Lower East Side crew guys, but he’s also one of the most thoughtful, generous and polite people you’ll ever meet.

Vinnie’s got so much heart and soul. I’ve got so much love for him. He’s always been my friend and he will always be my friend. I call him every day on the anniversary of Rick Wimert’s [ex-rhythm guitarist in Barr’s old band The Bruiser’s] death, because Vinnie was a good friend of Ricky as well.

He doesn’t drink anymore, but when he did he’d have this drinking song and he’d come on the bus with this look in his eye and you’d know right away it was going to be one of those nights. So there’s that Vinnie, too. He’s also the guy that’s been in hardcore since day one. He’s been a soldier for this music for so long. I don’t know why no one has ghost written a book for him yet. He really needs one.

What’s even more amazing is that he looks younger every time that I see him. I don’t know what his secret is, but whatever he’s taking I want some of it. He looks fantastic. I really could go on and on about him all day long. He’s just an amazing human being. Here’s to you, Vinnie.

Dropkick Muphys’ new album 11 Short Stories Of Pain And Glory is released on January 6 via Born & Bred Records. Al was speaking to Matt Stocks.

Blog: The day Dropkick Murphys got me arrested