TVD Live Shots: Poguetry: The Songs
of the Pogues at the Black Cat, 3/7

For a few years there, the Pogues coming through DC around St. Patrick’s Day was as common as The Dubliner being at max capacity on the day when everyone wears green. DC got to celebrate a little early this year when Pogues tin whistle player Spider Stacy and bassist Cáit O’Riordan, backed by the Grammy-winning Cajun band, Lost Bayou Ramblers, brought “Poguetry: Songs of the Pogues” to the Black Cat last Saturday. “I fucking love being in DC,” said Stacy at one point.

The pairing of Irish folk-punk music and Cajun may sound like an odd couple initially, but the two are incredibly similar with use of fiddles, squeeze boxes, marching pattern time signatures, and so on. The Pogues song “White City” showcased this dichotomy really well, with the Cajun style as the backbeat, and the Irish trad serving the tempo and flavor. It was also interesting to hear Pogues lyrics in Cajun French as in “Dirty Old Town,” which was sung by the Ramblers singer/fiddle player Louis Michot.

Stacy, a Louisiana resident since 2010, almost seems to be leading a charge in merging both genres, much like the Pogues did with Irish folk and punk.He and the band tossed around lots of Cajun French phrases between songs, and he played tin whistle, both Saturday and on the recording of the Ramblers’ “Si J’aurais Des Ailes.” Rumor also has it that they may be doing a record together soon.

Roots embracing wasn’t just on a musical level, but a fun fashion one as well. Stacy, O’Riordan, and Michot were all wearing different colored jumpsuits, and when I inquired if there was a significance about them, Michot explained that there is a whole history with older Louisiana men and jumpsuits. “We like, them,” he said. “Lots of older men in Louisiana like my grandfather, they had them for different occasions.” For those of you seeing the next batch of shows, you may see the whole band wearing them soon.

The crowd was loving all of it, but big cheers went up when Stacy introduced Cáit “Rocky” O’Riordan. O’Riordan took lead singing duties on the song she’s probably most known for, “A Man You Don’t Meet Everyday.” The crowd also got to hear her sing the Pogues classic, “A Pair of Brown Eyes” and “Haunted,” the 1986 duet that she did with original Pogues lead singer, Shane McGowan for the Sid and Nancy movie soundtrack. If memory serves, the Pogues did not play these in their St. Pats Day shows a few years back, so getting to hear them live was a treat. O’Riordan’s vocal delivery is much like an Irish Karen O, emotive and ethereal and strong, which was a perfect match for the slow and mournful sound of each song.

Paying homage to another part of the Pogues past on Saturday was covering “London Calling” by The Clash. “This was written by another of the Pogues lead singers,” said Stacy before going into the cover, while jokingly asking the age-old question, “What is the plural of ‘Pogues’ anyway?” Clash lead singer Joe Strummer produced the Pogues final studio record, and played guitar and sang lead on tour with them in the late ’80s when McGowan was kicked out the band.

Saturday wasn’t the usual bacchanalian mayhem that Pogues shows were always known for, both onstage and off, in the MacGowan years, and that was just fine. In the end, the Pogues catalog is about history, not just of Ireland, or folk punk, but also that of the band itself, so it’s wonderful that these songs got to have life breathed into them once again live. “Poguetry: Songs of the Pogues” was a lovely way to honor a wonderful legacy, and with the Cajun flavor added by the Lost Bayou Ramblers, the combination is a live show that’s like musical Zoloft—and quite possibly a new musical hybrid to enjoy.

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