Which is why my friend Greg and I decided to travel a couple of hours to see “Poguetry,” a gig featuring original Pogues members Spider Stacy and Cait O’Riordan, who were playing with the Lost Bayou Ramblers, a Louisiana Cajun/Zydeco group.
For the uninitiated, The Pogues were an off-shoot of the late 1970s London punk scene. They were formed by MacGowan who drew on his Irish roots. They are always classified as an Irish-Punk combo, but really they were always more of a traditional folk band, albeit with an edginess that Shane picked up from his punk days.
MacGowan has always fallen prey to the false romanticism of the doomed drunken poet, becoming almost a cartoon “Paddy,” which has offended many Irish people back in the day. Yet he is certainly a poetic genius and has inspired an almost cult-like following. Yes, we know he’s killing himself, and, yes, he is hardly a role model for anything, but those songs….
I joke that Shane is the sort of person that Keith Richards looks at and thinks, “How is that guy still alive?” So, The Pogues playing again is likely never going to happen. But that doesn’t mean the music is gone.
It always seemed as though Spider was The Pogues’ trusty lieutenant, singing songs and adding texture with his tin whistle, so seeing Spider heading a concert of Pogues songs is probably the closest one will get nowadays to having the full experience.
Greg arrived in Beaumont four hours ahead of our agreed time. I consider myself chronically early, but this was ridiculous. I begged for 30 minutes to be presentable before he came over, and an hour later we were on our way to Lafayette, Louisiana, a couple of hours down the road in the heart of Louisiana, Arriving early meant we had time to visit Lagniappe Records a couple of blocks from The Pearl.
We walked in and were confronted by Spider himself (he would wear the shop’s T-shirt later that evening). A quick hello and a handshake followed. Cait was throwing a toy around to a dog in the background. It was a nice start to the evening.
The Pogues lineup always featured fantastic musicianship, so it was great choice to team up with the Lost Bayou Ramblers to back him up (Spider lives in New Orleans now, so there’s the Louisiana connection) and Spider’s first gig with the Ramblers was in 2015. Cait lives in the Big Apple (they had played a New York gig in August).
The group had played Tipitina’s in New Orleans the night before, which I heard was packed. The Pearl is a smaller venue and the crowd, while enthusiastic, was relatively small. Greg and I parked ourselves in front of the stage — which was basically just a riser, as soon as the doors opened. We looked down at the set list on the floor to see what was going to on the menu — and both of us smiled to see a bunch of favorites sprinkled in the set.
Greg checked out a Pogues Facebook fan page and we saw a photo from outside The Pearl posted by Derek who had been at the gig the night before. As he was standing next to us, we struck up a conversation. He has been a fan for five or six years, beginning when he and his wife took a trip to Ireland. He made the 2,000 mile trip from his home in Canada as Christmas present to himself and we had a great time talking all things Pogues, wondering about Shane’s health, etc. Derek had been in the record store earlier but had missed meeting Spider and Cait — it’s all in the luck of the timing, I guess.
We were joined by another chap from north of London who now lives in Nashville (I’m sorry I have forgotten his name), and we talked about the bands from old days. He had just seen Stiff Little Fingers, which made me jealous.
The Lost Bayou Ramblers hit the stage first with a few songs that really showed off their chops (and I look forward to seeing them again). But we were there for one reason, and soon Spider and Cait took to the stage. Spider was front and center, but Cait stayed in the back, even when she was singing — bassists.
Spider was genial throughout and in good voice. He kicked off with the bosisterous “Boys From County Hell” (the setlist said Boys Parish Hell, but that’s their guide not ours, so who cares). It was swiftly followed by “If I Should Fall From Grace With God” (which may be familiar from an SUV commercial a few years back that featured a mother taking her kids to hockey practice — although why lyrics such, as, “If I should fall from grace with god/ Where no doctor can relieve me/ If I’m buried ‘neath the sod/ But the angels won’t receive me/ Let me go, boys/ Let me go, boys/ Let me go down in the mud/ Where the rivers all run dry,” suggest hockey moms I never quite understood).
“Greenland Whale Fisheries” and the terrific “London Girl” followed. It was around this time Spider bent over double in an attempt to read the setlist. Greg told him what was next and they launched into it. Next break, Spider again squinted to read the list. Greg to the rescue again. “Fuckin’ ’ell, it’s tough getting’ old,” Spider said, with an eye roll and a laugh.
Cait took the lead on “I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Every Day,” a lovely lilting ballad, before Spider led on “Dirty Old Town” (amusingly titled “Dirty Vieux Village” on the setlist) got the crowd singing along. After the Spider-penned “Tuesday Morning,” Cait joined Spider on “Haunted,” and the crowd watched spellbound by the beautiful song.
Spider broke with the Pogues playlist for a great version of The Clash’s “London Calling,” which is a cracking tribute to Joe Strummer who died Dec. 22, 2002. “Streams of Whiskey” is the archetypal Pogues singalong and the throng duly obliged. It’s great to hear Spider sing, but his tin whistle work really makes “Streams” jump.
The biggest cheer came for the next offering, the classic Christmas song, “Fairytale of New York.” It’s been voted the best Christmas song in England — which says a lot considering it’s basically a fight between a couple of drunken addicts. Cait and Spider played the parts well, and the Lost Bayou Ramblers contributed the swirling romantic melody beautifully. It was great.
The set ended with “The Body of an American,” another opportunity for us all to bounce up and down and sing, before Spider whistled us out. Spider and Cait took their applause and the Lost Bayou Ramblers took over as the pair left the stage.
When it was over, Greg and I stepped out into pleasant evening (it was 70 degrees. Welcome to December in the south) and I clutched Spider’s setlist in my hand. “Poguetry” was more than just nostalgia or watching old faded musicians cashing in on past glories. Spider clearly has fun with it, the band is terrific and Cait was rocking out. The small venue made it seem more like hanging out with friends — old and new.
The Pearl is located at 222 Jefferson St. in downtown Lafayette.
For more, visit thepearllafayette.com.