The Jig Is Up
Irish band The Pogues is huge in Europe, But few Americans have ever heard of it. Here's why you should start paying attention.
Last Tuesday in San Francisco, two belligerent men were escorted from a concert for fighting in the corner. What did the band do? Kept on rocking, of course.
"Oh, everyone was fairly crazy - they were all moshing away," Darryl Hunt said in his Irish accent. He is bassist for the European Celtic rock-act The Pogues, a band consisting of eight musicians who have been together for 25 years.
So why haven't you heard of them?
The band is big in Europe, but then again, so is soccer. It's hard for Americans to relate to the Irish undertones and to understand the nuances of meaning in the traditional songs the band often plays. If you aren't open to foreign music, you probably won't be able to embrace the culture. The Pogues are like a less convenient Flogging Molly, and they play with the intensity of 1,000 Guinnesses. Literally.
Of course there's alcohol involved. No Irish band would be anything without alcohol. If you look hard enough on YouTube, you can find a video of a so-called interview that consists of the lads drunkenly belting out Irish folk songs after a show. If you look even harder, you can find a comment posted about last week's aforementioned concert, describing lead singer Shane MacGowan's struggle to stand up straight.
Maybe the boys should spend less time drinking and more time marketing here in America. They worked their way up in Europe by playing on street corners in the '80s and gradually landed gigs in bars. Now the octuplet finds itself in arenas, opening for fellow Irishmen U2.
"We played in front of 100,000 people," Hunt said of the show, during which they jammed with Joe Strummer of The Clash.
Name-dropping doesn't change the fact that the members of The Pogues are hardly your typical rock stars. Maybe it's the lack of worldwide fame, but Hunt is one of the friendliest people ever to do an interview. His voice is kind and full of experience, and he laughs at all his own jokes.
"What are the cons about being in an eight-person band? Well, if I was in a three piece, I'd only have to split the money with two others," Hunt said.
Hunt has also expressed interest in the DJ club scene, but he keeps that sound away from the band.
"We've got our thing with The Pogues," he said, implying that he is 100 percent satisfied with the band's Celtic sound, even though it keeps them from becoming huge in the United States. Hunt is happy to be where he is, which is something we could all learn from.
"My advice to college students? Don't take drugs," he said. Then, adding, with another chuckle, "But seriously - we're given these gifts in life, and you just have to be creative. It's good for your spirit."
The band also seems to prosper when they stop and say, "But seriously."
"Fairytale in New York," a song that reached No. 2 in the United Kingdom, is about a couple that grows depressingly further apart every Christmas.
"It's a very sad song," Hunt said. "We try to not be miserable, but sad. It's good not to look at life as one big laugh. You need the sad to get the cheer; so, if you're aware of it, sadness is positive."
Whatever your emotions, there's no passport necessary. The Pogues will transport you - if you want to go, that is - to the home of potatoes, James Joyce and shamrocks. Some of those YouTube videos even portray the crowd's moshing as somewhat jig-like.
- The Pogues will play on Wednesday and Thursday at 8:30 p.m. at The Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Blvd. Tickets are $39.50 -$55. For more information, call 213-380-5005.
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