Approaching 40, and understanding that many other Pogues fans are of my generation, maybe even a few years older, I expected last night’s Pogues’ concert to be a somewhat quiet affair. But the band, the members in their 50’s, have a quite a following of younger fans. They put on a full-tilt, high energy show. The music’s great, as it has always been, and the fans responded with a level of vigor I didn’t expect. Some were practically manic!
My friends and I went right down to the stage, and get a place right against the barricade. Most of the night I was one or two people from the barricade, with one or two friends rotating in between me. I kept my arm around a friend and on the barricade most of the show, after the Pogues hit the stage, that is.
Before the opening act started, one of the drunkest human beings I have ever seen came up and stood next to us. The crowd near the stage was still sparse, yet he couldn’t help but swaying, wobbling or stumbling into our group and the people around us. He made the mistake of repeatedly bumping into M_____, a 6 foot something 200-something lbs bear of a man. We expected said drunk to puke on M___ at any moment, which would’ve lead to a very bad outcome for both. M___ finally forcefully removed the guy from our area and sent him off to other environs. Mr. Drunk was not seen again the rest of the evening.
Somewhere during the opening act, a small dark haired girl, obviously inebriated, and her brother, stumbled over to us. D_____ says she tried to force her way past him, right up to the barricade. “Where are you going?” D____ asked. “I’m going to the stage,” she replied. “No you’re not.” “What?” “No you’re not!” “Why?” “Because I’m here already. You’re not coming up here.” She turned away.
I had a number of weird little exchange with her because she kept stumbling into me. At some point she declared she needed to find a husband and I suggested she go off somewhere else in the crowd, as there were plenty of single men around. For reasons unknown she decided to tell me, “You’re an asshole!” and pushed me half-heartedly. I said, “Alright, if you’re going to act like that, you have to go. Get out of here. You stay over there.” I wasn’t mad, but there was no need to tolerate her obnoxiousness. “What? Why you making me leave?” I just turned my back and pushed her away with my butt. She eventually came around, acted mildly polite but completely polluted, smoked a joint with her brother and generally annoyed the people in our area.
The drunk girl and her brother were finally sent off when our waitress was forced to make three trips to our area because the drunk girl bumped into the waitress and spilled 1/2 the drinks on her tray. After that mess — and the waitress did a great job of keeping her cool — some of us guys in the area tried to keep a clear path so the waitress could get back to us. She made it, too. My Diet Coke and glass of Jameson cost me $20 because I didn’t think it was right to ask the waitress for my $10 change after all she went through to get it to me.
The obnoxious fan fun hardly ended there, though. A couple of Canadian guys were pretty drunk and jumping around, a major theme of the evening. The jumping around would’ve been OK by itself, but it seemed clear they wanted to mosh. No one around us really did, though, so they made enemies quickly. Eventually one of the Canucks got up on top of the crowd and was surfing. [EDIT] The Drunk Canuck lost his shoe but continued surfing during various parts of the show. I saw him afterward and he had both shoes on; some kind soul retrieved the missing shoe for him.
Just after the drinks got spilled, the Pogues came on and there was kind of a rush toward the stage. A woman tried to get back to her friends who had been at the barricade, just to the left of our group. It was packed, though, that she refused to push her way through. The rest of the show she more or less hung out within the perimeter we set. We exchanged pleasantries and it was nice to have a decent person near us who respected others. She said the concert was her Christmas present and seemed to have a great time.
In front of me were D_____ and B_______. Behind me were M_____ and A_____. The most exciting action of the night might have been either as the opening act was ending or as the Pogues were opening the show. A backwards baseball hat wearing mouthbreather kept slamming into this couple behind Aron and I that were in their 50’s. They were cool enough people that they were there to dance and sing but clearly not to mosh. The lady asked Mouthbreather over and over to stop running into her. We’re not talking casual bumping. He was trying to slam dance, basically. Apparently what he wanted to do was more important than anything anyone else around him might have wanted. The husband kept shoving the guy away and yelling at him.
Tension was rising. The guy wouldn’t listen. A_____ reached over with an open hand and slapped the guy across the face! He froze in his tracks. I had to turn around and get into it, not because I wanted to fight, but because I wanted to know if punches were going to start flying. The guy took a minute or so to back down, with people yelling at him to walk away. M____ shoved him hard in the chest. Of course, once people started separating the little fella from A_____, Mouthbreather decided he wanted Aron to step outside. It’s always easiest to fight back when there are three people between you and the guy that’s about to destroy you.
But it wasn’t over… Toward the end of the show, I had to contend with another girl that wanted to force her way to the stage and kept slamming into the back of me or trying to fight her way through me. I wasn’t going to let her in. I tried elbowing her, tripping her, pushing her back, bumping her with my hip — anything to keep her off me without hurting her. After about a 1/2 hour of her shenanigans I turned to her and said, “Look, what do you want? I’m not letting you through!” “But you’ve been up here this whole time…blah blah blah…” “How about you ask me nicely, say please, and maybe I’ll let you stand in front of me.” “Can I please stand there? ” “Yes.”
What doesn’t come through in all this is the exhilaration, good and bad, of being in the press of a crowd. There’s a combination of fear and excitement that comes when the crowd rushes the stage, and you’re between the barricade and hundreds of other people pushing forward. It’s an adrenaline rush for sure, and it causes you to react with force you might not be used to generating. Holding the barricade wasn’t about marking territory as much as it was about not losing space needed to breathe.
None of this sounds like fun, but actually it was a blast! I felt like a fighter that had gone 6 rounds. At various times, I would just rest my head on someone’s back to get a rest. You try standing on a beer-soaked tile floor, wearing a rain coat and cashmere jacket, while fighting off people climbing over you for 2 hours, and see if you don’t get tired.
The show was awesome. That band is tight! Shane MacGowan, who by all rights should be dead, did a pretty good job and seemed in only modestly bad health.