The Pogues: Still a Full Contact Experience

5 03 2011

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.




13 responses

6 03 2011

Loved your writings about the Pogues show at ROMT which I also attended though not brave or young enough to get up close. Also loved your writings about Beatles/Beach Boys who are faves. Gonna follow your postings from now on! Keep rockin’ on!

6 03 2011

I was there, probably pretty close to you. Every single person you mention here, I came in direct contact with. I think I could have written the same type of post. Well done, sir.

6 03 2011

Thanks Jeff and Mark. Your comments were minutes apart.

I thought it was a great show. I’m still savoring it. I hope it comes through in this post that I’m not whining or complaining about the rambunctiousness. It’s actually pretty humorous at this point. But it was a battle trying hold position at the stage. I’m still tired I think 🙂

Thanks for the compliments on my writing. I’ve kind of neglected this blog the last month or so, but I love writing about music and the comments and feedback make it interactive and, therefore, more interesting. I appreciate it , gents.

6 03 2011

The writing quality was excellent. Just don’t agree with the content.

6 03 2011

I very much enjoyed your article. You were spot on with the description of the crowd. I think we ran into the same bro/sis team & the pushy chick. (I think my friend elbowed her too. :D) We were just to the left of you, on the other side of the bouncer in the video.
I have to admit, I am not as dedicated a Pogues fan as my friends. (More along the lines of “I like some of their songs”) So for me, it was the experience that was more important. Not that Shane sang this, that, or the other. Don’t get me wrong, the music was important.  But I really enjoyed the crowd, their energy, their stories. How the couple next to us bought tickets because her husband had been waiting 20 yrs to see the Pogues in the D again. He never thought it would happen, but there he was, front & center.
I ENJOYED that part of it. I met so many people who wanted to share how Shane’s performance could have been hit-or-miss. Like you, by the end of the night, I got to know their names & their stories. It seemed that for a short period of time, the people that surrounded you were your comrades, fighting off the rude & disrespectful people. They were looking out for you, just incase. They had your back. Anyway, I am still sore today from fighting to keep myself from getting crushed into the barricade, but I had a blast! I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Thanks again for your article.

7 03 2011

Tickets were $60. Maybe you shouldn’t wait until they sell out to try and buy them. I was there. When people begin to behave poorly, measures must be taken. To be honest, I think what this blogger did and what others near him did probably stopped some fights. So you can call all the names you want, make all the insults you want, flex your digital muscles all you want, misuse words like “fascists” all you want, but this wasn’t 1986, it wasn’t Dublin, and it wasn’t a Damned show. Grow up.

9 03 2011
Wendy Renee

Ah, nice review…if I am not mistaken the respectable fan you refer to who’d received the ticket as her Christmas prezzie was my best friend? I was at the barricade thanks to a lovely man that was so generous after I’d attempted to break up a potential fight w a drunk arsehole whom I eventually alerted security to. What a lovely eve this was! And I got the set list! YAY!

9 03 2011

Not far into this I thought it sounded oddly familiar, when I read about the waitress and your order it confirmed my suspicions…that same small drunk girl bit my shoulder! This amazing experience was in fact my Christmas present, and a brilliant one at that! Although I never made it back to my friend I was happy to have your company for the evening. Thank you for your accurate depiction of the show, “full contact” nearly sums it up. The Pogues performance was truly amazing, regardless of their age or health conditions, they were spot on. Every song was truly perfection. They were responsible for all the energy witnessed in the crowd, and I feel honored to have been a part of it. Thank you for the recount of your experiences, as well as mine.

9 03 2011

Wendy & Chani, thanks for your comments. 🙂

I had a bit of negative feedback about the mild violence I described going on around us. People were under the impression we were picking fights. I let a few of those comments stay up for a few days and then took them down. I notice that everyone that commented that was there, as well as my friends that read this, know what was really happening at the show. None of the critics were at the show.

I’m glad you had a great time. It was nice meeting you, Chani. Sorry you couldn’t get back to your friends and were stuck in our huddle.

9 03 2011
Wendy Renee

It wasn’t a matter of people picking fights, imo. Being a show in Detroit after all…i tried reasoning with the drunk guy who’d cut his way up to the front before the Pogues took stage. He had a little too much sauce and I kept warning him cos I didn’t want to see him get thrown out. I kept telling him “it’s the Pogues, behave or you’ll get kicked out and miss it all!”. Eventually he didn’t listen and before the punches (which were to be thrown) I warned him one last time before he was whisked away. I felt bad…but what can you do? I don’t appreciate violence and I tried explaining once they went onstage all bets were off and if he wanted to rush the stage then there are no rules! Ah well, I appreciate the guys that let me invade their space as I was on my own…thanks for taking care of my girl, Chani!

9 03 2011

Wendy, you missed some of the negative comments calling our group “facists” and whatever other names. The criticism came because a guy got slapped, a crowd surfer was hit (who had been causing trouble) and I was using (mild) force to keep a girl off me that was being pretty aggressive and hyper, described above.

The crowd was great but there were a fair number of rowdy people that didn’t care if they squished, slammed into or climbed on others. Those people, like the drunk guy you described, caused others in our area, not just our group, to remove them from around the stage.

I had a blast. I just didn’t expect it to be such a physical thing. I’d do it again, though.

9 03 2011

That’s laughable, fascists? really? The people around were great, I certainly saw more of the comradeship…but like you say, I was there. Although there were a few scuffles, I got a pretty nice vibe from the crowd. Any rowdiness felt as though it was lending to the true experience. A bit more of an authentic Pogues show! I’m kind of glad I got a (gentle) foot to the head and pushed around a bit. But nobody was hurt and I’m sure that was because of people like you and your friends. I felt as though you sort of had my back, I didn’t mind so much being in your huddle. It was nice to have met you as well!

10 03 2011

Yeah, well, you were hemmed in pretty good. Most of the annoying rowdiness was over on my right.

You expressed it well that the pushing and physicality made it fun. I thought it was a huge adrenaline rush the whole evening, dancing, fighting off the crowd behind me, but getting concerned about being smashed into the barricade. It was all a great mix of excitement and tension. I had more or less forgotten what it’s like to go to shows like that.

I agree. I was nice to have met you, too. Glad we could be part of your Christmas present. 🙂

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