Club Owner to Pogues: "You'll never play Baltimore again."
"You'll never play Baltimore again." That's what former 8x10 owner Dickie Gammerman told The Pogues' Spider Stacy after a particularly sloppy show at 8x10 in 1985, not long after the release of Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash.
Spider chuckles at the memory, during a recent chat about the band and its relationship to Baltimore, . "When we got to the club, the owner told us we had the run of the bar," he recalls. "Well, I don't think the fellow knew what he was getting into, but we took him at his word."
And thus, a band known for its indulgences proceeded to overindulge. The fact that Spider remembers that particular show 25 years after the fact says something about the extent of it. "Let's just say that it resulted in a show that wasn't as cohesive as it might have been," he says. "And we were told we'd never play Baltimore again."
Spider laughs. "That almost turned out to be true," he says, before pointing out that 23 years elapsed before The Pogues returned for a 2008 show at Rams Head. "The audience last year was fantastic. We love Baltimore."
He mentions Edgar Allan Poe, crab cakes, and The Wire, which featured Pogues' songs in various episodes during the show's five year run. "The Wire is about the best thing I've ever seen on TV," says Spider, who fondly recalls meeting the show's creator, David Simon, during last year's tour.
He also met Martin O'Malley. When asked if he's heard the governor/former mayor's band, he says, "I have, actually."
The silence is, by Spider's admission, judicious. "That said, there are thousands of bands like that, who are out there having a great time," he says. "There's certainly nothing wrong with that."
He goes on to say The Pogues are having a great time, perhaps more so than at any other time in their long history. "It used to be that we had to tour, night after night, to support a new album," he says. "These days, we tour because we want to, and the vibe is completely different. Obviously, the money's good, but we don't have the sense that we're on a treadmill. There's no pressure on us."
It also doesn't hurt that various members of the band no longer overindulge. "Most of us are pretty clear headed," says Spider. "Musically, we're actually better than we used to be."
Tuesday night's show at the 9:30 Club proved that. Over the course of two dozen songs, the band gave a transcendent performance. Sure, vocalist Shane McGowan wasn't particularly clear headed, but he belted out songs such as "Bottle of Smoke," "Turkish Song of the Damned," and "A Pair of Brown Eyes" with a rich combination of moxie and muscle. Around him, a swirl of accordion, guitar, bass, banjo, drums, and Spider's tin whistle jolted Irish tradition with blasts of British punk rock . The band's raucous version of "Body of an American" would have made Bunk and McNulty proud.
And Spider isn't kidding. The Pogues have never sounded better.
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