ChieftainsIn a sea of hundreds of people dancing and jamming to The Pogues onstage, I watched as my older brother disappeared into the crowd when the band kicked into “Sunnyside of the Street”. One moment he had been beside me in the safety of the back of the venue where it was less packed, and then he was gone. Moments later, I saw his head poke out of the masses only a few feet away from the stage singing along at the top of his lungs.
Pogues shows are known for their rowdy and drunken crowds. But it’s also much more than that. There’s a sort of an underlying unity among the crowd, that doesn’t exist in any other band I’ve seen perform. In a way, their shows are a sort of celebration of Irish heritage — many of MacGowan’s lyrics deal with Irish Nationalism – just as much as it seeing one of the best bands of the 1980s.
“Sunnyside of the Street” holds a special place in the hearts of many Pogues’ fans with its memorable tin whistle line, upbeat tempo and Shane MacGowan’s defiant lyrics. You could also argue that it’s perhaps the last truly great song that MacGowan recorded with The Pogues, before his departure after completing Hell’s Ditch on which it appeared. When the song began, the already crazed crowd erupted into a frenzy.
I rolled and groaned my eyes for a second, knowing what this meant. I couldn’t stand in the back while my brother – 10 years older than me — jammed away up front. I’m not usually a competitive person, but there was no way I was going to be outdone. I shoved my beer into the hands of my friend who was standing beside me and shoved my way into the crowd.
After getting numerous elbows in the chest, beer and cigarette ashes spilt all over my hoodie, I finally managed to find my brother. We exchanged a quick look at each other without saying a word. But I knew what the look in his eyes meant. What took you so long? Let’s do this!
I was introduced to The Pogues at a young age by my brother, but at first I hated them. Despised them even. Their Celtic approach to punk was lost on me. They may have played with aggression, but to my mind they sounded too much like the Chieftans, a group who my mother loved. I didn’t want to spend my time listening to traditional Irish music – I wanted loud guitars, not tin whistles, harps and accordions.
I watched in glee as MacGowan – only a few feet away — slurred his way through the lyrics of the song. It hardly mattered how he sang it. The audience knew every word, and the band seemed to feed of its energy. When the song ended