Top Pick: Pogue's frontman brings 'big sharp axe' to Slovakia

"SHANE MacGowan is very famous in Ireland, even legendary. He's a bit of a tragic figure. His teeth are a mess, and he is clearly going to drink himself to death. Most people are amazed he's still alive, but the drinking is all part of his charm," says Deirdre Tynan from Dublin.
"He's the most outrageous yet musically competent exponent of contemporary Irish music with a traditional feel - forget the Kelly family and The Corrs - MacGowan and the Popes is where it's at."
Shane MacGowan, 44, and his Irish 'pub band' the Popes are expected to headline the largest music festival in Slovakia, Pohoda 2002, over the July 19 and 20 weekend. Festival organisers expect 132 bands from 20 countries, although they admit to worry that the hard-drinking MacGowan may not have recovered by that time from an exhausting concert at the Forest Glade Festival in Austria's Wiesen on July 6.


THE POPES hit the stage July 19, with or without MacGowan.
photo: Courtesy of Eagle Records

"SHANE MacGowan is very famous in Ireland, even legendary. He's a bit of a tragic figure. His teeth are a mess, and he is clearly going to drink himself to death. Most people are amazed he's still alive, but the drinking is all part of his charm," says Deirdre Tynan from Dublin.

"He's the most outrageous yet musically competent exponent of contemporary Irish music with a traditional feel - forget the Kelly family and The Corrs - MacGowan and the Popes is where it's at."

Shane MacGowan, 44, and his Irish 'pub band' the Popes are expected to headline the largest music festival in Slovakia, Pohoda 2002, over the July 19 and 20 weekend. Festival organisers expect 132 bands from 20 countries, although they admit to worry that the hard-drinking MacGowan may not have recovered by that time from an exhausting concert at the Forest Glade Festival in Austria's Wiesen on July 6.

"We hope that he [MacGowan] will last until our festival," said Michal Kaščák, Pohoda's organiser, adding he was well aware of MacGowan reputation for coming to concerts drunk or, sometimes, not showing up at all.

If the latter is the case, there should be no problem, says Pohoda colleague Pavol Murín. "If he drops out, the band's guitarist [Paul McGuinness] will back up on vocals, as sometimes happens."

A singer, composer, poet and almost toothless alcoholic, MacGowan grew up in Ireland but moved to London at the age of six with his parents. While his talent as a poet blossomed in England and won him a scholarship to the famous Westminster private school (he was later expelled for drugs), MacGowan says his early childhood years spent in Ireland were his best.

He later fronted and composed for a succession of bands in the 1970s, starting with the Nipple Erectors, which became the Nips. After the band broke up in the 1980s, he formed the legendary Pogues, which changed name to the current Popes in 1994.

His music draws on traditional Irish themes and tunes with a punk-style energy. The first Popes' CD, The Snake, contains a duet with Sinead O'Connor, while the band's latest album, Rare Oul'Stuff, has just been released. His most remarkable work, however, was done during the Pogues era, including albums such as Rum, Sodomy & the Lash (1985) and If I Should Fall From Grace With God (1988).

"The vulgarness of some of his lyrics could be called 'earthiness' instead," says Tynan. "Either way, Shane MacGowan is a showman extraordinaire, well worth seeing, even if he's too drunk to remember the words of a song he wrote himself."

Shane MacGowan's Popes will hit the state at the Pohoda festival at 22:00 on July 19, in the exhibition area of the western town of Trenčín. For more information and exact festival schedule check out www.pohodafestival.sk.

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