Lost Bayou Ramblers feat. Spider Stacy
December 4, 2015
As the Lost Bayou Ramblers took the stage at Continental Club Friday night, they were men with a purpose, like they’d come to Houston for an orgy or a bar fight — and it was our decision. The Texans should step on the field with this kind of attitude.
It began with nothing but Louis Michot’s maniacal sawing on his violin and a thudding marching-band bass-drum beat sufficient to induce a hypnotic trance. When the rest of the band dropped in at full-gale force, the impression was of Cajun pride on display, coonass hillbillies gone off the reservation. Within two minutes the not-quite-capacity crowd was swaying as one mass, like an organism feeding on sunshine. The band trotted into a breakdown and the room seemed to sway. Then they dropped us back into the trance again before switching gears and trampling into a Cajun reel that ignited a few dancers.
The effect was like Jimi Hendrix experimenting with some ancient European classic. Temperatures were in the upper forties outside, but by the time they finished the second number their faces were covered in perspiration as they dug in for the long haul. The Ramblers, who have a bit more jam-band feel than other stellar Cajun roots bands like Feufollet or Red Stick Ramblers, revved their engines to the redline with Cajun blues that dripped with swamp water and firewater. This was no polished swamp pop, this was the basic Cajun hydrogen musical atom being split and recreated.
Listening to the clamor on a bathroom break, you really couldn’t tell if it was the Lost Bayou Ramblers or the Pogues two rooms away blasting the heavens. Eric Heigle’s isolated drumbeat made me recall something Rodney Crowell said one time: “I get my pickers in Nashville, but I get my drummers in Louisiana.” The old Louisiana jure ju-ju was at the core of the chaos as I thought ‘not many Texas bands would want to follow these guys.
After a half dozen Ramblers tunes, Spider Stacy, vocalist and tin whistle player for legendary Irish punk-trad rowdies the Pogues sauntered onstage with no introduction or fanfare and shouted, “Hello, Houston, well shit” with a big grin on his face like he was happy to be back on the boards in front of a loving crowd. He mumbled something about our ‘je ne sais quoi’ and before we could even prepare ourselves he fell hard into the Pogues’ classic, “Streams of Whiskey” and all was right in our little corner of the world. It was finally on.
When they segued to “If I Should Fall From Grace With God,” the known universe exploded. It was immediately evident that Stacy had found the sense of ecstasy and wild abandon he had been looking for in a band when he discovered the Ramblers and asked them to join him. It truly seemed like a musical match made in heaven. The room was filled with smiles and good cheer.
Surprisingly, Michot took the vocal lead on “Dirty Old Town” as the crowd sang along as one, but then it was Stacy’s show as he belted out beloved Pogues hymns like “London Girl,” which raucously reminded us that the Irish were the original honky-tonkers.
Stacy then pulled a bit of a surprise with a spot-on rendition of the poppy “Tuesday Morning” from the underappreciated album the Pogues made without Shane MacGowan, Waiting For Herb.
It gets fuzzy after that, as substances were abused and the proprieties dismissed. Ramblers accordionist Andre Michot switched to lap steel and drove the vehicle to warp speed with searing slide licks as Stacy launched into rough-house, rusty-razor rambler “The Boys From County Hell.” As the band left the stage, Louis Michot grabbed a microphone and let the crowd know the whole shindig would happen again January 8.
The crowd was somewhat diffident about an encore, but the band came back for “The Body of An American,” the Pogues’ hilarious tale of an Irish wake in New York City. As Stacy is now living in New Orleans, the line “I’m a freeborn man of the USA” made for a perfect ending to a magical Irish-Louisiana hoedown.
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Personal Bias: I wish they had played some more obscure tunes from the Pogues catalog.
The Crowd: More Ramblers fans than Pogues fans. And lots of musicians hanging to the side of the stage watching the band work out.
Overheard In the Crowd: “I thought there’d be more Irish punks here. Maybe they all drank themselves to death.”
Random Notebook Dump: For all the legendary hell-raising attributed to the Pogues, Stacy looks in surprisingly good shape at 57. And it was apparent he still has the fire in his belly. And three gigs into his collaboration with the Ramblers, he looks primed to make a lot of music the next few years.