I woke up on Saturday morning with a stuffed nostril and a headache, but that didn’t keep me from driving to Carmel, Indiana later in the afternoon to see Pugwash perform a concert at a club called the Warehouse. A surprise autumn cold had me feeling like garbage all day long, but I decided to make the trip anyway. I knew it was now or never for me and Pugwash. It’s not every day when a band from Ireland makes it anywhere near where I live, and I don’t expect Pugwash will be returning anytime soon. So I shot up my favorite cold remedy, packed up the essentials, and headed off.
And by “essentials”, I mean this guy:
It took me about two hours and fifteen minutes to get to Carmel and find the Warehouse. It’s a cute little building in what appeared to be a cute little town. The venue had a well-tended front yard made out of pebbles.
As you may have noticed, I’m a big fan of concert advertising whether it’s fancy marquees all lit up Broadway-style or just small sidewalk signs done up in chalk. Either way, I’ll take a picture. I didn’t realize it until I got home, but I may have caught Tosh Flood (Pugwash guitarist) having a smoke in the background of this shot.
I went into the actual performance space when I heard the opening act playing. I snagged one of the last tables. The Vinyl Cats are a local band made up of a man and his son and–for reasons that were never fully explained–the touring guitarist from the Rutles. They played a few originals and some interesting covers and closed out with two songs featuring Thomas Walsh, the Pugwash singer. Those songs were the Duckworth Lewis Method’s “Boom Boom Afridi” and ELO’s “Evil Woman”.
It wasn’t long before the Vinyl Cats left the stage and Thomas Walsh came back out with the rest of Pugwash. And my nose was barely stuffed!
If I thought it was a bad idea to drive 4+ hours while sick to see Pugwash, then I was wrong. They were a lot of fun to see live. Not only did they sound good, but the venue was great and the audience was into it without being obnoxious (unlike the last time I saw a show in Indiana). Pugwash played a few songs from their new PledgeMusic-supported album, Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends) and a bunch of stuff that can be found on their other American release, a highly-recommended career-spanning compilation called A Rose in a Garden of Weeds.
The highlight for me, of course, was getting to hear “It’s Nice to Be Nice”, a song that has somehow been stuck in my head since November of 2010. Not only did I get to hear my favorite Pugwash song, but I also got to hear them perform an XTC cover. This was especially significant for me because I bought my first Pugwash album–an earlier comp called Giddy–because it was released on Andy Partridge’s Ape House label. Sure, I could’ve come up with about 75 XTC songs I’d rather hear than “Making Plans For Nigel”, but it was still an XTC cover and it was awesome.
The setlist looked something like this. Okay, the setlist looked exactly like this.
Main set: Kicking and Screaming/Kings and Queens/Keep Movin’ On/Hung Myself Out to Dry/Finer Things in Life/Apples/(Soon Be Home–>Singin’ in the Rain)/Be My Friend Awhile/There You Are/You Could Always Cry/Answers on a Postcard/Anyone Who Asks/Here (w/Rutles guy)/Making Plans For Nigel (XTC cover w/Rutles guy)/Fall Down/(Hush, Little Baby)/Emily Regardless/It’s Nice to Be Nice
Encore: The Fool I Had Become/Take Me Away
Those two instances of titles appearing in parentheses were spur-of-the moment songs that probably shouldn’t even count. The first combined a bit of the Who’s “A Quick One, While He’s Away” with “Singin’ in the Rain”. That came about spontaneously while they were talking about being on tour. The lullaby came later in the evening when a child in the front row fell asleep.
I definitely made the right choice in going to the show. It was a great evening all around. The only potential downside was the between-song banter that sometimes suffered from cultural differences (steamers?) and dumb, repeated jokes (21 Pilots?). When the band was actually playing, though, it was a lot of fun. And fun is important.