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Pugwash returning to Portland

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The Irish band Pugwash, from lett, Shaun McGee, Tosh Flood, Thomas Walsh and Joe Fitzgerald. The Irish band Pugwash, from lett, Shaun McGee, Tosh Flood, Thomas Walsh and Joe Fitzgerald. (Photo courtesy of Pugwash/Ger O'Donnell)

Irish rock band to play Empire on Oct. 3

PORTLAND - Two years ago, I saw one of the greatest concerts of my life when Ireland's Pugwash played Portland's Empire during their first American tour. It was an unforgettable night.

For more than two hours, the band played songs from each of their albums - along with gooseflesh-inducing covers of John Lennon ('Starting Over'), The Move ('I Can Hear The Grass Grow'), The Who ('I Can See For Miles') and XTC ('Making Plans For Nigel'). That night, Pugwash was a contender for the title 'Greatest rock and roll band in the world.'

They were that good.

Over the next year, the band returned to Portland for a second excellent Empire show while a third trip featured a transcendent performance at One Longfellow Square.

The acclaimed band's fourth Maine visit will see Pugwash return to Empire for what promises to be another memorable night. Portland's An Overnight Low will open for the band starting at 8:00 p.m. Pugwash will take the stage at 9:00.

Expect a musical Whitman's Sampler of Pugwash originals and more spontaneous covers along with a generous dose of the band's humor. Inside jokes, commentary on the day's news, hilarious revelations on the personal lives of band members and a gentle take-down of all of rock's pretensions are hallmarks of a great Pugwash show.

Trying to get a straight answer out of these guys is not an easy task. I attempted a collective private group interview via Facebook. Here's a sampling of their non-sequitur responses to my questions.

Mike Dow: I'd like to do a group interview for an upcoming story in the Maine Edge. Are you up for it?

Thomas Walsh: My middle name is Escobar, we're all vegetarians except for Shaun (in reality, the opposite is true) and Tosh has eight toes on his right foot. And I once wrote a song called 'Gibbon Bomp.'

MD: I'll send the questions later today.

Walsh: Clint Eastwood recorded an acoustic version of [the Pugwash song] 'It's Nice to be Nice' on an album of songs about gun control.

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After several reminders, I received some actual answers.

MD: This will be your fourth US tour in two years. How are American audiences different from audiences in other countries?

Walsh (guitar, lead vocals, songwriter): They have whiter, stronger, and more dominant teeth.

Shaun McGee (bass and vocals; the only non-Irish member of the band - Shaun is from Liverpool): American audiences smell nicer. There is also some confusion involved with vocabulary. For example, 'Fanny' means something very different for British people. In certain situations, this can cause great embarrassment. Also, please note the correct pronunciation of 'aluminum.' It's al-ew-min-ee-um.

Joe Fitzgerald (drums and vocals): I think American audiences talk less and spend more time watching the band. People like to talk at shows [for some] strange reason.

MD: This will be your third visit to Empire in Portland. Is Maine an important area for you? If so, what do you like about it?

Walsh: The playin' in Maine stays mainly at the Empire for us. We love Maine, its people and the town of Portland. Any town that wants us to come play has a special place in our hearts and Portland has been more special to us than most.

McGee: Our Maine fans are incredible and so supportive. [WCSH-TV's] Pat Callaghan has been an incredible help in promoting our music. He always invites us on his show '207' and is somebody we're proud to call a friend. Also, we appreciate the invaluable help of [Portland resident and Pugwash fan] Melissa Anne Martin. Her support has been most appreciated. Maine, we love you!

Fitzgerald: Portland is a great city for us and we love to come back and see all of our good friends. I also love the bacon-dusted fries at Nosh Kitchen Bar but I'm not sure if you can mention that.

MD: When might we see the next Pugwash album? And (for Thomas) how many new songs have you written since the batch you wrote for [the 2015 album] 'Play This Intimately (As if Among Friends)?'

Walsh: Well, including the three songs I didn't write last nightnone!! The album will be written soon. I feel a sludge of melodic(random shift key symbols) coming down my (more symbols), so hopefully album number seven will emerge in 2017.

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These final words come from Tosh Flood (guitar and vocals), currently on tour in the UK with Neil Hannon's band, The Divine Comedy.

Flood: I concur.

(Tickets for Pugwash and special guests An Overnight Low at Empire, Monday, October 3, are $10 in advance and available at www.PortlandEmpire.com.)

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