A Nostalgic look into the Drunken Dolomites Of Pirate Portland. So, the day has just passed, the day we watched the Dolomites gypsy caravan slowly ride off into the soggy Portland fog…A true collective of oddfellows. The resident evil-circus-band has just left town for good. As the caravan disappears off in the distance, we remember what they left behind…Some odd, yet, fantastic music. In the form of constantly played albums, amazingly demented shows, to the freshly cooked food on stage. We sing the songs, and drink our drinks, and eat our fish & chips. Sure seems like it was yesterday, when Portland witnessed the Dolomites swashbuckling ship of scallywags dock along the riverbank in Portland.Fresh from wandering the old world, they began telling the tales of sea shanties, the late night drinking stories, and general debauchery to all the local landlubbers, like the true salty dogs they were.That band was good. Damn good. Didn’t matter if it was the sea shanties, or the gypsypunk, or the psycho-circus show.Looking back, the first show I witnessed was a perfect introduction…It was Paddy’s Day, and I was the doorman at a local Irish pub checking ID’s. As I glanced over countless birth dates, I noticed a band setting up some instruments in the corner of the pub. After a few pint chugs, The Dolomites started their set. Out came the Pogues covers, and out came the heavily influenced Poguesish originals. Perfect!!! It was just like the real thing, except more teeth. I was so distracted, I could not concentrate on the line of patrons angrily flashing ID’s in my face! Finally, a tap on my shoulder, my shift was over! Time to drink some of the black gold, and figure out who band that was. I bought the first album “The Buckfast Superbee” and I made sure to see as many Dolomite gigs as possible.
Not long after I had my first Dolomites encounter. A man by the name of Shane MacGowan had his first encounter. So the story goes… Before a show, Mr. MacGowan took a little stroll from the Crystal Ballroom where The Popes were playing that night, down to Kells Irish Pub and ordered a pint(s). The Dolomites were playing over the house stereo. After a moment he asked “Is that music playing, me?” Even Shane himself wasn’t sure what he was hearing. Could it be? Was the “story” real? Could The Dolomites fool The Master himself with their music? Hmm, a close call.If there was a band that could fool you into thinking they were The Pogues, it was these guys. By the way, If you haven’t heard “A Lovely Day For A Hogshead Of Whiskey” yet, you’re missing something very special. Imagine The Pogues having children, and imagine if those children snuck into a studio one drunken night, and recorded an album. Chances are it would sound exactly like “Lovely Day For A Hogshead Of Whiskey”. And that’s a compliment.
So that’s how it was around Portland for a while. If you wanted to drink yerself silly, dance a sloppy jig, spill your drink on a fellow drunk who was also dancing a sloppy jig, all you had to do was crack open the local paper and see if The Dolomites were playing. The odds were in your favor. I spent many a dollar, and spilled many a drink, during those great times.
Then it all changed. I’m not sure the exact date, but what I do recall was going to a Dolomites show and having to do a double take, and a double listen. What the fuck!, Gypsy Carnival punk? Was it true The Dolomites gave into the landlubber and the landlubbing ways? Well, yes they did. They shed the pirate image and adopted the styles of the gypsy. Including the nomadic roaming, by finally going on a nation wide tour. At first I was disapointed in the new sound, considering they had the Celt-punk thing down so perfectly I never thought they’d quit, but, as that show went on, I realized they were playing some of the most original music around. I began to understand the transition. They started out playing the style of music that would ALWAYS be compared to The Pogues, to playing a style of music that was uncatagorizable. You couldn’t call ’em a “Pogues band” anymore, and maybe that was the idea in changing the tunes all along. It was easy explaining the celt-folk-punk description, but how the hell do you explain psyhcotic-gypsy-circus-punks who cook fish & chips in a garbage can during the live shows for the hungry crowd? Possibly,Tom Waits being kidnapped by bi-polar Hungarian fisherman on LSD who had drank way too many Bavarian beers? I tried to use that description once, and it didn’t work. No matter what the description was, we all had some great times with those guys playing. It’s a shame that so few of us witnessed a Dolomites Show.
Some folks insist that The Dolomites were kicked out of town.Call it ironic, but Portland’s nickname is “Bridgetown”, and quite possibly, The Dolomites just burned too many bridges around town, and that’s why they were calling it a day. Considering they were banned from The Roseland Theatre for stealing The Popes liquor, after they opened up for Shane & Company, it could be true. They were also banned from Satyricon, (their longtime home) for setting the bar (and barkeep) on fire. Even back in the early days, they were booted from the Dublin Pub for lying about their ages. Quite simply, they may have just ran out of places to play. Maybe, just maybe, they will rise again, in a far away land, and those that dwell in that far away land will see and hear, what everyone in the Pacific Northwest were singing about all along. It’s over now, and the fat lady has began to sing.
Review by Brian “One More Bottle” Gillespie
During their last show in Febuary, The Dolomites record label, Walking Records, “officially” released “The Medicine Show”,(two years late) The Dolomites also released a video containing footage of the band in action, live in Las Vegas, live in Portland, and other random scenes that captures the band on the road, like the band performing “The Muppets Theme” in their hotel room. Also on the tape is a great video of “Lizzie Borden”,(also can be seen on their website) and some other footage. In my opinion, it doesn’t capture the shows that I witnessed, but then again, that might be a good thing!
Update – January 2011:
Stefanko Lanuc took the The Dolomites to Brooklyn, NY and added Japanese folk to the Gypsy Carnival punk and in 2007 he went east to Toyko to complete the transformation to Japanese-Romanian Global Gypsy