By Anita Flowers
SPECIAL TO THE CASKET
Twenty years is a good run for any relationship or business and for a band that is no small feat. “There is fatigue, stress, alcohol, parties, financial woes, depression, personality clashes and a long list of challenges that must be managed to merely survive the music business,” said Ray Mattie, lead singer for the Celtic rock band Pogey.
“However, it’s those exciting moments when a group lands a great contract or experiences a large audience singing their original songs that makes the hard work worth it.”
That was the case for the band Pogey who has had a successful 20-year run. The band will do one last performance at St. Andrew’s Community Centre on New Year’s Eve. Original members Ray Mattie, Jonny Grant, Warren Robert, Jason Wright and current band mate Adam Driscoll will have one last party in the place where they hosted their first.
Pogey was created when Monastery native Ray Mattie returned to Nova Scotia from Ontario after a three-year stint doing solo opening spots for country recording acts. A referral led him to bass player Jonny Grant of Antigonish. Minutes after their initial call, the two musicians “jammed” and have been performing together ever since. Jason Wright of Guysborough was soon to follow on drums before Warren Robert of Bedford joined on lead guitar. Adam Driscoll joined on fiddle four years ago. Ray, Jonny and Warren have been in the group for the entire 20 years. Wright left but returned a few years ago to do some U.S. festivals and Ontario dates.
After 20 years of performing, the list of highlights is extensive.
“The highlights are both the events we performed, and work needed to just get off the ground,” said Mattie.
“Grey Cup 100 in Toronto was our top Canadian show for sure and being a sports fanatic, it was a great experience and part of Canadian sports history. Making multiple mainstage appearances at all the major American Celtic festivals in places like Kansas City, Iowa, Chicago, Colorado, Michigan, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Nebraska and more enabled us to make friends from other countries and experience parts of America we never dreamed we would visit. In the case of Kansas City, our first appearance was opening for a major band in front of over 10,000 people. That was an adrenaline rush I never felt anywhere else ever since. When you have 10,000 people in Kansas City singing the chorus to a song you wrote in Monastery called “Johnny’s Bottle” about your grandfather, it is a surreal moment. We were grateful to be given the chance to perform at that high level and proud we had impact. Playing Grant Park in Chicago was cool too because this is where President Obama gave his victory speech,” said Mattie.
“Locally, I have to say performing for 2,000 people at St. FX on Canada Day in 2001 and growing that to close to 10,000 in 2007 was amazing. We loved doing that Oland Stadium concert because the grandstands were always full when we started at 8 p.m. and we could do our festival performance that we did in the US. We also had a 10-year stint at the Lower Deck in Halifax.
“Before the American festivals put us on planes, we travelled back and forth from Halifax to Quebec, Ontario, Connecticut, Maine, etc. in my Toyota Echo with gear loaded to the roof. Luckily better money came in and we could rent mini vans before they restricted the millage. The van rentals and use of my car meant thousands of dollars in unpaid parking tickets in Quebec and Ontario that often piled up on the windshield at each stop. One time a Montreal parking officer lectured us as we were loading equipment. I started the van, turned on the wipers and about 10 parking tickets blew in the air on the officer who lost it on us! Our running joke was, ‘it’s all covered.’ At that time, motor vehicle registration wasn’t interlinked between provinces. We laughed and pranked constantly,” said Mattie.
The decision to disband the group was gradual and the band will go out on a positive note.
“We all started moving on to other professional projects and opportunities over the last three to four years and haven’t performed nearly at the pace we used to. There were times for Jonny, Warren and I when the band was far more stressful than enjoyable, but we stuck it out and today we are all content in our lives, our friendships and musically. Additionally, the group hasn’t written songs together in a very long time, so without new material from the entire group, the group can’t continue. We were called back to the 2018 Michigan Irish Fest and returning to that festival was the most fun (musically and socially) we all had in many years.
“Our last group photo was taken on my iPhone in a shuttle bus at the Detroit Airport. It was a happy time and a happy photo. Very few things in life end on a happy note but in this case, I am proud to say Pogey will. A sincerely thank to all the people in the region who supported us over the last 20 years. Wow, time flies!” said Mattie.