Gilla Band
Whelan’s Dublin, 9th March

A giddy excitement bustles in Dublin’s iconic south-central venue. Taking the stage tonight are the city’s very own genre-splicing, post-punk troubadours, ‘Gilla Band’. Formerly ‘Girl Band’ before a hasty sidestep away from the cultural dangers of misogynistic misinterpretation, Gilla Band emerge onstage to a sold-out audience of devoted fans. The heaving throngs cannot be deterred (even on a Wednesday evening) from losing themselves completely in the furious bewilderment that is Gilla Band.

Sludge groover ‘De Bom Bom’ opens proceedings with characteristic swagger sending the crowd into a shamanic frenzy, opening a portal into a spirit world of noise rock angst. I too share the crowd’s fervour. Through a series of unfortunate events / comedy of errors, I have waited nearly 6 years to see one of my favourite bands, and tonight they do not disappoint. By the time we reach Adam Fauklner’s drum breakdown the obligatory mosh pit has formed, “strap yourself in mate”, my creaking mid-thirties body tells itself.

Singer Dara Kiely captains the ship at centre stage. Dressed like some type of gorgeous yet bedraggled substitute teacher – he howls and shrieks into his vintage hand-held microphone. Certainly not your standardised rock’n’roll frontmen, he takes Cobainesque introversion to new heights. The crowd take his lead as he swoons effortlessly between low transatlantic drawl and nightmarish, banshee screech.

‘Pears for Lunch’ offers the mosh pit their first opportunity for true ‘violence’ and the somewhat unusual singalong moment in the couplet – “I look crap with my top off.” It is not long until those most courageous of gig goers, the humble crowd surfers, make their ascent into the lofty heights; passed from pillar to post like a cigarette in prison, smiles beaming from their upside-down faces.

A lot is made of Gilla Band’s success in stretching and challenging notions of the conventional four-piece guitar band. Alan Duggan’s radio static guitar/dial up modem style, is both highly original, iconic and mind bending at times. Coupled with Daniel Fox’s ‘broken sub-woofer’ bass sound and glass bottle plectrum, you’re beginning to cook up a somewhat unique rock’n’roll soufflé. However, less seems to be made of Dara Kiely’s surrealist, postmodern lyricism that traverses both poetic intent and almost slapstick humour. Kiely, who has spoken openly and bravely about his battles with mental health, has painfully self-reflective gems littered throughout all tracks. Notable set highlight ‘Going Norway’, has the fervent crowd chanting “why is death so alive?” Certainly, a deep philosophical question for any Wednesday evening. Adam Faulkner’s perfect, yet almost schizophrenic drum patterns knit the grunge jumper together; setting the pace and the swaying hips dance patterns for the baying Dublin masses.

The band close the evening with cover of Blawan’s underground techno hit, ‘Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?’ A song, although not written by Gilla Band themselves, almost perfectly represents what they’re all about. Something primal takes over the room when the beat is finally dropped. Grown men shriek the completely insane track’s title at full volume. People bop and sway like at some post-apocalyptic, subterranean rave; hiding from the mutant people who stalk the Earth’s upper floors, losing themselves in the music in one last glorious midnight.

Gilla Band both cement and destroy the notion of the conventional guitar band. They tear up the manual and rewrite it in static noise, surrealist lyrics, and an all-consuming bass swell. Perhaps there is a nihilism to it that reflects the ‘Gen Z’ zeitgeist? Perhaps it’s just a stick to poke the industry bear? Perhaps its comedy? Perhaps its art? Who knows?

They are a band of contrasts. Not quite metal. Not quite grunge. Not quite rave. Gloriously experimental and incredibly niche, they are not for everyone. Just the growlingly select few, who want a ticket to the lower decks of the terrifying post-world disco.

Words : Declan McKay
Pix : Mark Hughes