Gilla Band Ignites Berkeley’s Cornerstone

Gilla at the Cornerstone

The standing room surrounding the stage at Cornerstone on the evening of February 11th began sparse and scattered, dotted with both couples and solo attendees anticipating the start of the show. By the time the opening band, Pure Adult, was completing their set, the onlookers had gathered and condensed, gravitating towards the front to absorb the buzzing energy generated by the band. The electrifying tracks played by Pure Adult served as a fitting appetizer for the introduction of Gilla Band, a Dublin based quartet delivering noisy, post punk and avant-rock sound. Before they graced the stage, bodies scurried across the floor, arranging synths and tuning instruments; audience members gawked as a singular board was moved to the front of the stage, clad with nearly twenty pedals. The meticulous placement and preparation of equipment was an act that foreshadowed the clashing, explosive sound to follow.

Gilla Band’s reliance on squalling feedback and droning synths proves characteristic of their evolving sound, their work most recently culminating on the album Most Normal, released in 2022 on Rough Trade Records. The band, originally named Girl Band, hails from Dublin yet their fans span internationally; it was evident the Berkeley crowd was eagerly awaiting the appearance of the headliners. One fan engaged in conversation with fellow audience members leaning against the barricade, professing their excitement to witness the experience of the band for the second night in a row. After attending the Los Angeles stop of the North American tour at Teragram Ballroom the night prior, the attendee took it upon themself to drive up from southern California and take in one more night of exhilaration.

The show proved to be worth the journey as the buzzing, anticipatory energy erupted at its precipice soon after Gilla Band took the stage. They demonstrated their unabashed pursuit of experimentation and noise, the cacophonous screeching of guitars and feedback erupting at various intervals between repetitive, grounding rhythms. The performance flirted with chaos and order; the quartet downed in button up shirts and jackets as frontman Dara Kiely stood tall in between outbursts of bellowing, distorted vocals. They delivered older classics off of their 2015 EP, The Early Years such as “Lawman”, and varied between eras of their discography, highlighting their newest single release, “Sports Day” (2023). Kiely pushed his shoulder length hair out of his face during short lulls between tracks, thanking the audience for coming out. The band portrayed their capacity to function as individual parts contributing to a greater, wild whole, often turning to drummer Adam Faulkner to keep time, displaying a mutual alertness in order to navigate their intricate tempos layered throughout tracks like “Backwash” and “Paul.”

Guitarist, Alan Duggan, often crouched to adjust the plethora of pedals beneath his feet while bassist, Daniel Fox utilized a glass bottle along the frets of his guitar. The physical and internal manipulations to the production characterize an energy and ingenuity purely indicative of Gilla Band, establishing a noise that may prove overstimulating for some, yet for others, like the audience members of Cornerstone, had been waiting for. As the set progressed, the crowd matched the band’s rising, pulsing magnetism, Duggan whipping his guitar around the stage as fans exploded in the pit. Gilla Band expertly crafted undulating rhythms, pounding bass, and screeching guitars as Kiely delivered often deadpan, stream of consciousness lyricism punched with power and yells. During the track “Eight Fivers,” he chanted, “I spent all my money on shit clothes, shit clothes” then continued to list various stores as reverb and noise enveloped his words.

The band concluded their set with “Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage,” red light oscillating from opposite points of the stage, casting the band mates in a blaring, unrelenting hue. The crowd relished in the pulsating eruption of the final song, a pounding conclusion to a night of noise and movement, as the standing room dissipated and departed for the night, left only with a gentle ringing in their ears.