Today I chased my white whale. I rented a car to drive out to Galway to see Kila play a pub gig. Those guys are special – Nathan Shubert-Harbison turned me onto them back when the Bent Mast still had a fiddle jam. Since then I’ve noticed their albums within the collection of every west coast folkie I admire – somehow they worked their way into the hearts of a whole generation of young players.
Just one listen to Tog e go bog e and you’ll understand they’re pretty committed to trying to revive Irish culture after several centuries of colonization. They’re masters of their instruments, masters of their language, and visionaries trying to find a new place in the world for an otherwise ancient sound. I love it, and I was stoked to drive across the country to catch their gig.
Of course, when I arrived here at Monroe’s the gig was sold out and no one would let me in for love or money. But that did give me the chance to go explore Galway, and I absolutely fell in love with the place.
It reminded me of Victoria from 15 years ago. Jack Knox once wrote that Victoria is the city that liked it better the way it was, and I’m afraid I truly resemble that remark. I liked how we used to be the kind of affordable city where you could busk for a living. Or maybe there was just something deeply comforting and familiar about a city by the ocean, full of white people wearing wooly sweaters and learning fiddle tunes. It was full of shops and opulence, for sure, but Galway hasn’t yet been reimagined as a networked co-working space for startups and their attendant venture capitalists.
How much of my old sweet Victoria was just for show? Before the brogrammers, we heard the sounds of an ancient tradition and tried to make it our own, and a generation of talented artists came out of that. Coming back to the place where that sound began, I begin to wonder how much we could ever claim a heritage for our own, being so far away from it. Kila can take their tradition in a whole new direction, knowing that it’s the music that echoes through these hills. Those of us who are settling, we have to make something new.