“Are you ready to be wantoned?” the eager crowd at the Brunswick Hotel were asked, to which they replied with a rowdy chorus of cheers and claps.
Celtic band from Monash Uni with a devilishly difficult name to pronounce, The Wanton Shillelaghs’ (FYI: ‘Shillelaghs’ is pronounced shuh-ley-lee) gig was nothing short of a success. Performing at The Brunswick Hotel’s ‘Discovery’ evening, where upcoming local talent can flaunt their stuff, the humble act went to town delivering a surprising performance.
What made the performance so surprising was not because of the music genre or the comedy and dancing executed throughout the show, but because it was their first pub gig as their performance history has consisted mainly of busking. What they delivered was a performance that only revealed a flicker of nerves, mixed with a whole lot of spunk, vivaciousness and liveliness, matching perfectly with their ‘traditional with a twist’ tunes.
With mostly instrumental, and a few lyrical numbers played, the end of each set was met with a wave of rapturous applause that seemed to grow louder as the night wore on. Song titles true to the Irish spirit like ‘Cabbage’ and ‘Bold Doherty’, with the latter said to embody ‘drinking, fighting and adultery’, were about as Irish as you can get and geared up the crowd for the second half of the set.
The stand out number was undeniably ‘Lanigan’s Ball’, a traditional folk song which was executed with such boisterous enthusiasm and was interrupted halfway through with a dance-off, Irish style. This entailed bouzouki player, Eamon Coughlan showcasing his Irish dance skills on the makeshift dance floor, while Rumesh Gnanaseelan on the bodhrán responded to the toe-tappings by (humanly) beating the goatskin drum. It was here that The Wanton Shillelaghs really flourished, showing their confidence and demonstrating their remarkable multifaceted talent for a band for that is only a year young.
The energy exuded throughout the night was ridiculously contagious, and it became blatantly obvious when passers-by peered their curious heads in to detect the source of the sound. As the night wore on, the band kept the vibe light and casual, with a stand-up comedy interval that consisted of cheesy jokes and playful banter. The band continued to deliver each new song with a punch and exuberance that radiated throughout the claustrophobically warm venue.
My lack of interest in Irish music meant that I was treading into an unknown territory. Despite this however, The Wanton Shillelaghs allowed me to realise that you don’t need to listen to or have ever even listened to a genre to enjoy its live performance. Ultimately, the impression they left of Celtic music was one of positively high regard.
Check out The Wanton Shillelaghs Facebook page to indulge in some good old Irish frivolity, perhaps along with a pint of Guinness, if you so fancy.