An interview with the band Gifthorse who have been busking on the streets of Galway since 2018.
For many, Galway is a centre for music, art, and expression. For the band Gifthorse, this is especially true; a self-described, “primitive group of muc savages from the palaeolithic era,” who have been playing on the streets of Galway since 2018. The band consists of four members; Tadgh Kelly on drums, Aron Burke on guitar and vocals, Colm Brennan on guitar and vocals, and Finn O’Callaghan on bass.
Sitting down with three quarters of the band (Tadgh, Aron, and Colm) in a west end pub offers a chance to heed a message that’s meant for the masses and find out the true importance of expression and impact they hope to have in Galway. For Gifthorse, being able to perform on the streets of Galway in front of a crowd feels like a high.
“There’s an energy that comes from having a crowd there… when we’re going to set up for a show there’s electricity. That doesn’t exist without people being there.” Tadhg goes on to explain a sort of “feedback loop” that’s created, and expresses the significant relationship between the crowd, and the band.
Galway’s culture in many ways is entwined with busking. There is a substantial importance that street performers hold in the community here. Colm says, “Busking is definitely one of the big pillars of Galway. I feel like it’s just that thing for Galway… it’s really nice [to be a part of that].”
When asked about what that means for them as individuals, Aron chimes in with a story that illustrates the poignant and bittersweet nature of art and expression. “There was one really nice time…that day we played Billie Jean, this girl had come up to me after, she was kind of crying. Her friend had died… she said that it was so horrible but they came [out] and we were playing music, and she had said it really made them feel better.” Colm reminisces on that moment, expressing what a memorial day that was. The same consolation one finds in a church, can sometimes also be found on the streets of Galway.
“When you start playing the music, a bubble opens up, and as soon as people walk into it, that’s when they can hear it… it’s magic” says Tadgh. Bouncing off him, Aron describes why busking holds a much stronger significance for them. “The people who are there, really want to be there.” Colm describes a feeling of freedom and autonomy related to busking. “When we’re busking we can be completely free, to play whatever we want, play however we want.”
They say to never look a gift horse in the mouth, with these guys that idiom becomes null and void. Their impact on Galway is palpable, and there’s no need for a critical eye. It’s evident that this is a group of people who are passionate about their work, and strive to share that with others. The culture of the busker is the culture of this city.