Dilly Dally came literally screaming out of the metaphorical gate. Katie Monks’ blood-curdling howl at the outset of “Snake Head” was amplified by such hellacious thunder from her bandmates that for a few seconds Dilly Dally could almost pass for the basement DIY -core subgenre of your choice and not the abrasive grunge revivalism they specialize in. It got everyone’s attention, and holy shit did the band hold on to it.
A less generous reading might write off Wednesday’s set at Ad Hoc’s SXSW party as mere Pixies/Nirvana worship, and it certainly was that on some level. The sludgy power chords and raw feral screeching that served as foundational elements for a whole generation of rock bands were also the basis for the sound that throttled Cheer Up Charlies’ outdoor stage. But if this Toronto combo is practicing a nascent form of classic rock, they’re doing it in a way the world has never heard before.
Lots of bands have replicated that melodic yet grotesquely noisy post-Cobain sound over the past quarter-century, including some of the other acts on Ad Hoc’s bill, but few of them have laid claim to the lurch like Dilly Dally. The blitzkrieg they unleashed on Cheer Up Charlies was a reminder of just how much a band can do with some simple chord changes and an ominous rhythm section. And although the versions of these songs on last year’s tremendous Sore were clean and pretty to a point, on stage they became relentlessly ferocious. Their cover of Drake’s “Know Yourself,” which got another reading Wednesday, gives a good sense of Dilly Dally’s scraping, screeching, pummeling live sound.
Credit Monks especially for helping her band add to the continuum rather than merely delving back into it. She exudes a seething, swaggering, fiery charisma, accentuated Wednesday by a blinged-out heart necklace over a loose black T-shirt. Her fierce enunciation and gravel-gargling wails further punched up songs that already would have hit like a pile of bricks. She’s a rock star, yet she’s not a one-woman show: This band has that unteachable chemistry working for it. Even as they dig up decades-old sounds, they’re pioneering their own special brand of spazzing. Monks introduced the Drake cover by remarking, “Shiiiiiiit. So many feelings!” Anger, fear, disgust, reverie — Dilly Dally let that emotional turmoil loose without a filter. More than that, they amplify those colliding sensations until they’re forces of nature to be flung like lightning. But don’t mistake Dilly Dally for demigods. This music is far too human for that.