ACL Review: Ron Gallo

Philly garage rocker’s aim is true

Gimmicks come and go in pop music, but the simple pleasures of three chords and a few hooks will never die. For example, former Toy Soldiers member Ron Gallo’s debut Heavy Meta revels in simple songs that reveal their melodic gifts early. That doesn’t mean the Philadelphian isn’t above some goofiness.

Photo by Gary Miller

Gallo opened his second weekend ACL Fest set not with music, but by stiltedly reading some introductory notes, first a few from Mayor Steve Adler’s Fest guide essay, and then from his own notebook. He introduced the band, thanked ACL Fest sponsors, then welcomed the game lunchtime crowd.

A clever idea, really. Given Gallo’s garage-rocking proclivities, it would’ve been too predictable for him and his band to take the stage with one-two-three-GO! Crowd thus disarmed, the bandleader strapped on his Jaguar axe to blast through the opening punch of instrumental “Hallogallo” and “Put the Kids to Bed.”

Though his attack came ripped from the pages of Nuggets’ Sixties psych-pop playbook, Gallo’s sardonic sense of humor and catchy tunes point to songcraft of a higher order. The take-downs in socially aware songs “Sorry, Not Everybody Os You” and “Entitled Man, Keep Your Hands Down Your Pants” (that’s the chorus) come closer to Randy Newman than the Music Machine.

Forays into Cramps-like jungle thump in “Please Yourself” and stoner rock – a medley of Pissed Jeans’ “Spent” and his own “Black Market Eyes” after Gallo jumped from the front of the stage, ran backstage, and came back on for no discernible reason – meshed perfectly with left-field covers like Des’ree’s “You Gotta Be.” All of it demonstrated impressive range. And maybe a penchant for gimmickry after all.

Closing with fan favorite “Young Lady, You Scare Me” and the Beatles’ proto-metal blaster “Helter Skelter” waved away any smoke of artifice and convinced the audience that Gallo has only one true aim – to rock.

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Heavy Meta (Record Review)

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Ron Gallo, ACL Fest 2017, Toy Soldiers, the Cramps, Pissed Jeans, Des’ree, Mayor Steve Adler

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