RON GALLO + NAKED GIANTS + GYMSHORTS SHOW REVIEW
Nearly 24 hours after the show has ended, where I find myself writing this, I still hear a very distinct ringing in my ears. Perhaps standing directly in front of the house PA for over 2 hours of loud, bombastic rock and roll was not my best idea. I knew this would happen to me, it’s not the first time, but on this particular occasion not a second went by where I even considered moving further back into the audience. As far as I’m concerned it was totally worth it, because dammit, I was witnessing one of the best shows of my life two feet in front of my face.
Now I am always one to arrive to shows that I pay for on time; if not early. Regardless of whether or not I know the artist, I always like to check out the new talent that bands I respect bring on the road with them. In most cases I am left indifferent to whomever took the stage first, but I always continue to arrive early for special cases like this one. From the first few notes it was made apparent that Gymshorts was well-versed in the classics. Throughout their set I was drawing comparisons in my head to the likes of Black Flag, X, Descendents, Agent Orange, and even some Sister-era Sonic Youth. The whole set felt like a throwback to the early days of west coast hardcore and I enjoyed every minute of it. Their frontwoman even spat directly into the face of the bassist before one of their songs. I mean, how punk rock is that? She belted out verses over heavy riffs that ranged from the intense speed of Minor Threat, to the heaviest breakdowns of, er, also Minor Threat. But don’t let their limited range of influence deter you, Gymshorts is a great new band to check out.
The crowd began to stir and the room began to fill itself a bit more in anticipation for the next act, Naked Giants, a young band from Seattle who is yet to even put out a full-length record (or sign to a record label if I’m not mistaken); but everyone who knows this band was excited for what was next. From the moment this group took to the stage, silence was not an option. In place of witty stage banter (with a few exceptions), cymbal crashes, feedback, and pedal wizardry filled the room between songs. The Naked Giants signature sound is nothing new, it’s built on the foundation of frenetic guitar licks via Jimmy Hendrix, heavy hitting bass riffs, and pulsating drums, the very same roots from which bands like Led Zeppelin grew their dynasty. Throw on some attitude heavy vocals via Iggy Pop, some very wet delay and the energy of 1,000 dying garage rock bands, and you can probably picture it in your head right now. But the difference between Naked Giants and the hundreds of boring hard rock bands that I’m sure we’ve all heard before, is that they do it really, really well. I know, how insightful. Every guitar riff was memorable, every vocal harmony pierces your soul, every drum fill is tight. There is no filler; if they play a song for 8 minutes, there is a damn good reason behind it. During their epic second to last song “Green Fuzz” their drummer whipped out a John Bonham-esque drum solo that absolutely floored me. Normally I would look upon that sort of thing as cheesy or showboating and perhaps it was, but the pure energy that this band brings to the table made it a whole different experience. This band lacks any pretension, yet can win the favor of the pretentious rock fan. Their music is too pure and the emotions are too raw to get caught up in pre-conceived notions of what a rock band is supposed to sound like to win critical acclaim, in fact I feel a little scummy calling this piece a “review” in the first place. I understand that I have thrown some very flattering comparisons their way, and I do not take them lightly, this band deserves them. I have complete faith that this group of young men will soon join the ranks of their contemporaries. Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard should watch out.
Before Ron Gallo took the stage, we were all left to wonder how he was supposed to follow what we just witnessed. An arena full of raw power just performed six inches off the ground directly in front of us and now there’s another band that’s supposed to play? Boy would I love to be in their position. The answer to this problem was to bring them back on stage (we’ll get to that a bit later). Now, I do not by any means want what I just said to take away from Ron Gallo’s performance, this wouldn’t have been one of the best shows of my life if every band didn’t exceed expectations. However, I must give credit where credit is due; Naked Giants were the backbone of this show.
The stage and house lights cut out completely as Gallo walked through the crowd on to the stage alone. He lifted a silver trumpet to his mouth, and with adrenaline levels this high I was half expecting him to serenade us with a beautiful trumpet solo. However, after he belted out the first note we soon learned that Ron had no idea how to play the trumpet. After torturing us with a minute or two of his nonsensical brass etude, he read aloud a scripted introduction where he mispronounced his band members’ names and removed his sweatshirt to reveal a t-shirt that read “ALMOND MILK” in plain lettering. As soon as he picked up his guitar, the energy that Naked Giants had left on the stage had soon been brought back to life. The Ron Gallo three proceeded to tear through several cuts off their newest record Heavy Meta, as well as a recent single titled “Temporary Slave.” Loud, fuzzy, punk rock instrumentals sat below Gallo’s listless, deadpan delivery providing a nice juxtaposition found often in the works of Lou Reed and Courtney Barnett. While Naked Giants caused their audience to stand in awe, Ron Gallo interacted with crowd, causing a small mosh pit to form directly in front of his mic stand. After blasting through his underground hit “Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me,” Naked Giants returned to the stage to join the band (6 musicians total) in playing their new split 7” front and back, starting with Ron Gallo’s cut “Sorry Not Everybody Is You” and then Naked Giants’ “The Age of Information” both tracks channeling their inner Velvet Underground to hearken back to an era of 60’s garage rock. Their grand finale was brought to a close with a sloppy, fuzz driven cover of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” causing the crowd to sing along with them like a sweaty Sunday mass at the church of garage punk. It was beautiful.
It is not often that you wander into a gig like this, having spent little to no time listening each of these artists discographies, yet walking out of the venue with an intense love for each and every act that took the stage that night as if I had been a fan for years. Unfortunately, I’ve seen similar situations before, and each subsequent time I watch each of these bands is going to be on bigger and bigger stages, nothing quite like the intimate atmosphere I experienced the other night in a tiny, 200 cap club. I’m going to stop myself before I get too sentimental, but I’m already looking forward to the next time I get the pleasure of seeing these bands.
photo by DEANDRE MILLER