Ask the Artist: Ron Gallo on the Communion Music Series

Opinions are like eyeballs: almost everybody has at least one. Sometimes, though, those opinions are worth listening to.Take, for example, Ron Gallo–bandleader for Philly darlings the Toy Soldiers, charismatic solo artist, all-around goofball. All of these things are grounds enough for forming opinions, but on top of the music, Gallo has frequently put on and hosted events all around the city. There’s also the fact that the Toy Soldiers are in the unique position of being a band that has played two separate Communion shows, in non-consecutive months and different cities (New York City in June 2013, and Philadelphia in January 2014). Altogether, Gallo seems ripe for questioning, so I took advantage of this chance to ask him about playing music in different cities, his thoughts on the Communion series, and his druthers if he gets to curate a show.

Rock on Philly: So, Ron, what’s your favorite part of playing shows in Philly as compared to playing in other cities?

Ron Gallo: My favorite part is also my least favorite part and that’s that we (Toy Soldiers) tend to make big events out of hometown shows because we only do them every few months.  Which is great because we really build it up, and have a lot of fun putting together a “show” and promoting it, but at the same time that can be stressful and puts even more pressure on us to hope the show goes well. I can be pretty high-strung on show days and over-think things a lot, which is helpful for everything but full enjoyment, so I oughta work on that!

ROP: What did you really like about playing the Communion show in Philly in January?

RG: It was great playing a good old fun-time hometown show with a bunch of bands that were new to us, and the wine and wafers were a nice touch that made me feel reborn.ROP: What was your favorite part of playing the NYC show in June? Is it something that was unique to NYC/the NYC show?

RG: NYC is traditionally a tough town to break into, so Communion provided a really great chance to get in front of a packed room at Rockwood Music Hall and meet a bunch of great bands in a way we may not have otherwise.

ROP: What is the biggest difference that you’ve seen between the Communion shows at home in Philly and elsewhere? Do you prefer doing one over the other, and do you think this is something that’s tied to the cities themselves, or unique to the Communion series?

RG: I think Communion is a great building block and makes for a great introduction to a new city, which is something unique to Communion, a built in audience and “community” that only exists within Communion. So I’d have to say I prefer doing Communion shows out of town.

ROP: You’ve run your own events here and there–is there anything that you would change, from an operations or event standpoint, that you think would have a positive effect on the event?

RG: For Philly, I would definitely suggest an earlier start and end time.  Especially for a Thursday night, and with so many bands involved, I think a 7:30 or 8pm start time would allow for people to enjoy the entire show front to back without missing out because of work and early morning responsibility. People just aren’t designed to hang out, drink, and listen to loud music for 4 hours and still have the same level of engagement by midnight.  I would also say keeping the bills tighter would help. Having upwards of 6, 7 or 8 bands play one show is a bit overwhelming for people I think, and if it’s to be done that way, having short little showcase sets of 5 or 6 songs that can get the point of the band across, to keep people wanting more without overloading them could be a very effective way to deliver this kind of show.

ROP: What do you think the Communion series is offering that isn’t otherwise happening in the music events scene?

RG: Community!  I’ve found when touring around that there are little to no events that have a built-in audience, message, and all-around goal that takes the pressure to bring the crowd off the band. Honestly, the work of Communion is really what promoters should always be doing: promoting, creating an event, and selling it to a crowd as something they should want to be a part of. Also, the selectivity of Communion is great and builds a trust between show and audience. People know that if they go to Communion they’re going to get music that was carefully chosen by respected musicians and organizers.

ROP: Agreed, and I think the Communion folks would be happy to hear you say that. Alright, last question–if you were headlining your ideal Communion show, either solo or as Toy Soldiers, what other bands would you put on the bill, and what city would y’all be playing in?

RG: I think a Philly-goes-Nashville Communion show or tour would be awesome. The Lawsuits, The Districts, Levee Drivers, Satellite Hearts, Ali Wadsworth, TJ Kong, and more!  This burgeoning rock n’ roll scene in Philly isn’t really happening in such a tight-knit and communal way anywhere else and the world oughta know! And they will soon!

If you missed the March Communion show last night at Underground Arts, be sure to catch the next one on April 3rd. Toy Soldiers fans can catch the group in Lancaster, at the Chameleon Club onApril 3rd.

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