Ron Gallo, undomesticated at SXSW

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Ron Gallo at the South by Southwest Music Festival, March 16, 2017.

I think my favorite song title of the year is “All Of The Punks Are Domesticated,” a track off former Philadelphian and now Nashvillian guitarist and songwriter Ron Gallo’s turned-up-loud debut solo album Heavy Meta, which came out on New West records in February.

It’s a song about narcissistic confessional culture ("Tell me about yourself, tell me about yourself, tell me about yourself”) and popular music that’s gotten as safe and cautious as an algorithm. “All of the punks are domesticated, all of the freaks have gone to bed. .. .Every room is sterilized, all risk is paralyzed.”

Its the last track of an album that yearns for some actual danger, and reaches back to proto-punk garage rock bands like the Stooges and MC5 for inspiration. I’m interviewing Gallo on Friday, and so though I’d seen him at a Free at Noon last month, I went to check him out at the Radio Day Stage at the Austin Convention Center on Thursday.

As far as sterile rooms go, that stage is about as freeze dried as you can get, basically a big gray-on-gray functional ballroom with a notable absence of soul. I was curious to see how Gallo would take to it, and he didn’t disappoint, starting out with a deadpan punk rock move of reading a note talking about how happy he and the other members of his trio - also called Ron Gallo - were to be playing with “some of the biggest names in music“ - meaning SXSW corporate partners like McDonald’s and Capitol One Bank.

When he got to “All Of The Punks,” Gallo was in Meta mode indeed. He lamenting that when he’s dead and gone, he’ll only be remembered for “an impressive collection of  digital remarks,” as conference goers held up their phones recording his every word. And the lyric abut “rock stars behind the bars, serving computers with acoustic guitars” seemed tailor made for a confab wheremore attention is often paid to solving the riddle of monetizing music through technology  than to the music itself. 

Gallo is back in Philadelphia at the World Cafe Live with Hurray For The Riff Raff on April 21. 

Previously: Catching up at SXSW Follow In The Mix on Twitter