November 22, 2015

Julian Gallo ’16, New Jersey Folkers Stun at The Nines

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If you’re reading this and you live in Ithaca, you probably missed out on Thursday. Cornell’s own Julian Gallo ’16 played as an opener to New Jersey-based alternative folk band Cold Weather Company as part of a WVBR/ endeavor that I certainly hope will have an encore. Jordan Wechsler ’16, a member of Cornell Media Guild, found CWC playing in NYC this summer and asked them if they would be willing to come out to Ithaca during the fall. When I wandered out of the library and into The Nines, I found Brian Curry, Steve Shimchick and Jeff Petescia sitting in a circle on the stage beyond the bar. They introduced themselves (“We call Brian “Dad,” Shimchick said) and fleshed out the story of the show where they met Wechsler.

“We had no idea when we agreed to the show, but it was a topless bar” Shimchick said. “It wasn’t topless, they had bikinis,” cut in Petescia. “Okay yeah, that’s true, but it was still kind of strange — I mean, our music is pretty mellow.” Wechsler and Jason Bowers ’16 drove up with extra equipment and we began to set up for the show. Curry left to bring their tour bus (“It’s actually just an old school bus we painted blue”) up front. Only a few minutes later, Gallo rolled in with a group of friends and he launched off the night with a set full of silky vocals and gentle guitar. When he began to cover OutKast’s “Hey Ya,” all eyes turned to him and a pleasantly rhythmic clapping broke out across the room — maybe Justin Bieber’s recent move to interrupt his own song in contempt has scared people into following the beat more closely.

Meanwhile, Curry was writing up their set list on a piece of graph paper while Petescia offered suggestions. I remarked that his handwriting was beautiful (He’s the third landscape architect I’ve met who has handwriting that nice; is that a requirement?). “It’s better than mine, I have the handwriting of a fourth grader,” grinned Petescia. Curry drew trees on either side of the list. “We normally put on more songs than we plan to perform and kind of feel it out during the show,” Shimchick said. “You should draw a bird in the trees,” I told Curry. He laughed and drew a bird on a perch.

Minutes later, Gallo finished his set to a massive round of applause. While he stayed for the headliner, most of the crowd filtered out mumbling about papers and prelims. But CWC handled it graciously and dove into “Garden” before introducing themselves to those remaining, who were by then sending out adamant messages to their friends trying to convince them to ditch their problems sets for the night. Minutes later, Petescia and Curry had their audience laughing with a small guitar stand-off between verses. Only a few more people ended up coming through the doors, but those who did all appeared enthralled by the band, who interspersed ballads about soul-searching with songs lamenting lost love and the growth that comes from it.

“A lot of our first album was themed on this ‘fellow of the north’ and his progress through life,” Curry said. “I was humbled by the stars” are lyrics that speak to becoming “complacent or maybe relieved, and just understanding he’s such a small grain of sand in the most gigantic sea.” They’ve developed their sound a lot over the past two years, and it shows. “Jeff and I live together, so I hear guitar riffs all day around the house,” Shimchick said. Petescia, like Curry and Shimchick, have that easy musicality that comes from breathing out notes each day. Curry has a distinctive tint to his voice that complements Petescia’s nimble flight over his guitar’s fretboard and Shimchick’s gentle pulses and cascades on his keyboard. And more is still to come. “We’re hoping to add a drummer and a bassist,” Curry said while breaking down the set. “I hear it every time we play, you know.” When I first asked for a quote, Shimchick reached into his wallet. “What kind of quote do you want? A wise man once said — um,” he pulled out a Celestial Tea tag and read off a Marquise de Sévigné quote. “Here, you can keep this,” he said, handing me another tag. Petescia moved a mic stand and looked down. “Is that ravioli?” he asked, pointing at something yellow and faintly ravioli-esque with his toe.

The second half of their first album, Somewhere New, grew somewhat out of uncertainty. “When the three of us started working together we didn’t really — we said, okay, we’re going somewhere new, what does that look like?” As of Friday, ‘somewhere new’ is a cabin in Pennsylvania, where they’re going to record to gear up for a second album. But after that, who knows? Maybe they’ll find more bikini bars to perform in. In the meantime, I hope you take the time to check them out and “try to follow them as they fly,” because I feel like they’re going to get pretty far.

Jessie Weber is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].