Toy Soldiers entering “deep, dark hibernation” following upcoming Union Transfer show

Photo by Caitlin McCann
Photo by Caitlin McCann

Philly Americana rock crew Toy Soldiers announced today that they are entering a period of “deep, dark hibernation” following their upcoming Union Transfer show with Cheers Elephant on July 18th.

From the band’s blog post announcing the news:

After 7 years, 20+ musicians, 3.4 million highway miles, 9 thousand rest-stops and a lifetimes worth of experience, knowledge and a half-witted tango with the drunkest most unpredictable woman ever known as the music industry…Toy Soldiers, the band, will be entering into a deep, dark hibernation from now until ___.

We are endlessly grateful for the amazing people we’ve met, the times we had and the situations we sometimes found ourselves in both ugly and beautiful. At the end of the day they have contributed to our individual skins.

That said, there’s a noticeable lack of finality in this bow out. Four question marks in the headline, tentative phrasing like “hibernation” and “final hurrah for now.” Nobody is calling it a break-up because, let’s face it, rock and roll breakups are passé, and this crew clearly harbors no ill will towards one another (check the post for a breakdown of what the various members are up to – including front-dude Ron Gallo, who last week released his proper solo debut Ronny).

You might also say that Toy Soldiers have broken up twice before, anyway; the Black Keys-y duo of Gallo and drummer Michael Baurer (2007-2009); the sprawling 11-piece (or so) Band-esque band co-fronted by Kate Faust (2009-2011). The current lineup of drummer Dom Billett, guitarist Matt Kelly, bassist Bill McCloskey and keyboardist Luke Leidy has by far taken the band the furthest and garnered it the most exposure and opportunities, from writeups in Paste to gigs backing Wanda Jackson. But the one constant has been Gallo, and it seems natural for him to step into a new role as a solo artist as his bandmates chase other opportunities.

Get tickets and info on Toy Soldiers’ farewell show, July 18th at Union Transfer, at the XPN Concert Calendar. Below, watch the trailer for The Maybe Trails, the 2013 independent documentary on Toy Soldiers detailing the grind of being a touring band.

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A Toy Soldier goes solo : Ron Gallo’s Ronny

photo courtesy of the artist

Those who see Philadelphia psych-folk-a-billy-everything band Toy Soldiers in any number of their live shows can speak to some of its most inherently appealing qualities. Their searing energy, channeled into a unique and thoroughly modern take on classic rock n’ roll, makes for a merry time that appeals to myriad show-goers’ innate desires. You can dance, nod your head, raptly observe each twangy guitar lick, scream along to frontman Ron Gallo’s wry and catchy vocals (probably out of tune), throw back bourbon shots, all of the above – Toy Soldiers indulges each one of those whims.

What gets lost in this fray, however, are the more subtle aspects of their sonic imprint that take repeat listens to uncover. Toy Soldiers has always had a slight weirdness to their music, a lyrical and instrumental sort of irreverence that compels them to meld traditions while simultaneously breaking them.

This is largely due to Ron Gallo’s idiosyncratic approach on classic American rock and folk tropes. On Ronny, his debut solo album (released today via his own American Diamond Recordings), Gallo blasts this approach open. What remained subtextual in Toy Soldiers’ songs is thrown front and center in this intriguing head-scratcher of an album, with Gallo’s nasal tenor painting rich narratives of personal experience that are immediately relatable to anybody willing to look past the obvious quirks.

Even before the album was released, Gallo seemed intent on characterizing the Ronny experience around his eccentricities. Continue reading →

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PREMIERE: A solo TJ Kong performance of “I Hate My Truck” launches American Diamond’s new Porta Sessions series

tj kong

Awesome news!  The guys at American Diamond, the new label featuring prominent Philly musicians such as Ron Gallo from Toy Soldiers, have gotten together to launch a new video series, entitled Porta Sessions.  The first video features Dan Bruskewicz of TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb playing a new acoustic song called “I Hate My Truck,” and it’s filmed by none other than Brian Strouse, frontman of another American Diamond band, The Lawsuits.  The song is folksy, bluesy, rough and instantly gets stuck in your head with it’s raw sound.  We’re psyched to premiere the Porta Session for you below, but brace yourself, because this video is the first of many.  Also, be sure to check out TJ Kong at Boot & Saddle tomorrow night, opening for Ladybird and the Modern Inventors. Ticket information is right here.

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Ron Gallo and friends start new label American Diamond Recordings

Photo by Ron Gallo | Instagram @rongallo
Photo by Ron Gallo | Instagram @rongallo

Ron Gallo, front man of local Americana blues band Toy Soldiers and city-wide collaborator, has announced the launch of a new local label called American Diamond Recordings.  Named for the intersection of American and Diamond Streets where the label is based (in a former studio of Dr. Dog, no less), the label brings Gallo together with a collective of friends and compatriots to put a focus on the wealth of roots and rock music being created right here in Philadelphia.  From the label:

Decades ago the industry folk fled Philly to seek prosperity in the three corners of the music business NYC, LA, and Nashville.  But American Diamond Recordings and For the Record Management are planning on changing that and making Philly a force to be reckoned with in the world of music.  We sure as hell have the goods to do so.

The initial line-up of acts on American Diamond Recordings include Gallo himself, Toy Soldiers, The Lawsuits, TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb and Levee Drivers.  The label’s first official release will be Gallo’s debut solo outing Ronny, expected June 24th.  There will be a free release show on June 26th at Spruce Street Harbor with The Lawsuits and Up the Chain to celebrate; more information can be found here.

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Bernhardt Family Band entrance with broken down cover of Toy Soldiers’ “Tomorrow to Today”

Jerry Bernhardt and Kate Bernhardt | Photo by Bob Sweeney

Root Down in the Shadow’s Cover Club session series, which features local Philly musicians covering whoever they please, returns to Nomad Recording Studio this week and features Bernhardt Family Band covering Toy Soldiers’ “Tomorrow to Today”.

The harmonies in this cover are so poignant and beautiful, it’s no surprise the brother and sister duo have been making music together their whole lives. The arrangement allows for Kate Bernhardt to take the lead, and her voice manages to be sharp yet ethereal, controlled and still you know she could rip it like June Carter if she pleased.

Watch the video for the cover session below, and catch the Bernhardt Family Band at World Cafe Live this Wednesday, March 12. Tickets available here.



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Download The Key Studio Sessions Vol. 9 (feat. Amanda X, Balance and Composure, Mean Lady and more)

The Key Studio Sessions Volume 9
Album cover photo by Tiffany Yoon |

Today we bring you our latest Key Studio Sessions compilation, pulling together the best of what we’ve recorded in the final four months of 2013. I’m always psyched about these comps, but The Key Studio Sessions Vol. 9 in particular presents a tremendous variety of musicians from around the Philadelphia region that I’m excited to showcase for you. Bucks County has a healthy showing, from the acoustic alt-punk swagger of Balance and Composure and the retro-grunge of Daylight to the booming Americana of Levee Drivers and the flower child folk stylings of Lily Mae. We trip away into a spacious, 12-minute jam by Chris Forsyth and his Solar Motel Band, rock out to Amanda X and get chillingly meditative with ambient musician and filmmaker Michael James Murray. A Christmas selection from Jersey’s The Classic Brown makes the cut, sultry new jammers from Delaware’s Mean Lady and Central Pa.’s Kate Faust, a fierce bass-backed rap by Curly Castro, an Afro-Cuban jazz rocker from Toy Soldiers, and more. Special thanks to guest engineers Steve Poponi and Mike Kennedy, to Tom Volpicelli at Mastering House for his post-production help, and to production assistants Dan Hutton and Dan Malloy as well as photographers Rachel Del Sordo, Megan Kelly, Laura Lynn, Caitlin McCann, Ally Newbold, Kellie O’Heron, Tony Oppenheim, Matthew Shaver, Mike Trutt and Tiffany Yoon, and videographers Bands in the Backyard and Bob Sweeney for sharing their work this fall. Listen to the 17-song set and get a free download below.

Want more? Get a roundup of our previous free-downloadable Key Studio Sessions compilations after the jump. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Low Cut Connie at Johnny Brenda’s, Kalob Griffin Band at World Cafe Live, The Districts / Pine Barons at Chameleon Club, and more

Photo By: Charlotte Jacobson
Photo By: Charlotte Jacobson

Old school rock ‘n’ roll outfit Low Cut Connie is playing at Johnny Brenda’s tonight. With a tone like an upbeat “Piano Man” it’s no wonder that the honky tonk group’s whimsical tribute to Philadelphia “Boozophilia,” off of Call Me Sylvia, reached number 31 on Rolling Stone’s “50 Best Songs of 2012″ list. Just last month the band premiered their cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Jump Into the Fire” from their forthcoming tribute album via Rolling Stone. Get ready for their Philly show by listening a live performance of the new track below. Find details and tickets here.

Continue reading →

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