The Gallery comes alive at Maximum Capacity

By Amy Larson

Little Chicopee, Mass. hosted the big sound of indie folk rockers The Gallery Wednesday night at the sports bar/music club Maximum Capacity. The band was promoting their new EP, “Come Alive,” which was released Feb. 22. Max Cap was dense with family and friends of the four-member group, as it was somewhat of a hometown show for the Wilbraham, Mass. natives.

Brothers Brendan (lead vocals/guitar) and Ryan Cooney (drums) formed the core of the band when they started jamming together in their teens. Fellow Minnechaug High School friends Shea Brennan (lead guitar) and Dave Mozdzanowski (bass guitar) completed the group, and The Gallery was opened.

It wasn’t until 2007, when Brennan and Brendan Cooney graduated high school and moved to West Palm Beach to join the other two members, that the music really started blasting. The band members then got to work and released their first full-length album, “If You Know What I Mean” in 2008.

“If You Know What I Mean” was enough to gain the attention of indie rock band Showbread, who offered The Gallery the opportunity to accompany them on tour. Jumping on this lucky shot, they took to the road for two months in 2009 and played 50 shows.

The four reminisce about all of the diverse places they got the chance to see on their first tour, recalling Colorado as the best place to drive through.

“You can say we’re outdoorsy guys,” Brennan said as the group expressed their appreciation for Colorado’s scenery.

Post-tour, they found permanent residence with their manager in L.A. and got back to writing and recording. On the west coast, the band scored another integral opportunity and returned to the studio with acclaimed producer Warren Huart.

“We liked the raw, natural sounds [Huart] created for The Fray and Augustana and wanted to achieve something similar for the EP,” explains Brennan. The results are in and “Come Alive” is an expressive, organic five-track production that offers everything from catchy blast-the-radio tracks to pensive, slower tunes.

When The Gallery climbed onstage at 10:30 p.m., the audience literally gravitated toward their high-spirited sound. As they opened up with “Catalyst,” from the new EP, Cooney’s perfectly articulated vocals reminded everyone how well-worth the wait that night was. From the beginning, it was clear that the band takes root in the strength of the younger Cooney brother’s singing talents.

But there was far from a shortage of talent amongst the other three band members. Lead guitarist Shea spewed out impressive bridge solos on his semi-hollow bodied guitar. His crisp lines meshed well with The Gallery’s energetic drumbeats. The drummer (and elder Cooney) Ryan effortlessly transitioned from rapid-fire cymbal and snare action to slower rhythms throughout the set. Adding the final, smooth touches were the steady bass lines and back up vocals of Mozdzanowsk.

Though each of the four are talented in their own right, which they showcased separately at times, The Gallery’s true talent lies in the fusion of these four musical entities. Their sound is hopeful, polished and complete. Though their tunes are catchy, they aren’t unoriginal. This band is a force of likeable melodies that stays a cut above the rest. As they performed their carefully constructed songs, the reverberating guitar lines matched the echoed vocals perfectly and funneled through the open space.

An easygoing group, they announced mid-show that they didn’t compose a set list for the nights show because it’s not the type of people they are. The group visibly enjoyed being with each other on stage, especially brothers Ryan and Brendan, who worked off of one another with ease. Brendan kindly expressed gratitude for the crowd’s support after nearly every song.

The crowd loved what they heard. Fans sang along during the popular “Life Is Strange” and enjoyed the spontaneous cover of Tom Petty’s “The Waiting.” The cover fit well with the set, as Tom Petty and other 80s and 90s bands make up The Gallery’s main influences.

Their new track, “Ballroom of Broken Hearts,” also resonated deeply through the room with its addicting melody and compelling lyrics. When they closed the night with “The Lonely Disease,” it was clear that Brendan was born to sing the ballad. No audience member was unaware of the honesty in his voice, a voice unparalleled in artistry.

But even after The Gallery reluctantly left the stage, fans stuck around because there was something else to talk about, besides the success of the night’s performance. The group is currently one of 16 semifinalists in the Rolling Stone Magazine Choose the Cover competition. The guys didn’t even know they had been entered until they were informed that they were semifinalists. At stake for the winner of the competition is a recording deal with Atlantic Records, a performance at Bonnaroo Music Festival, and the fame of becoming the first unsigned band on the cover of Rolling Stone.

The Massachusetts rockers have big hopes for this competition, as it can open a lot of doors for the band. In the near future, they hope to advance to the next group of eight semifinalists by gaining fan votes online. Moving ahead will mean networking with music execs and Rolling Stone editors. Beyond that, they’d like to get on a label, record more, tour more and repeat. Not a bad life for a bunch of college aged kids.

Amy Larson can be reached at [email protected]