Interview: Nick Gallardo of ROCK & ROLL REIGNITED at Florida Studio Theatre

Described as a “rock and roll experience” rather than just another tribute show, the show features fresh musical arrangements performed by four-piece band Not Fade Away.

By: Jul. 25, 2022

Interview: Nick Gallardo of ROCK & ROLL REIGNITED at Florida Studio Theatre

Rock & Roll Reignited, one of Florida Studio Theatre's current summer cabaret offerings, has been touring the country since 2016, breathing new life to some of the greatest hits of the '50's and '60's. Described as a "rock and roll experience" rather than just another tribute show, it features fresh musical arrangements performed by four-piece band Not Fade Away: with co-creators Jared Mancuso and Nick Gallardo on electric guitar and vocals, Aurora DuBois on bass and vocals, and Mike Gallardo on drums and vocals.

Nick Gallardo, one of the show's performers and musical arrangers, has a deep connection to the music of Rock & Roll Reignited. Where does that connection come from?

I grew up listening to rock and roll, it was always in our household. We had a record player, CD player, and everything. My dad and my mom were always playing movies. So, I grew up with a lot of fifties, sixties, and seventies: Ritchie Valens, Earth, Wind & Fire, the Doobie Brothers, anything that really shook up your body. We were always dancing, having a good time. My sister loves Selena, so there was a little Mexican influence there.

Around our house or going to my grandma's house, we were all playing guitars. We'd have a 4th of July party every year where anybody in the family can get up and play. We ended up being in a bunch of bands. That's how my cousin is our drummer now. I have a picture of him when he was five playing the drums, and now he's 20 - it's just cool seeing things like that. It felt like every corner I turned, [music] was there for me to choose from. And that's what I chose.

I remember playing baseball and being in the Tucson Arizona Boy's Chorus. At one point, I had to kind of make a choice. I was like, "Baseball's awesome, but I'm doing so many really cool things here." Our chorus went to Mexico City when I was twelve. So that's where I got like my discipline and my lust for going places. I would shake all the nerves off, of "oh man, this is crazy." It became my reality, seeing these different places and listening to different kinds of music, I was always immersed in it.

When I was 27, I started working at Dollywood and we pumped out a bunch of shows there. I came back home, started doing tribute after tribute after tribute. In 2013, I met Jared: we were doing a more standard rock tribute, and it was fun, but it was definitely seasoned already, you know what I mean? So we knew that we needed to jump into the future a little bit, and that's kind of where the show we have now started.

Why this music, and why now?

This music is vitally important. I have an emotional attachment to this music because it reminds me of my family. I feel like it's kind of an honor to bring it into a newer era. There's lots of kids who don't know this music and if they heard the back-beat behind it, like "La Bamba," songs like that, they're so awesome. I feel like that's a world mantra. I really think that it's important.

It's almost like, know where you came from so you know where you're going. It's such important music and it's easy to keep around. We want to be able to have the older audiences enjoy it, and we want the younger audiences to want to enjoy it too. This music isn't something that should die. You know what I mean? So, we've switched around some arrangements and really fueled in our personal love for it, our own feelings, into the songs to give it a more vibrant sound.

Interview: Nick Gallardo of ROCK & ROLL REIGNITED at Florida Studio Theatre

What are the challenges of approaching such well-known and loved music?

I can be very territorial of certain songs, you know, especially the Ritchie Valens ones. Sometimes you just want to hear it the way that it was played. But the thing is, if you want to hear it the way it's played, there are plenty of sources to get that music anytime you want. We don't change everything, it's a healthy balance - we don't wanna blow anybody out of the water. I want to make sure that we maintain the integrity of the song's tradition, but then we add in a couple things, just like you do with all music. They just remade "A Star is Born." Why would you remake it? It was such a good movie. Right? But [the remake] was fantastic. If you can offer something beautiful to a project, then you do it.

If you look at some of the more popular tributes, they're the ones that are doing it because there is something cool about bringing the past to life. However, we've been on that stage before, and we want to offer something a little bit different. We want to infuse ourselves into the show a little bit more. It makes it so it's not a strict tribute, it's more of an offering where you get music, but you also get us. It's nice to connect with people, and they connect with us. It makes for a more honest show.

I'm Mexican. So, I'm into moving around in general. I've always been a hyper kid. When I went to Dollywood, we did 465 shows in six months, and that was a dance intensive show. That really gave me the discipline that I needed. But I think that I've always been spirited and ready to give some kind of wonderful dancing energy to anything. Coming into this show, with my background of listening to music, running down the hallways, playing whatever guitar was available, how raw that can be, comes off is very natural in the show. And I think that it's cool that you can pull from those things, don't even realize it, and it just comes in organically.

What was the process of assembling the show's setlist, curating the music of "Rock & Roll Reignited?"

Jared and I, before we came out here, were just like, "okay, well we know what songs have to go in there. Let's figure out which ones are gonna capitalize on the show and are really gonna blend it and make it a good, strong offering." The good thing is that we're all into the hits. We have over two hours of music [to choose from], but in this show we have 70 minutes of music. It was the best problem to have, whittling it down. And a lot of the hits have to go in. Then, we try to tell a story with the songs in between. The hardest part was just figuring out how we can get as much of the show into 70 minutes as possible. It was just nice being able to really mold it.

Little by little, we've added slightly different arrangements to each song. We would bring in a little bit more distortion. We would add in some audience time where they can [participate]. Trying to make it less of a presentation and more like a community event where everybody gets to be a part of it. Somehow we just infused a little bit more energy and it happened. It wasn't overnight. I remember doing the show and six songs were a little bit different, then we would come back in a year and then half of the show was different. Saying, "Hey, you know, I have an idea: why don't we add in this tableau that really shows this incredible energy?" And so, we added in different arrangements. Stuff that the audience could really participate in and enjoy. And we added in a couple visual spectacles that really, really just make it look real cool and tight.

We've got the highs and then we got a couple sensitive moments and the balance, I think, speaks for itself. Doing it in the cabaret has been rewarding and special and very, very different. Every little detail, you get to see on those people's faces. We're used to playing for crowds that are not only 30 feet away, but also a massive audience. There's even a delay in the applause. Here, they're right here. I feel like it's a little bit more emotional. You get to see it more as a movie, almost. It's pretty cool. It's pretty different.

How has the Sarasota audience received "Rock and Roll Reignited" so far?

They're all great. Sarasota is a broad spectrum. It's really, really interesting. We've had a very, very good rapport with audiences. We know it's a cabaret, so we don't wanna blow anybody out, but then you see everybody mouthing the words or you see everybody just with smiles on their face, it's a different kind of reception. Sometimes we'll get a rowdier crowd. Sometimes, we'll get the people who are standing and dancing in the aisles. Sometimes they have a little bit more of a strict theater approach to it. However they wanna enjoy the show is fine with us, as long as they're enjoying it. It's cool to see.

This is the first time that we've done so many shows in one place. We're doing our 50th show on Saturday. Sometimes, I just stand on the stage and just look around. Even though we're singing, in my head it's quiet. It's just really rewarding to see where we've come, where we are now, what we're doing, and to know that people appreciate it. If there's a through line of anything, I think it's nice to know that people appreciate you and what you do. That you're spreading good energy for the world to hold onto, especially now.

Rock & Roll Reignited With Not Fade Away plays through August 7, 2022, in FST's John C. Court Cabaret. For tickets and more information about the show, visit: Click Here or call (941) 366-9000.

Photo credit: Destiny Jackson


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From This Author - Nora Long

Nora Long is a writer, filmmaker, and performer from Sarasota, Florida. Her creative portfolio includes documentary and narrative films, theatre, music, as well as a variety of other digital media.&nb... Nora Long">(read more about this author)


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