Once you get a taste of Gallant’s high falsetto, you don’t want anything else. That’s why, when I was supposed to be on my way to cover Kings of Leon at Firefly Music Festival on Friday night, I was in the pit of Gallant’s second set, under a canopy of leaves and twinkly lights.
Two hours before, Christopher Gallant closed out the Porch stage for the night. Everyone I knew had planned on going, and I would meet them there, despite knowing nothing about the 24-year-old R&B singer. With beer in each hand, I watched as his voice slithered from hurt and vulnerable to straight-up pleading and atoning. It’s the kind of music that’ll have you swaying your hips and slowly running your fingers through your festival-knotted hair… and maybe crying. I became a Gallant convert by the second song.
His performance of “Jupiter” will change you. An expansive, celestial slow jam, Gallant sings about the far-away planet like a distant lover, apologizing over and over. “And I was blaming you, an ego so inflated / And red infatuation so strong / Decades overdue… / Regretting all the patience / I’m sorry that I waited too long.” He wails over the lost love, turning his retrospection into destruction as he keels over the mic, nearly vomiting out his laments. He throws down the mic stand, screaming, “Sorry, sorry, sorry.” It’s almost as if whatever was pouring out of him was uncontrollable—grief is physical—and his body hurled him from one side of the stage to the other, fans going fucking wild as Gallant’s voice left him and slid into us. They were transformed too.
Gallant’s seizure-like performance had fans screaming whenever he hit a high note, as if their reaction was involuntary as well. As a Gallant beginner, it’s hard to tell what he’s saying, but you know you’re supposed to be mourning. Either that, or just surrendering to his voice or the guitar solo or the keys that glitter throughout the whole thing. A haze of pot smoke swirled with the purple lights and the sun slowly dropped behind us. “One more song!” fans yelled as Gallant closed his set 20 minutes early.
At 10:20, he had switched stages—from Porch to Treehouse—and he was playing acoustic versions of his Ology songs in a wooded nook. His band switched to more organic instruments, and even though his songs are bass-driven, there was still no bassist to be seen.
During “Bone + Tissue,” his mic went out, but his voice didn’t need it anyway. A sharp ping of feedback coursed through stage, but he kept singing, and so did the fans.
It was insanely intimate, and entirely refreshing in a day full of loud, bland, hands-in-the-air, feel-good indie rock. In the woods, with Kings of Leon’s bass looming from a distance, it felt like we had found something.