Riley Gale, friend to hundreds, musician, autodidact, inspiration… list goes on.. passed away this week. His friendship and like bonhomie defined and changed people’s lives… We were friends which is something more than a few hundred people could justifiably claim… I would describe him as a connection man, a sort of thread connecting all sorts of people, a hub on 1,000 different wheels at once.
Riley’s girlfriend Marsella said everybody loved him… this was true… he sang in Power Trip, the crossover heavy metal group, was a hardcore kid even though he had long hair and a military mustache, and he was a writer as well, dealing in criticism, comics, screenplays and fiction… he was an autodidact and heavy reader and down-low intellectual and conversationalist, a Cowboys fan and suspenders snapper and a charming person… no one snaps suspenders anymore honestly and the social skills he possessed were ones refined through a lifetime of meaningful and quick interactions with lord knows how many people a day for many years…
My first impression of Riley was that he was very well dressed—his brandless, casual and perfectly draped outfits jumped out when we met at Warsaw in Brooklyn… for I don’t know what show… in like 2012 or something… I want to say Pentagram… it was definitely this Pentagram show… Riley had on moccasins, which you really just did not see on anyone at that time, real ones, and a big Dismember shirt that fit well and some sort of Belgian-looking pair of khaki pants with indeterminate cuff… a level of thrown-together consideration that is not seen every day. I was introduced to Riley by James Ritter of Joint Custody, who had known him for a long time, but Riley was new to me…. It felt like at the time that this introduction was 11th hour… that we were too advanced in our lives to make for a friendship… that was a wrong assessment.
How do any friendships form? Reading the remembrances this past day, so many did when Riley introduced a new person to his established group of people, or pulled someone from one sect of people into a second… over time those connections grew and welded into life-long bonds…. it was a very beautiful thing. There’s an underlying assumption or expectation that many of us who grew up together think, which is to go to a Pentagram show with friends is to effectively be friends with a good chunk of the people there, eventually, and given the right bounces… but these things don’t just happen, they take some effort, or nicety at least… so many important relationships happened sooner than they would have because of generous people like Riley…—like I was saying Riley was very well-dressed and continued to be…
There was a moment at Chaos in Tejas, in I think 2012 too, where Power Trip were playing, it was on a regular-sized stage, I cannot for the life of me place the name of the venue, though I remember in a hazy way it being outdoors and around a blind corner from another set that was going on exactly then, which was how Chaos structured its spate of shows, which was socially ideal…. Chaos’ staggered set of musical dominos comprised every refraction of heavy guitar music there was, and included Xeno & Oaklander as well… Power Trip were not sonically in the middle of how these bands sounded since there is no sonic middle but they were the unity band there, in the middle for other reasons… it felt like the band for whom people all turned their keys… I can’t remember the details of the competing band either except they were mid-set and not close to finishing up… but like I was saying Power Trip began tuning up or playing a Leeway intro, maybe or similar, who can remember, what’s placed is the sound that came rushing out from where they were to where everyone was and a throng of people disappearing one space for the other, and materializing from everywhere else… crowd movement that can be felt and which doesn’t happen often. As they played the music was loud enough to be seen, like a swell, like in an old 1940s cartoon where a bandshell bops up and down during a classical music concert. I didn’t meet Riley until Power Trip opened the Pentagram show later that summer at the Warsaw… still it all felt at the time like a perfect encapsulation... two decades’ worth of maybe strangers maybe friends operating at every spectrum of sobriety crashing into each other to see and hear what is happening… that rush doesn’t happen when people agree to turn their keys together, it is not an intellectual decision, it’s feel... This was lifetimes ago…. like a decade ago…. everything was very very different….
Riley was the most equitable person I ever met. He treated everyone the same; he treated them, Marsella said, like his best friend. This just almost doesn’t happen; if it does it’s rare to see, it’s difficult to do, it is something that comes from real depth… In any event it’s very rare. So many friends shared stories about Riley and the times they spent together last night and this morning… there were stories about how he would contribute in a meaningful way to their projects, either through effort or contribution or support… projects that were not only music but comics and literature and comedy and fiction and electronic music and business and life choices like grad school and God knows what… those impacts will be probably only really felt in a decade… I have seen him do that with friends of mine.
Riley was also most generous, as generous, with people who didn’t have anything traditionally productive going on, who wanted to be in the mix and hang out or make time; no one needed to justify their existence to be close to him, they were accepted as people… he pulled them close, not what they did, and he would be very cool to them…. it’s nice to see that kind of acceptance. He would also bring massively successful people into the mix as just another friend, or transpose them from one milieu to another… “this is my friend who happens to just churn out comics for a living… that’s how she pays her rent… this fool here makes movies… you guys would totally get along and you have to meet them…” and so we did… and they would be along for the ride or off to the sideline or taking part in some back room somewhere or hearing some story about pissing on a statue in Europe, everyone in the circle as if they had been in the mix with him since he was young in Denton… and that would be a trip for them too.
Riley’s social facility was towering and he used it… or rather it came out in ways to make people feel welcome and appreciated… It is rare to pull from both those energies, support and acceptance, and to be welcoming all the time, and that open… Riley had a lot of room inside to allow for those things. We all try and be better people of course and treat people fairly and be open but I don’t think I can wrap my head around how truly… revolutionary and guileless his way of interacting with people was. One wonders what beautiful forces made him act the way he did the whole time, all the time, if it was him or how he was raised or something he picked up. We can’t know now. I barely knew him. It encompassed everything. In a sense it’s a beautiful thing to only scratch the surface of a person.
Rest in peace to Riley Gale who was a great friend to so so many—hundreds, thousands in the procession who felt with him like they were the only one in the room—he is still there now just in a different way.
In lieu of flowers his family has asked that donations be made to Dallas Hope Charities.