Last Saturday night, while everyone down the street celebrated a drunken Halloween, Two Gallants and a few hundred fans wallowed in something else altogether at The Independent. A few donned costumes, and while they didn’t quite fit into the shaggy, plaid vibe, they were as welcome as anyone.
Two Gallants’ music is more inclusive than most. Historical and literary yarns, country- and folk-inspired indie rock, and independent ethics don’t often spell mass appeal, but it was clear at the Gallants’ latest local gig that their fanbase is a lot less predictable than their sound. Male and female, young and old, hip and square — they’re all drawn to Two Gallants. But why?
The smart money is on Adam Stephens’ lyrics. They may be obtuse at times, but far more often possess a human quality that can’t be faked. Attentive listeners have no choice but to empathize with his characters, no matter who or where they are, or what they’re doing. At The Independent, the number of people singing along to each and every word was impressive, especially for a band of so many words.
This isn’t to downplay Two Gallants’ music. The interplay between Adam (on guitar) and drummer Tyson Vogel again can’t be faked, and its not — they’ve been playing together since they were twelve. Now approaching their late ’20s, they’re three albums deep, and steadily expanding beyond the Bay Area. During shows, Adam likes to get right up next to Tyson, to the point that on Saturday he dropped to his knees aside the drum kit and picked and rolled fiercely for about a minute. A guitar and a few drums never made such a meandering, communicative, emotional noise.
The Gallants sounded warm from the first note, evidently locked into the groove of perpetual touring. They’d been on the road for months, and days later kicked off a European tour. Opening with a few cuts from the new record, which are less visceral, and more somber and lovelorn, than previous material, the set later peaked with “Long Summer Day,” “Las Cruces Jail,” and an excellent rendition of “Steady Rollin’,” all from 2006’s What the Toll Tells.
In a couple cases the guys incorporated stuttering improv into the framework of their songs, and at various points Tyson busted out a household windchime (gently strummed with a drumstick), his keys (dusted over the cymbals), and a tambourine (tapped on the snare) to liven up percussion. Probably trying to keep things interesting for themselves as much as for the audience. It worked, and when Two Gallants were called back for an encore, they gave one of their best performances of the night: a rousing, extended rendition of “Nothing to You” from 2004 debut The Throes, which united the diverse crowd in a sing-along of “Down by the riverside…wastin’ away.” The band has its limitations, but a moment like this reminds us: no one can do Two Gallants quite like Two Gallants, and they’ll forever be our band.