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ORANGE COUNTY
:: Two Gallants ::
05 November 2006 / Night & Day / Manchester
By Lauren Strain

ďYou can play as loud as you want, we donít have tasers here!Ē shouts a guy in the crowd, laughing. I ask my friend what a taser is. Itís a gun, apparently. Also apparently, this is to reference a vaguely notorious incident at a recent gig in Houston where, by many accounts, this San Francisco two-piece were wrestled to the floor, chased offstage and shot at by a seemingly demented rogue police officer who, shall we say, wasnít too chuffed with the decibel level. Drummer Tyson Vogel spent the night in a cell. Guitarist Adam Stephens flapped around the streets trying not to be killed. Tonight, he smiles wryly Ė then takes one whole lot of heed.

Bathed in orange fire, the stage is broodily alight and bristling with the audienceís expectations. Thereís not a single half-hearted attendee here Ė all have been present since the doors squeaked and swung open, clamouring and swaying with the Sahara temperature at the front, a look on their faces thatís slightly afar from reality. Itís clear this band inspire fervent allegiance; the anticipation here is as hot as the pulsing lightbulbs. I have perhaps the least knowledge of them out of everyone. Iíve heard one song, once, quietly, and not all the way through. I know theyíre signed to Saddle Creek records. And thatís about it. Iím sort of scared by my own ignorance pitted against everybody elseís evident die-hard status. Have I been missing something incredibly important for the last few years? Is it blatantly obvious that Iím a fraud? I stoop a bit and step into the shadows.

Then, Iím beneath a chugging engine of glittering kit, face up against the kickdrum as Adam boots the pickup further inside its resonating cavern with a battered sole. Tysonís face is millimetres away, bracing the heat of the lyrics as Adam stalks away from his microphone and lashes around behind the delirious cymbals; the drummer turns to glance at him enflamed in the amber beams, catches a second of his face Ė all pursed lips and concentrating, eagle eyes burning like hot black coals Ė then flings his head back to the task in hand, lost in a furnace of muscling energy, nerve and raw edge.

Although captivated by this seated figure of flailing hair for the most part of the show, my bones rattling with the proximity of the snares and my eyes hypnotised by the creamcoloured blur of the soft drumstick heads and the deft strokes with metal brushes of glimmering silver, every few minutes I tear my gaze to the left and see Stephensí unflinching stare, his showers of spit spurting through bared, angry teeth. He stands cocked to the right, one foot collapsed outwards on its ankle, toes pointing inwards; a shy, awkward stance in falling-to-pieces sneakers that belies the grit and fury of his frowning face. Itís bonfire night, itís crimson, itís loud, itís songs dedicated to the old, characterful buildings of Frisco lost to faceless office facades, itís whistling chills darting across abandoned plains to ĎLas Cruces Jailí, itís snarling, itís black and gold western violence, itís fireworks.

ďThanksĒ, nods Adam, looking wounded and withdrawn, so affected is he by their own harsh power and red blaze. ďWe have to leave now.Ē


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