Late Gig Review #2: Two Gallants

Yes, they’re getting later, I know. My obvious tardiness aside, I went to see Two Gallants supported by The Hickey Underworld at the Electric Ballroom on 6th November. The main things I can remember about The Hickey Underworld are that they were Dutch, they were pretty raucous and listening to Primus on the way to the gig didn’t seem quite so inappropriate after they started. They’ll get a proper listen sometime but I can’t say too much about them now without making it up and they don’t deserve that…

2Gs though? Lovely 2Gs. For those of you who don’t know they are Adam Haworth Stephens and Tyson Vogel, two very talented chaps indeed. Like The White Stripes they strip it all down to a guitar and some drums but unlike The White Stripes they also often sound like a full band. There are countless tumbling picked riffs and blues-inspired tunes played like garage rock. The lyrics are superb in a literate fashion (I’m not going to say D**an, but you all know what I’m thinking) and Adam’s voice has a unique world-weary tone, strung out and sagacious.

The gig showed them back on form as well. I was a little wary after the mixed bag of their last album (the ol’ genius to meh quality mix) but it seems the break has cleansed their¬†palettes. They have a new twist on their sound, shifting from raw garage rock to something fuller and heavier. There’s a new cheeky tone of humour too evident in songs like Willy. All of these things are good IMHO.

The moment of the gig was probably Broken Eyes where Tyson joined Adam at the microphone to sing harmonies. There’s something about the way they perform together that suggests they’re very close. Maybe I’m seeing what I want to see, but there’s a sensation of two travellers, nomads, worn out and dusty from the road, singing songs of the life they’ve seen out there. Something sadly missing from a lot of music these days.

Even better, the venue wasn’t utterly rammed to the gills. Having seen them on their last visit at the Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, that was a relief. No more sweaty rooms with no security and a crowd WAY over capacity. No more streams of people surging past every two seconds to get drinks and pee. It was all very civilised indeed.

Both have worthy solo projects worth investigating too.¬†Adam Haworth Stephens’ We Live on Cliffs is just as literate and bittersweet lyrically, but less overtly rawk compared to 2Gs. The Cities That You’ve Burned should turn you on with it’s cracking western saloon style piano alone. If not, well if not maybe don’t tell me because you’re wrong.

Tyson Vogel’s Devotionals (or One Gallant as my dad calls him) is the other direction. It’s predominantly just melodies, with a short poem thrown in for good measure, but is just gorgeous from start to finish. Acoustic melodies with strings to make your heart patter. Turns out Tyson is a talented guitarist as well.

Oh yes, and 62,006

Late gig review #1 – Godspeed You! Black Emperor

November proved to be one of my more organised months which means that I managed to get out and see some live music. I believe the appropriate phrase is, ‘Yay!’

So way back on the 4th November I saw Godspeed You! Black Emperor at the Kentish Town forum. First off, they are not normally the kind of band that I go to see. I don’t have a problem with post-rock and sprawling orchestrated crescendos lasting 20 minutes per se, but equally I like it more through headphones. I will confess to having had a bad experience at a Mogwai gig in the past too…

That said, I caught a stream of the new album, Hallelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! (which I automatically dislike on editorial grounds for abuse of the exclamation mark) and really enjoyed it. Mladic in particular. So I was reasonably excited to go to the gig despite knowing pretty much exactly what was going to happen.

Which is exactly what happened. If I was being factual I would say that we stood there for a couple of hours whilst the band noodled away at full volume, the cellist slid fingers up and down the neck like a salacious teenager hoping for his first ever touch of boob, some guy waggled fingers and novelty-sized contact lenses in front of old projectors and the films prompted the comment from one of my friends, ‘I keep getting the feeling that they’re trying to do “Art” at me.’ No-one on stage moved. No-one in the crowd moved – apart from one guy who briefly made a misguided attempt to film part of it, but then realised his mistake was his alone and put the offensive LCD screen away in shame, but let’s not count him. If I was being entirely pedantic I’d say that I only worked out the first tune (track? song? expanse?) was Mladic about 20 minutes in, and that all four of the pieces performed sounded very similar indeed.

However, that would be to miss the point somewhat. For one thing the visuals were frequently hypnotic, with my favourite being an old film reel of a house spinning to random points and quickly being burnt through by a heated lamp. I’ve always been a sucker for fire, melting things and the like admittedly, but I couldn’t stop looking at it.

Much more importantly, was how I found myself utterly blissed out and reaching a point of quite surprising lucidity. I found myself thinking about the book (as I do a lot at the moment (49,635)) and a few of the significant problems and questions I had been avoiding simply dissolved. As I stood there washing myself in this massive cacophony I found it kind of unfolding in front of me. No more block, just a burning desire to write it all down before I forgot it all, in case the music was responsible. I didn’t always listen to the music, I didn’t need to, but I did roll around in a rare and productive clarity, smirking quite smugly to myself as it all started to fall into place.

It certainly wasn’t the best performance I’ve ever seen, but the experience was something very distinctive that I in all honesty treasure. I’m nervous to go back and try to recapture it in fact because I suspect this was one of those ephemeral moments that would only be diluted by greed, and I do try not to be greedy.