Well, it was no longer last night, but it was one of those nights that will feel as immediate probably for a long while. For several months now, Two Gallants have been on my list of top bands. I wrote about them once, and have been looking forward to their Seattle show for a while now. They proved to be everything I'd hoped and then some.
Duos are hot right now, and I'd be hard-pressed to think of a better one. Virtuosity was the hallmark of the performace, I'd say. Adam Stephens plays the guitar like three people would normally back a singer – bassline, rhythm and driving picking patterns, not to mention evocative harmonica accompaniment and, oh yeah, singing the words. Tyson Vogel is an equally dexterious drummer/singer; from a birds-eye balcony I got a good view of the kind of manic cymbal-work that he somehow managed in addition to a whole bunch of hair-shaking and singing. How people can have such control of so many limbs at once is far beyond my ability to imagine. The chemistry between the two boys undeniably places them in a league that they may not yet know they belong to. It's shocking because they just don't have enough years in them to be that solid, and yet – it sure seems that they are.
One of the openers was a guy named William Elliott Whitmore. He wields a banjo with Guthrie-esque fervor (although singing "I'm not bound for glory"), and invokes the spirit and motion of Ray Charles. Most of the music is straight blues in the death/religion/spiritual vein, and I was frankly blown away by his performance. He miked the floor of the stage and then stomped on it for percussion, sounding much more like an approaching Grim Reaper than a bass drum. He growled in a rich baritone, at times going a bit raspy in the higher ranges, all with consistently impressive lyrics. "Don't alter my altar" was a good one, though I unfortunately can't remember the other words. It's fair to say that I wasn't prepared for this guy and was not in full music review mode at the time. My jaw was too busy trying to stay off the floor.
He claims to be a rough-spoken country boy from Iowa. I say this with a bit of suspicion because as we left the venue I had a brief conversation with him and sort of felt like I was on a fake movie set in Universal Studios or something. The accent sounded incredibly fake. And what country boy from Iowa has a wild-west drawl anyways? If it turns out that it is genuine, then I think I need to go visit Iowa.
So the final aftertaste of the show has a strange coloring because I am not sure what to believe. The A-word haunts my thoughts, as usual, and I wonder if I care. If the whole thing is an act, does it make his music less stunning? Nope. It might make his character questionable – or at least confused – but as long as he comes back to play in Seattle, I think I can deal with that.