The Social, Orlando, FL • June 17, 2013
Lisa and I got to The Social a little bit late, because we certainly couldn’t begin a show without at least one beer in our bellies, but we had time to score a ringside spot, close enough to our table-sitting neighbors to brush their thighs occasionally, but without the frequency that might indicate a more intimate end to the evening. I was a tiny bit surprised that the place wasn’t jam-packed, because Two Gallants is a pretty big deal, at least in my household…
All is revealed in time, you know, and opening act Broncho revealed itself to be both mildly talented and wildly abrasive, worthy of exactly the level of audience saturation in the house. They know their chords, can play their instruments, and offend only when lyrics are discernible (how many variations of “this bitch was insane” can you pack into one set?), but might want to work a little bit on squelching Ryan Lindsey’s seriously annoying yowl, which pierced even through our makeshift toilet-paper earplugs. Note to The Social: Buy fluffier toilet paper — it protects the delicate eardrum better.
We recognized the band’s homage to ’70s punk, but its abrasiveness didn’t mean as much without a clear reason — maybe these Oklahoma boys weren’t feeling Orlando. The highlight of the set was the “thank you” to the members of the apparently attentive wedding party that Broncho had performed for on a previous Orlando date. I don’t think any of those people were in the room, but Lindsey didn’t care. How cavalier.
The room had filled by the time Two Gallants, which is to say Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel, took the stage, returning after a few years’ hiatus to promote their fifth album, The Bloom and the Blight. The duo is understated and mysterious, a layer of something a little bit dirty underneath their clean-cut appearance, and they are absolutely the reason the cool people of Orlando ventured out on a school night. I could tell, because everyone knew the words to all of the songs. I’m not just talking about “Despite What You’ve Been Told,” the show’s opener, or “Steady Rollin’,” which was served up mid-set, but all of the songs, from all of the albums. These people were fervent.
Stephens played in the dark and sometimes on his knees, probably less in thrall to the admiring crowd than to the cathartic experience of blasting songs that, were they spoken a cappella from a solitary barstool into a softly padded mic, would have had the audience running for tissues, in a damned firehose of a delivery. What therapy. This band belts it out, Stephens growling heartfelt yet slightly seedy lyrics while Vogel drums in a blur like Animal. Yeah, Animal from The Muppet Show.
Pairing harmonica with guitar, or with piano as Vogel took up the strumming, Stephens slowed the tempo to woo the crowd, and I thought the mosh pit might start bawling, cans of PBR raised in vigil as Lisa and I downed our middle-class Magic Hats. But they didn’t cry, and again the pit circled, and an exceptionally enthusiastic possible veteran rose from his wheelchair to dance on stage — a miracle — until kindly shuffled back to the safety of his wheels and tucked under his blanket.
“This shit ain’t easy, all the distractions and shit,” and Stephens could have meant the job of being a musical god, or maybe simply the act of baring his soul, his heart of gold, to this gaggle of fans who had already made his words theirs. Either way, Two Gallants make what they do seem easy. Welcome back.