Noise Pop 2012: Two Gallants at Edinburgh Castle, 2/23/12

Equally passionate and effortless, Two Gallants rolled through a set of old favorites and new works the first night of their two-night stand at the Edinburgh Castle on Thursday. Wedged in between the short-lived freak folk ascendance (Devandra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, and various hairy trolls) and the reverb revival (Thee Oh Sees, Fresh and Onlys, and various recovering shoegazers), Tyler Vogel and Adam Stephens proved to be the quintessential SF house band for the past some-odd years. Built from adolescent busking, onetime national buzz, and some hairy tour tales, the two stir punk-adled emotion with rural rhythmic accents, and never hide behind effect pedals or shallow posturing, embodying a Western frontier spirit as ragged as it is heartfelt.

While Stephens' lead vocals may make a case for divisive toning, if you are on board, it often serves as the third prong of the band's sonic assembly. Vogel's drumming is never restrained and always one beat unto itself. Their reliably scrappy aesthetic feeds some inter-song sameyness, but for the most part, it's never too much of a good thing. Glad they're back on the block (and especially that they are championing the musically dry, onetime "blue collar Hemlock of the Tenderloin" venue), and that they seem to have recharged their catalog, if not more importantly, their camaraderie.

White Cloud, ever gracious for the middle slot, cruised through a graceful set of surf-tinged light psych, anchored by their hooky rhythm section which helped ground some of the indecipherable, floaty (but nonetheless pleasant) vocals and eye-boggling (though interesting) flying V style guitar leads. Sincere and well-accomplished, the fresh-faced foursome are a good read from the current book of SF cool. And, nothing better than seeing a band enjoying themselves, recognizing the moment, and hitting their tunes at a high level despite some lackadaisical, pre-headliner crowd appreciation.

Greg Ashley (of Gris Gris local fame) opened the evening with a haunting set of Donovan-by-way-of-Leonard Cohen vintage folk. Deftly plucking a nylon-stringed guitar, and weaving melancholic melodies amidst tales of personal disillusion and armchair sociology, Ashley humbly provided the prelude to an evening of hardly not strictly SF noise pop.

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