at the Troubadour, April 4
Too much of a good thing can be tiresome. Too much of an “okay” thing can make a girl smack her own face to stay awake.
Such was the case Tuesday night at the Troubadour, where hundreds braved the sloshy rain to attend a sold-out Two Gallants show. Inside, amid the stench of drenched windbreakers, the overall mood could be classified as “Dude, this better be good.”
After long sets from openers Cold War Kids and Wires on Fire, Two Gallants at last skulked onstage, appearing to be the human embodiment of a pair of mismatched socks. Singer-guitarist Adam Stephens’ peachy-faced blondness presented a stark foil to drummer Tyson Vogel’s grizzly beard and stringy veil of dyed black hair.
Aesthetics aside, the jangly punk-folk duo suffers from a sonic clash as well. Vogel’s percussion is a breathtaking spectacle — the man pounds the proverbial crap out of his drum kit, appearing at times to have the unbridled and feral energy of an epileptic raccoon. But front man Stephens’ talents lie more in the composition of his dusty, melancholic narratives than in their performance: His vocals, though impassioned, can become shrill and off-key, and his lyrics unintelligible. Up against the brassy crash of Vogel’s drums, Stephens’ voice stretches to a pained caterwaul, buried beneath blues riffs and smothered under cymbals. The result is a cacophonous, overwhelming test of patience.
The pair’s extended Tuesday set was heavy with tracks from the new LP What the Toll Tells (Saddle Creek), including the admittedly catchy “Steady Rollin’ ” and the album opener, “Las Cruces Jail.” But with little direct addressing of the audience to break up their string of excruciatingly lengthy songs, the show became a tedious blur, and the crowd thinned well before the encore. Two Gallants began their career busking in a San Francisco subway station, and they could stand to unlearn their habits of marathon sessions and competing with the thunder of commuter trains. In doing so, they might find that their audience develops a less-transient attention span.