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Serendipity — "The faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident as well as the fact or an instance of such a discovery."
When I think of the Two Gallants, a vastly talented twosome from San Francisco, serendipity promptly surges to mind. My first encounter with the Gallants was in itself quite serendipitous. I wandered into Easy Street Records one September evening and happened upon an in-store performance that charmed me straightaway. Later that night, I left another show early to see if the Two Gallants could possibly match their early show. They did (and then some).
After chatting with Tyson and Adam on their December 2004 visit to Seattle, I discovered that serendipity has played a strong supporting role in the life of the Two Gallants. The band began in Tyson's basement, shortly after he bought his drum kit. "He was just learning to play drums," remarked Adam, "and I was into a bunch of traditional ballads and blues songs and stuff like that. We'd get together late at night with a box of wine and play, just having fun with it." Tyson saw playing music as "something that was a really good release, a good place for me to do some things with myself." As for playing music as a career, he readily admits that he "hadn't really planned it."
Adam reflected a bit on the evolution of the Two Gallants. "It wasn't like the regular pattern with a band where you start a band with members and you pick a name and then get a show. It was kind of the opposite. We got a show and then we had to get a name and then had to realize we were a band." From there, "it happened really fast. I don't know if we thought it was going to get serious." But it did. In 2004, Alive Records put out the Two Gallants' first LP The Throes and they've spent the better part of this past year bringing the happy and unexpected discovery of their music to showgoers across the country.
The Throes is nothing short of exquisite. Soulful, blues-driven songs unfurl dark folk narratives of tragedy, loss, and regret. Warm-toned guitar and a bright pleading harmonica overlay elastic-tight drums and spacious cymbals. Adam's vocals ache out over the tracks, alternating between raspy vigor and quiet tenderness. Tyson sings here and there, compounding the intensity at key moments. They litter their songs with tempo changes - an oom-pah waltz slides into a scrambling chorus and back, followed by a song that builds with haunting steadiness to a lament-ridden denouement. Taken together, the effect is both unsettling and entirely satisfying.
On stage, the Two Gallants surpass any expectations. Adam performs with an fervor that could blister the paint off the walls, spitting out lyrics like bitter-tasting fruit. His furious blues-inspired guitar picking and Adam's warm rolling drums fill the room with a despondent beauty and passionate rawness that eludes recording. Their live set easily wins over unsuspecting listeners who, ears scalded and faces glowing, stay for just one more song.