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The first (and last) time I saw Two Gallants was at End of the Road Festival back in 2008. Then they went awol. Thankfully they’re now back with a summer tour which took in four UK dates, including this Bristol one. It’s hardly surprising then that the Thekla was rammed with people from as far afield as Wales and Bournemouth.

Opening for the San Fran duo was Peggy Sue. The three piece fitted the vibe perfectly with their bluesy indie. The two soulful female vocals and lo-fi guitars were held together by some quality drumming from the only man in the band. You can’t help thinking that these guys would go down a treat in the States with hints of Sea of Bees and Wye Oak about them and sniffs of the neo-folk Brighton scene from which they hail, think Laura Marling and Noah and the Whale.

The anticipation on the deck of this dark boat was electric as the excitable crowd watched the crew set up for Two Gallants. The stage was cleared of everything except a few sexy looking amps at the back, a set of drums right at the front and a mic stand, circled by four monitors. Minimal. Beautiful. Two Gallants guitarist/singer Tyson Vogel may look like the brooding musician type but he enjoyed a bit of banter with a Welsh fan who donated his strawberry Brother’s cider to the Two Gallants cause (whether Tyson understood a word this dude was saying is another matter).

As soon as they strummed the first chord, struck the first beat and spat the first words, the crowd was theirs. And they rewarded us with an early inclusion of the epic Despite What You’ve Been Told and the iconic Steady Rollin. Stood right at the front perhaps wasn’t the best place to hear Tyson’s vocals and poetic lyrics perfectly but the atmosphere was electric and watching the duo bounce off each other’s energy and pound their way through the set was pretty priceless. Saying that, I did move back later in the gig – during a raucous love in for Las Cruces Jail – where the sound was much better.

Tyson’s vocals are very versatile, with a definite nod to fellow energetic Americana pioneers Felice Brothers and, during Nothing To You, a Billy Joel-ness about them. The newer material had that Jack White (White Stripes) emotion behind it, and almost half of the set was a showcase for the post self-titled 2007 album material, the best of which had to be the slower number Broken Eyes.

Of course, they saved the best til last and led a mass singalong to the understated and excellent ballad Seems Like Home To Me. The song grabs you from the onset with the beautifully carved lyrics, ‘Baby, let your light shine on me, when I’m lost on the road, you know you could set me free, you could ease my load.’ Amazing. Here’s hoping they don’t leave it so long to come back this time!

Words, photos and videos: Laura Williams