Live shows can be a mixed bag. Oftentimes you get a mechanical reproduction of the album, devoid of spontaneity yet delivering what you expected from those late nights spent with the albums; other times you get a band giving it their all, changing the songs to fit the atmosphere better while possibly messing up your imagined live reproductions. What happens sometimes is when a band combines the worst aspects of these two possibilities and puts that on stage for your consumption.
First though, the positive: The openers for this hipster homecoming of sorts were entertaining both nights. Langhorne Slim and the War Eagles are relative newcomers to the music world, however they carry themselves on stage like seasoned veterans. The first night, I got the overwhelming impression of them being a Gallants cover band, but on the second they broke out from that mold and presented their soulfly crooning over standup bass and acoustic guitar in their own light, owning the stage for 30 minutes. There's not much to say -- it's good straight up rock'n'roll (and maybe a bit of 'billy) with a vocalist who's either got the world's greatest natural voice or stayed up late at night studying Johnny Cash and B.B. King.
San Francisco's Trainwreck Riders are a bit of an enigma to me. Having met Pete (singer and songwriter) prior to actually seeing the band, I have a bit of unfair affection for them. The band is exceptionally talented, slinging their blend of country and punk (leaning more to the country side than the punk side) in an energetic and impassioned fashion. The bands must have all taken a nice rest during the day on Sunday, as their second performance was far more energy-filled and dynamic, including a nice acoustic interlude by Pete and Andrew. I've now seen TWR more times than I have tarsals and there's one thing that always sticks out to me: a lack of interaction between the band and audience. Their fellow openers in the War Eagles have the personality and charm to engage in the band, breaking up any percieved monotony between their songs. The Riders would do well to take their time on the road with them to learn a thing or two about this aspect of a live performance.
Now about that foreshadowing. The Mission's favorite sons, Two Gallants, are a staple of San Francisco live music. Whether it's a BART station, a backyard or a packed club you can count on an energetic show with rabid fans. Well, at least you could until this weekend. Now I could be spoiled, having stumbled upon a backyard show earlier this year with some great friends on a great day during the World Cup, but the Gallants just seemed tired this weekend. Not to blame them of course, since they have had a rough go lately, what with the arrests and the long tours and tasering going on. However, the popular sentiment shared by many there seemed to be "it's your hometown, put some effort into it." The band seemed to abandon their dynamic sound they achieve in the studio and in their prior performances and instead go for "LOUD" or "soft" during the songs. By this I mean the opening song was freakishly soft and then their segue into the exceptionally catchy single "Steady Rollin'" was so loud it nearly destroyed any enjoyment to be gained from said song. The aforementioned segues took away from the atmosphere of it being a rock show, instead transforming into some weird amalgamation of frat party and jam bandery. It was actually frustrating to watch, knowing the band is better than this but when you add in the band actually complaining (whining according to a friend) about being "tired from being on the road so much," it kind of destroys my sympathy for the guys.
All this said, many people there seemed to enjoy themselves. You never know, I could have just been feeling a little too unhip or punkrock to enjoy the night. I guess I feel like I know the Gallants can do better, especially considering how well the openers presented themselves. Hopefully next time it's a homecoming show they can live up to the hype surrounding them.