Better than: Taking a catnap after daytime drinking in the park.
A night of Noise Pop at the cozy Edinburgh Castle put the audience in waves of sleep-like cycles, leaving spectators in a dreamy state. The first one-man band, Greg Ashley, sang us to sleep. Then the foot-tapping beats of White Cloud woke us up, gently laid us down for a nap, and shook us with happiness, upping the anticipation for headliner Two Gallants, a San Francisco duo with a friendship older than Noise Pop itself.
Ashley was a sleepy appetizer for the bite-sized crowd. No more than 30 people were present to see the singer accompanied by his acoustic guitar and a water bottle filled with red wine. Ashley's sound is solemn and somber, and his lyrics have a deep sense of honesty and vulnerability that many artists are reluctant to reveal. Ashley spilled his guts into the microphone over the unrelentingly chatty crowd.
He confessed that the song "Room 33" was written while he was high in a Mexican hotel room where the only TV channel available was broadcasting hardcore porn 24/7. Surprisingly, the song sounds soft and sweet; Ashley sings, "Bold forms of therapy calls from the screen... This form of love is obscene... Love is just a government." This was one of few songs that didn't reflect on dark subjects like divorce, suicide, religion, or the Holocaust. Now that he sang us a lullaby, we were dreading nightmares.
Now imagine waking from a dream on a sunny day -- that warm, hypnotic moment between waking up and a having good morning. That's what local band White Cloud sounds like. Their catchy, '60s-inspired set kept the crowd in a daze.
Because they were playing for a crowd (of at least 80 by now) more mature than usual, White Cloud breezed through some of their newest songs. The middle-aged audience tapped along to their bodacious beats, some looked surprised to enjoy such a young band, and even made a point to talk to the musicians after their set
White Cloud's lead singer, Nick, strummed his retro guitar while wailing indistinguishable lyrics through various filters. The sound made you feel as if you woke up from a sweet dream, put on a record, and crawled back in bed.
White Cloud sews a sense of romanticism in its upbeat sound. Right when we were nauseated by a couple necking by the bathrooms, the singer told the crowd, "Grab a loved one, because you could die tomorrow." The audience of early-30's couples tightened into twos. At the end of White Cloud's set, the beat picked up, making you feel as you've woken from a midday nap. After that nap, you are delighted to come upon a free afternoon, midday bliss sets in, and you skip to the park for daytime drinking -- that is what White Cloud sounds like.
All night long, the guys from Two Gallants had been trotting around with drinks in hand and friends by their side. The sold-out crowd finally showed up and filled the space at the bottom of the stage after White Cloud's set, then waited for 15 minutes. The anticipation had been building since the band's last performance at the Independent in September; some four months and 25 minutes later, Two Gallants took the stage.
They eased in with a soft, new song. Then by the second track, the crowd showed its age and piped along the lyrics to "Steady Rollin'." Singalongs occured for every other tune in the 13-song set, but nothing overpowered the passionate rage singer Adam Stephens showed with his scratchy voice. Stephens sometimes looked as if he might lose his temper, but the friendship between him and drummer Tyson Vogel made their performance glow.
The duo inserted musical rants between verses, and tested their
impeccable timing by slowing a song to half speed, then doubling it. More than half of the set comprised new songs that are yet to be
released. Usually, this annoys a singalong-type crowd, one desperate to
rally the band while yelling the lyrics. But the unfamiliar songs were
so intriguing that many in the crowd even tapped their feet along. There
were no shouts for "My Baby's Gone," although I wish someone would've
requested it. (Perhaps that song is just too sad for a live audience?)
Of course, Two Gallants did play sad songs: Stephens grabbed his
acoustic guitar and harmonica for the last song, "Broken Eyes": "I know
they say I'll rue the day I gave you a piece of my heart," he sang.
"It's do re mi, and dust to dust, things all fall apart."
After a demanded encore, the power went out. We thought it was time
for bed, but the determined crowd begged for another song -- which Two
Gallants was obligated to perform for this hometown crowd. The power
came back on, and the show ended with a crowd favorite, "Seems Like Home
To Me." The high ceilings boomed with the sound of a choir; the
audience shamelessly sang along, "Baby let your light shine on me." Last
night, an adoring hometown light certainly shone on Two Gallants.
Disclaimer: When I say "sleepy" and "sad," I don't mean boring or depressing. Sleepiness can feel nice, like moisturizing your whole body, then layering on sock and sweatpants, crawling into bed, and happily singing along to sad songs.
Highlight of the night: The middle-aged man wearing a Ramones T-shirt, running shoes, and highlighter hair (glowing in the blacklight); he constantly tapped along to every band, even the first two he was not familiar with. Power to you, dude.