Column 135 — Two Gallants returns to Houston; Bazooka Shootout tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 5:39 pm August 2, 2007

Here’s part 2 of the Two Gallants interview that began yesterday. Missing is mention of the guy who took all the video footage of the incident that ended up on YouTube (the videos are still online, here and here). He also got arrested and went through the court process with Tyson Vogel. I do not know his fate, however. Vogel said, beyond June’s return engagement, the band would play at Walter’s again.

Column 135: The Scene of the Crime
Two Gallants’ return to Houston brings closure.
First-off, Two Gallants are playing at Slowdown (opening for alt rock band Against Me!) this Sunday, Aug. 5. The duo of drummer Tyson Vogel and guitarist/vocalist Adam Stephens released a 5-song EP on Saddle Creek Records, The Scenery of Farewell, June 19, and though it continues in the band’s tradition of delta-blues-flavored indie folk, it’s a departure by way of acoustic (rather than electric) instrumentation. The result is a more subdued, more stark collection of ballads that includes (for the first time) special guests, including Anton Patzner on violin, Jackie Perez Gratz on cello and Chico Tunney on contra bass. The contributions give an already stirring collection even more depth and emotion, and ultimately, an overall sense of loneliness and regret. The EP isn’t a single from the upcoming full-length (due out in September) or session out-takes, but a true stand-alone collection that is an essential part of the Two Gallants oeuvre.

I lead with that mini review because drummer Tyson Vogel and I didn’t spend much time talking about the EP during our interview last Saturday. Instead, Vogel reflected on the Walter’s on Washington incident nearly a year after the fact, an incident that was put to bed with a return engagement to Walter’s June 18.

“I would totally shut down everything before things got escalated,” Vogel said, reflecting on what he’d do differently in a similar situation. “We’re used to working with police in San Francisco. We play house parties and parks all the time. It always works well when we work together as human beings, but when it becomes a power struggle… Some say we should have dropped everything right away, but we were inquisitive about what was going on. You’re in a club in the middle of a song and a huge police officer gets in your face. People are going to get scared.”

A recap: On Oct. 16, 2006, during a Two Gallants performance at a bar that calls itself “the best new live music venue in Houston,” police were dispatched to respond to a noise complaint. But instead of talking to the management or the show’s promoter or asking the soundman to turn it down, an officer stormed onto the stage during a song and began berating frontman Stephens. Confused, Stephens asked what was going on. Pandemonium ensued. Tasers were drawn. Equipment was broken. Arrests were made.

Among those taken into custody were Vogel and two members of opening band Trainwreck Riders. Somehow, Stephens managed to flee and avoid arrest.

Vogel spent the next 18 hours in a Houston lock-up, reflecting on the state of the American justice system.

In the days before the Internet, the incident would have been chocked up as just another rock band getting in trouble with the law. Instead, portions of the incident were captured on a fan’s video camera, and within hours, footage of a police officer standing over a fallen Stephens and calling for back-up was posted on YouTube.

Vogel was startled at how quickly the story spread. “Suddenly, Rolling Stone and these publications that wouldn’t have given us the time of day were ready to hear our side and hear what actually went on,” he said. “It was intriguing how it all exploded. It was everywhere. I didn’t realize how much time people spend getting information off computers.”

Overnight, websites and Myspace pages were created. Even yours truly received a number of e-mails from fans at Walter’s that evening, recapping the event. While all the support was encouraging, it had little effect on the outcome.

Vogel said musicians Sean Kohler and Andrew Kerwin of Trainwreck Riders eventually were forced to “settle” out of court. “They couldn’t afford to fight it any more,” he said, pointing to costs involved with lawyers fees and airfare. Both were charged with Class C misdemeanors and forced to write an apology to the City of Houston, despite having done nothing more than ask a police officer what was happening.

Vogel, however, fought the charges, flying to Houston to appear in court four times for what were essentially roll call appearances. Eventually, a new district attorney reviewed the case. “When she saw the footage and saw it was ridiculous, she threw the case out,” Vogel said. “The defense had thought that I was the guitar player and they were going to charge me for pushing the officer with my guitar. It was plain in the footage that I had no guitar in hand.”

On June 18, Two Gallants along with Trainwreck Riders returned to Walter’s for a free concert “to say thank you in our own humble way to the people who were there, who really supported us through the whole thing,” Vogel said. “One girl baked us a cake with prison bars on it and put a nail file in the middle. One random fellow who never heard us before gave us a card with 20 dollars each telling us how much he admired what we were doing.”

In retrospect, Vogel said the incident left him with a sense of dread over what could have happened, and what happens every day to those who don’t have the means to defend themselves. “It’s a big, invisible machine,” he said of the justice system. “It was a very large learning experience to see how it works, how people might get lost in the bureaucracy once its set in motion, and what could happen to those who don’t have the kind of support we had.”

According to their Myspace page, Noise FM cancelled their appearance tonight at Sokol. One Percent still lists them on their site, however. Doesn’t matter, because everyone’s going to that show to see Bazooka Shootout anyway. Also on the card, Ric Rhythm and the Revengers and Anatomy of a Riot. $8, 8 p.m.

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