Reviews

What the Toll Tells

Author: Amy Phillips
10/17/2006 | Pitchforkmedia.com | www.pitchforkmedia.com | Feature
When Pitchfork reached Two Gallants on the phone yesterday to talk about the fiasco at their Houston, Texas show on Friday night, singer/guitarist Adam Stephens and drummer Tyson Vogel sounded tired, angry, and slightly bewildered. And they have every right to be.

"It's been a confusing few days," Stephens said. "I guess I'm getting over feeling absolutely powerless in a so-called free and democratic society. It's a sobering feeling to have the law be completely lawless, and feel like there's absolutely nothing I could do. I think everyone there that night felt the same."

Quick catch-up: On Friday night, the Saddle Creek band headlined a show at the Houston club Walter's on Washington. Trainwreck Riders and Langhorne Slim opened. After receiving a noise complaint, the Houston Police Department sent officer G.M. Rodriguez to the club. Rodriguez took the stage as Two Gallants played, and demanded that the band stop performing. When they refused, a melee ensued. Rodriguez shot several people with a Taser gun, and there were numerous arrests. Vogel and Trainwreck Riders vocalist/guitarist Andrew Kerwin and bassist Sean Kohler were arrested and spent the night in jail. Stephens was Tasered, but escaped.

On Sunday, the Houston Chronicle reported that HPD Sgt. Nate McDuell claimed that Rodriguez had been attacked and had acted out of self-defense. Stephens and Vogel said that was far from the truth, and explained their side of the story.

"We were in the middle of a song and there was kind of an instrumental section of the song between verses, and I go over near Tyson with my back to the side of the stage where my microphone was, so I had my back to the whole right side of the stage, facing Tyson," Stephens said, setting the scene. "I might have been down on my knees or something. But when I turned around to sing the last verse, this cop was there.

"I think he was getting on the stage right when I was turning around. Had a flashlight in his hand and it was turned on, he was pointing it at me and walking towards me and yelling at us to stop. And I questioned him--I don't remember my exact words, but I don't think it matters. I asked 'why?', or said 'what's the problem?' just wanting to have some explanation, which I think I'm lawfully due. And I questioned him once and he didn't give me any answer, he just yelled at me to stop again. And I think I questioned him one more time.

"I wasn't rude about it. I had no idea what was going on. I had no idea if there was some huge problem, maybe he needed to evacuate the building for some reason. I didn't immediately think this was an antagonizing situation, but I wasn't about to stop just because he said 'stop.'"

Vogel was equally confused. "I just looked up, and there was this huge guy shouting at Adam. I didn't know what he was doing."

Stephens continued, "He didn't give me any explanation after me asking twice. This all happened in a matter of seconds. And at that point, he simultaneously put his arm around my guitar and around my neck and threw me down to the ground. And Tyson was there immediately. As far as I remember Tyson was there pretty much when he grabbed me, because Tyson jumped over his drums. And he threw Tyson down immediately as well, and was on top of both of us trying to do something--I don't know what his intention was."

According to McDuell via the Houston Chronicle, Stephens "used a sexual obscenity and shoved the officer with his shoulder."

"There's no way I shoved him at all," Stephens said. "I think anyone with a little bit of reason, if you just picture the situation, we're there to play music, not to attack police officers. We're playing music and a cop comes in, we had no idea what was going on, why in the world would we immediately attack a police officer for walking into a venue while we're playing? We're not on tour to take down law enforcement. It's just ridiculous to me that someone would make up that rumor, because why would anyone do that? He completely took the first offensive move by throwing us to the ground."

Vogel said, "I never pushed that guy. Neither did Adam. We were just so confused about what was going on. We didn't have time to be angry or want to start a fight."

"All I remember being on the ground was trying to get back up," Stephens continued. "I didn't swing at him. I remember trying to push him up off of us, because there was no reason we should have been on the ground. We didn't do anything at all! I still feel like it's in my right to defend myself if I feel like I've done absolutely no crime. I didn't swing at him, I didn't do anything in any way to attack him. But I think we were doing what anyone would have done in that situation, just trying to get back up, try to get back our footing."

The Chronicle also reported that Rodriguez "suffered bruises and cuts on his arms," which Two Gallants deny. "He had blood on his shirt, but that was from me," Vogel explained. "I cut myself a lot when I'm playing, so my hands were bleeding when he pushed me. And when we were down at the jail, waiting for everything to be processed, we saw him hanging out, going about his business, and nothing was wrong. He wasn't hurt at all."

As soon as Rodriguez wrestled the musicians to the ground, their crew members and fellow performers reacted. "Immediately a bunch of our friends rushed the stage and pulled him off of us somehow," Stephens said. "I don't really think there was any other way that we could have gotten back up. That guy was huge, and we're skinny little indie rocker kids. It's not like we go to the gym, and we definitely couldn't take this guy on in any way. He was a big dude and he was on top of us, pretty much had us down."

Then, all hell broke loose.

"We were completely confused, I had no idea what was going on. And I remember at that point a lot of yelling back and forth at each other. And then our tour manager Moses is pushing us away and standing between us and the cop and trying to calm the situation down. And a lot of kids were yelling at the cop and all this kind of stuff.

"For some reason, the next thing I remember, he was walking towards the corner of the room, and he was pushing this kid and took out his Taser and started Tasing this kid in the corner, and shoving him against the corner."

"He was really focused on this one kid, who was really young," said Vogel. "I think he was fourteen years old. He kept Tasing him over and over again. The kid started having convulsions or something. It's so crazy. You can kill somebody with one of those things."

Stephens continued, "When we saw this, a bunch of us ran over there to at least try to distract him from picking on a totally innocent teenage kid. He turned around and upon seeing a lot of us there, he was kind of frightened a little bit. He thought we were attacking him, but we were just defending this one kid. At that point he turned around and saw Moses and he Tased Moses a couple of times in the chest, and he saw me and he pointed at me, and said something like 'Get down on the ground, you're going to jail' and he Tased me a couple of times in the stomach. It didn't hurt that bad, I think he had it on a low setting, but anyway, I backed off."

Confused and frightened by the melee, Stephens ran out of the club.

"Everything after that, it's pretty much what other people have told me," he said. "I can't speak for anything else that happened. I spent the night running away. I spent the next forty minutes running through pitch black streets in Houston. I just didn't know where I was going. Eventually some really nice kids found me, they went biking out to look for me, and they found me and called their friend to pick me up, and put me on the ground in the back of their car and drove me to another friend's house and kept me there and let me relax and hid me for a little bit."

Vogel wasn't so lucky. Shortly after a phalanx of cops arrived to provide backup for Rodriguez, he was herded into a police car, where he sat for an hour and a half, watching countless arrests take place. (The scene is pictured in the photo at the top of this story.)

"They were arresting anybody who asked a question," Vogel said. "All these young kids who were at the show and just wanted to know what was going on, they got arrested."

Vogel, Kerwin, and Kohler spent the night in jail. The next day, they were each released on $1400 bail. Neither Vogel nor Stephens knew how many audience members were arrested.

Although the band plans to take some sort of legal action, they could not reveal what, exactly, that would be at this time. "At this point I don't know if I should say anything," Stephens said. "We're talking about it. Something's going to happen. It's definitely not over from our side."

Added Vogel, "This is about a larger truth. We're not trying to get something else out of it. We just want what's right."

In the meantime, fans have rallied around the band, collecting information on message boards and MySpace pages, with plans to attend a Houston City Council meeting to discuss the incident. To learn more, click here, here, and here.
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