Gig Review: Alex G

Posted: by Eli

“Can we just start whenever? Alright cool,” he said casually through his mic before gesturing to his bandmates and informally kicking into a minute-long deep cut off of his 2012 record “Trick.” Immediately after the song he paused for a few moments to tune his guitar and confirm the next song, killing any of the momentum they mustered through such an odd choice for an introduction.

However, conventions have never been something that Alex G concerned himself with. The 22-year-old multi-instrumentalist has released six albums, three EP’s and two armfuls of singles since 2010-all of which were self-recorded in his bedroom. He hardly ever posts on social media (unlike many of his contemporaries such as Elvis Depressedly and Teen Suicide), he’s historically anxious during interviews, and his unassuming demeanor makes him easy to mistake for any twenty-something with little regard for current fashion trends.

Therefore, the audience shouldn’t have expected anything less (or more, rather) from his opening. It was so characteristically Alex G. Simple, yet spot-on musically, and straightforward, yet strangely captivating. Throughout the night he maintained that aura of utter fascination through not only his tight musicianship, but also his astonishingly neurotic stage presence.

The man swayed back and forth, lifting the opposite foot off the ground with each exaggerated lean, throughout the entire set.  As he sung into the mic-which was positioned noticeably too low, requiring him to lurch forward in order to be heard-and visibly chewed gum between songs that he somehow stored in his mouth while singing, he still managed to annunciate clearly and play his guitar cleanly. The tightly packed room was easily 90 degrees and disgustingly humid, but he appeared to be comfortable in clunky, brown work boots, a pair of baggy blue jeans, a blank t-shirt, and a “dad hat” pulled tightly over his forehead that cast a shadow over the top half of his face.

His guitar was wired through only one effect pedal, but his guitarist stood above a board’s-worth that created a multitude of wonky noises that effectively replicated and/or made-up for the many synths and keys in G’s recorded material. Those came in handy during songs like “Salt” and “Bug” from his synth-heavy, Domino Records debut “Beach Music,” as well as the song “Memory,” which features a genuinely ear-piercing shrill midway through that was done justice by the shrieky distortion.

Along with the creative use of effects, his guitarist consistently peppered in shreddy solos that perfectly complemented G’s chord progressions. This added a sense of interpersonal chemistry to the live set that isn’t present on G’s recorded material-given that he plays every part himself. The rhythm section was impeccably tight as well, driving the songs along slightly faster and more aggressively than the recorded versions. This was best exemplified during the thumping “Kicker,” in which the bassist really drew out the first note of each measure and the drummer slammed on the cymbals making it thicker, grittier, and more urgent than on the record.

However, the most impressive aspect of the set was how spontaneous it was. The band was literally making up the set list as they went along and even taking screamed requests from the crowd. A large portion of the set contained songs from the fan-favorite “Trick,” such as “Forever,” “Mary,” “People,” and “So.” However, they unexpectedly played “Sarah,” “Adam,” and “Soaker,” which felt like a treat since they’re all bonus tracks from either Trick or 2014’s DSU.

Although much of the set list was random and they didn’t seem interested in sequencing or slick transitions (besides the smooth segue from “Forever” to “Mary,” which was sleek as hell) the band’s choice to end with the dreamy, “Beach Music” closer “Snot” was an excellent finale to the set. The second half of the song is completely instrumental and it gave the band the opportunity to slide into a groove and drift off gracefully-contrary to the charmingly choppy beginning to the performance.

The emotions that come with seeing your favorite artist for the first time can be overwhelming. Given your connection with the artist’s recorded music, you become inherently protective of the material-almost as if you inexplicably (and undeservedly) hold some sort of small stock in it. If it’s truly your favorite artist, you’ve been listening to their material for an extended period of time, and most likely link certain events or feelings to the music. Whatever the sentiments are that arise, you’ve developed a relationship with the artist and therefore carry a set of expectations for how you want them to sound, what you want them to play, and how you want them to appear as they perform live.

It can be a scary feeling because there’s so much room for disappoint. However, there’s nothing more satisfying than leaving that performance with not only your expectations met, but surpassed.