Growing popularity of singer-songwriter leaves longtime fans nostalgic for intimate house show performances
Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter Alex G, formerly (Sandy) Alex G, has always been near and dear to my heart. However, a sold out Alex G show is not the same as 10 years ago.
If you were driving around town with me this summer, you probably had to tolerate me playing either “Runner” or “Forever” on repeat. I was introduced to his music after his album “Rocket” was released in 2017. The chaotic and eerie folktronica tracks left me yearning for more. At the end of the tumultuous 2020, my annual Spotify year-in-review notified me that I made it to his top 0.01% of listeners. I took this news with great honor.
At age 11, Alex G learned how to play his brother’s guitar and quickly started making music. His career started with DIY self-releases uploaded onto the online audio platform Bandcamp. Alex G has gained popularity in the past two years on the social networking app TikTok with his songs “Sarah” and “Treehouse.” Most recently, Alex G scored the film “We’re All Going to World’s Fair.” On Sept. 23, Alex G released his ninth studio album, “God Save The Animals.” The album invokes religious themes similar to that of Christian rock music.
On Oct. 17, the McMenamins Crystal Ballroom hosted Alex G. The paintings occupying the venue walls paired well with his backdrop of the birds from the album cover of “God Save The Animals.” As a minor, I defaulted to the under-21 section, predominantly filled with high schoolers and the occasional dad. Right before the show started, I started a conversation with three girls a tad younger than me. A girl named Emmy was just as stoked to be at an Alex G concert as I was.
The show opened with “S.D.O.S,” and the crowd sang along to the lyrics: “God is my designer, Jesus is my lawyer.” The track lyrics juxtaposed with an alternative, electronic beat felt out of place, but ‘out of place’ is how Alex G’s music works. Hearing and performing these songs live seems similar to a circus act. His music is intricate, extending beyond the parameters of what music is ‘supposed to be,’ and always has you anticipating the type of show he will put on.
The most unhinged part of Alex G’s set was when he played his song “Brick.” I try to avoid moshing for the sake of my physical health. Yet, this was unavoidable given that I was close enough to the stage. Throughout the night, Alex G’s amplifier was causing hell, so his sound engineer, Steve, came to the rescue on many occasions. Alex G paid tribute to Steve by playing “Bobby,” a song whose narrator personifies his depression to his lover.
While this was my first time seeing Alex G live, though probably not the last, I felt disconnected from him and his band. Unfortunately, I feel more connected to his performances at previous festivals that I have watched on my computer screen. Sure, breaking the fourth wall can be difficult for live musicians, especially as they grow in popularity. What made Alex G and his band so special for me was that he started playing intimate, live house shows, just like the sets I see my friends play. I guess that was what I was expecting. My biggest lesson as an Alex G fan and a fan of other DIY musicians is to please appreciate your local music scene or musicians that have yet to receive mass attention.