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Review: Alex G @ SWX

Josh Templeman reviews the latest Alex G gig at Bristol's SWX.

By Josh Templeman, Co-Deputy Music Editor

In an evening of vulnerability, raw passion and occasional goofiness, Alex G warmed hearts and relaxed minds as he performed to the enthralled sold-out SWX crowd.

Alexander Giannascoli, better known as Alex G, has spent the last decade or so crafting something truly special. The Philadelphia-born artist has curated a critically acclaimed discography that is unapologetically introspective, holding no restraint on its emotional content, whilst developing a unique lo-fi sound to match. In the process, he’s built up a cult fanbase; one that has followed him fervently on his journey from the isolated corners of the internet where he began, to his position now as the wannabe hipster’s second coming of Christ.

Alex G’s 2022 effort, God Save the Animals, appears to have seen the artist hit somewhat of a musical peak. A therapy session embodied in an album, Giannascoli wears his heart on his sleeve as he writes on his vulnerabilities, anxieties and emotions, but finds hope in a world of darkness, using his faith and ambitions as the seatbelt that keeps him strapped in safely through his ongoing journey in life. God Saves the Animals also sees Giannascoli explore new sonic domains, experimenting more with auto-tune to great success, departing from the lo-fi acoustic sounds he’s long become revered for.

God Save the Animals cover art. Credit: Domino Recording

Arriving at Bristol’s SWX touring the project, his popularity has never been more apparent. Unphased by the onslaught of the Bristol rain, fans queued from the entrance of the venue, curling round the corner all the way back underneath the tunnel of The Galleries, knowing the warmth of Giannascoli’s character would dry them off in no time. Once inside, the fabled halls of the iconic SWX were quickly lined by a sea of Doc Marten-wearing and corduroy-clad fans. Never in my life have I seen more fisherman beanies worn within the same four walls and I almost felt out of place having chosen not to don mine.

The night was kicked off by Momma, a California-based three-piece band inspired by the sounds of grunge and 90s alt-rock. Introducing themselves, they tentatively announce “How are you guys? We’ve never been to Bristol before so we’re really excited to be here”, with an endearing sense of nervousness choking their voices. However, any nerves were quickly put to bed, with raw vocals and intense guitar riffs quickly sending the crowd into a head-nodding trance. Following their performance, I can confidently say that Momma are one to watch.

With the stage washed in red lighting, Giannascoli emerges, opening by performing a particularly gloomy version of his track ‘S.D.OS’. Far more intense than the version on the album, with heavy guitar riffs and deafening drums, the performance deftly set the scene for the evening – this was going to be so much more than the dreamy, lo-fi sounds that Alex G has become known for. Without even introducing himself, he quickly moves on to other fan-favourites, such as ‘Runner’ and ‘Hope’, both of which have the crowd matching his energy, singing back each and every word.

In the thirty minutes that follow, Alex G remains relatively muted in his interactions with the crowd, occasionally interjecting between songs with a feeble “Thanks guys” or “This is nice” as he weaves through his discography. Performing with a seemingly effortless swagger, he alternates seamlessly between both the mellow and the experimental cuts from his catalogue, with punters enjoying the unexpected versatility and intensity to his sound. Before the set began, a girl stood nearby me jokingly exclaimed “We can definitely mosh to Alex G”, and whilst this was dismissed with a laugh, there were surprisingly points at which this would not have felt amiss.

Alongside his unique sound, part of what has aided Giannascoli in gaining such a cult fanbase is that he’s such a likeable character. Whimsical and goofy, this didn’t feel like a performance from a multi-million listener artist, but rather that of a friend that you’re so happy is doing well. I’ve often envied musicians’ ability to travel the world, visiting and exploring a new city on each day of their tour. However, Giannascoli clearly didn’t feel like doing that in Bristol, interjecting his set to chat to the crowd about how he’d spent his day watching the film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic film, but I truly do commiserate Alex for missing out on the chance to visit some of Bristol’s cultural hotspots, like Pryzm or the Cabot Circus branch of Nando’s. Of course, I say that in jest, but moments like this are a true testament to Alex G’s goofy yet endearing character.

As the set began to draw to a close, a highlight of the show was his performance of the track ‘Miracles’ from God Save the Animals . With heartfelt lyrics of his fear of parenthood and unhealed trauma alongside a raw delivery, the performance of the track is everything you could have asked for from an Alex G gig and this was reciprocated with a roaring applause following its completion.

Alex G Performs alongside a member of the crowd, Eliza. Credit: Josh Templeman

In what came as no surprise, mainly because he announced “Yeah we’re doing an encore” before actually doing it, Giannascoli and his band returned to the stage to deliver four more fan-favourite tracks following the gig’s seeming end. Playing ‘Mis’, ‘Crab’ and ‘Skipper’, this marked a more dulcet end to the show than one would often expect from an encore, but one that was much more representative of Alex G’s smooth and mellifluous sound.

However, surprisingly, perhaps the most heartwarming moment of the entire gig didn’t come from Giannascoli himself. Alex invited a member of the crowd, Eliza, up on stage to perform the final track of the night, ‘Change’, alongside him. Despite clearly being shaken with nerves, and who can blame her, she more than did the track justice, delivering an ethereal vocal performance that wouldn’t have felt out of place at a Phoebe Bridgers show. A truly wholesome way to send off the crowd into the gloomy Bristol night.

Featured image: Benji Chapman

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