Alex G at the Ché Café: A Night of Quiet Brilliance

Bedroom Pop Icon Performs with Porches & Your Friend

Alex G croons at the Che Cafe (Raymond Arevalo / The Triton).

It’s 7:30 P.M. when I walk into the Ché Café and see that the first band, Your Friend, has already taken the stage. The swirling wall of sound envelops the audience, who rock back-and-forth to the drone of reverb-soaked guitar and velvety vocals of front woman Taryn Miller. Tracks like “Gumption” begin quietly and swell into dense, dreamy anthems. Between songs, Miller pokes fun at their tourmates, Porches, and offers short anecdotes about the band’s past.

Porches are up next, and the mood shifts dramatically: thumping bass and twinkling guitars turn the Ché into an 80’s dance party, while charismatic singer Aaron Maine encourages everyone in the room to move their bodies. The set begins with tracks off their latest album Pool,  an atmospherically sparse foray into indie electronic, as the band glides effortlessly through the melancholic grooving of “Mood” and excites the audience with their popular hitBe Apart.”

After nearly every song, Maine engages in a surreal comedy routine — he informs us briefly of his run-in with Walter, a strange bank worker who he met earlier that day, and the joy which a local garden’s plants had brought him. Porches’ playfulness on stage contrasts their often gloomy subject matter, like in the song “Hour:”

 

“In my loner hour / I turn to my twin bed for power / Like a swimming pool / Even alone it gets me wet and cool.”

 

Halfway through the set, they shift to the expansive, distortion-heavy songs from their 2013 debut record Slow Dance in the Cosmos. The dark, moping vibes of “Skinny Trees” are injected with the same danceable energy as their earlier songs, and after a round of applause the room falls quiet in anticipation of the next piece. Porches’ performance captures both solitude and togetherness, offering introspection alongside infectious songwriting and energy.

Alex G (Alex Giannascoli) and the rest of his band then take the stage. The lead guitarist tinkers with his pedals and microphone, and the drummer drags a hi-hat from behind the stage door, the speakers pulsating with a schizophrenic punk song that even Siri can’t identify. The mood shifts yet again: Giannascoli’s music is special and everyone in the room knows it. The band saunters from a quick opening tune into “Kute,” where Giannascoli sings, “I think you’re kute / I’ll keep you in the cellar / Show you to the children / Kill me after dinner.”

If you’re unfamiliar with the prolific 23-year-old, his recent streak of albums — Beach Music, Trick, and DSU — are some of the best that lo-fi indie rock has to offer. The distorted warbling of “After Ur Gone” is reminiscent of 90s indie rock pioneers Pavement and Built to Spill, while “Bug” channels the Midwest emo of American Football.

Although his music is steeped in the aesthetics of the 90s, his work never seems derivative or contrived: the style arises naturally from his own experiences and the messages he wants to convey. Beneath the layers of weirdness, the idiosyncratically strained vocal delivery and noise that would make Sonic Youth proud, Giannascoli writes music that is quietly brilliant.

On the stage, they perform vignettes that capture the essence of being twenty-something and lost: “Boy” tells a story of stray dogs eating mud and reflects on “watch[ing] someone you know / turn into static company,” while “Harvey” talks about an imaginary young boy who Giannascoli treats like a son.

As he sings, he shifts between his feet and looks down at his pedals, and I imagine the bedroom where he records his music, perhaps a cramped attic space where light filters in through a small window on one side. The guitars are loud and sometimes grating but Giannascoli manages to caress each song with his trademark bedroom pop sensitivity, and it seems like he is performing for nobody other than himself. The honesty in his music gives it a sort of timelessness, an intimate and engaging look into his thoughts that anyone can relate to and experience on a deeper emotional level.

The grouping of these three bands, who have been on tour since February and will continue to play shows around the U.S., creates the perfect balance of energy. The churning shoegaze of Your Friend, danceable melancholy of Porches, and warped rock of Alex G complement each other well and create a special show that nobody in the audience is likely to forget.

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