(SANDY) ALEX G + JAPANESE BREAKFAST + CENDE @ THE ECHOPLEX
Photos by Joey Tobin Words by Zach Bilson
You could call (Sandy) Alex G one of the first true stars of the Bandcamp generation: after a slew of home-recorded albums on the fertile music site, 24-year-old Alex Giannascoli has amassed the kind of fanbase people can spend decades building up. His signing with Domino has definitely upped his exposure, but the crowd at the sold-out Echoplex had their ears planted to the underground – t-shirts ranged from death metallers Gatecreeper to noise-rap weirdo Lil Ugly Mane, and the young-skewing audience sang along to deep cuts from past records as well as his stunning new album Rocket.
The first half of the set focused heavily on new tracks, with kaleidoscopic tracks like “Powerful Man” and the hard-as-nails “Brick” translating beautifully to a four-piece rock band format, courtesy of Giannascoli’s superb songwriting. Part of his charm lies in his seeming reluctance to adapt to a rockstar image, instead hopping back and forth between guitar and piano as if the Echoplex was his basement jam session.
After a jazzy extension of Rocket closer “Guilty”, a walk-off and subsequent encore seemed imminent, though Giannascoli’s version was more blunt: “That’s the whole entire setlist…” he mumbled, convening with his band before breaking into fan favorite “Harvey”. The set wore on for another whole hour, romping through his whole catalog before finally ending in an overwhelming singalong for “Mary”. Even at 11:45 PM, you got the sense that the all-ages crowd could’ve stayed for twice as long.
Fellow Philadelphians Japanese Breakfast were direct support, although the heavy crossover audience made it feel like more of a co-headlining show. Singer/songwriter Michelle Zauner & co. played songs off of last year’s Psychopomp, giving grit and muscle to dreamy tracks like “Everybody Wants To Love You”, but the loudest applause went to singles from her upcoming Dead Oceans debut Soft Sounds From Another Planet – closing tune “Machinist” captivated the crowd with fluttering drum machines and surprisingly soulful auto-tune.
NYC punks Cende (pronounced “Send”, per singer/guitarist Cameron Wisch) opened the show with their proggy power-pop. They got the already-packed crowd jumping around and surfing early into the night, and ended their set with a guest appearance from Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner.