Philadelphia native Alex G (Giannascoli) does not cut the most auspicious figure as he enters the humble Harley stage. Disarmingly normal looking with a face hidden by a baseball cap. He looks more like your kid brother who’s bunking off school and trying not to be noticed than an indie prodigy with a stack of albums already under his belt – Trick (2012), Rules (2013), DSU (2014), and Beach Music (2015) – he’s built a cult following who are well represented tonight at The Harley.
It’s ‘Boy’, dropped early in the set and cut from 2014’s remarkable DSU that really shows off Gianaccoli’s knack for the lost art of the hook. It’s his USP – a gifted ear for melody which sets him apart from the other Bandcamp bedroom superstars. When he finds that sweet spot, which he does tonight with precision, it’s as satisfying as driving through green light after green light after green light. ‘Salt’, the centrepiece of 2015’s Beach Music is anaesthetised to a far slower pace than on record. It’s Weezer’s ‘Sweater Song’ gone weird, and live it feels like a song under constant threat of coming undone at the seams.
Watching him writhe and move around the microphone like a fish out of water, he gives off a rawness that is totally for real and incredibly refreshing to watch. ‘Bug’ live sounds exactly like that lost 90’s anthem you would discover on MTV’s 120 minutes in the early hours. And his slacker rock credentials are boosted further by a glorious version of ‘Kicker’. It’s the songs played tonight from 2012s Trick (remastered and re-released last year along with Rules) that go down especially well. The band is taut and functional, leaving Gianaccoli freedom to take the reins and shine.
He is an artist who invites lazy comparisons – the YouTube comments for recent single ‘Kicker’ have connections made to usual slacker rock touchstones such as Grandaddy, Pinback, and Pavement, but where in the Rules does it say you can’t do it better than all of those you are clearly inspired by? It’s the Elliott Smith plugged-in vibe which is perhaps the most unavoidable, but tonight he really proved that his prodigious talent is deserving of such lofty comparisons.
The band wrap up with a knowing cover of Blink 182’s ‘What’s My Age Again?’ An irresistible reminder of the fact that with six albums already under his belt by his early 20’s, this boy wonder’s potential is scary. So much for those lazy millennials.