Alex G plays Brooklyn Steel
Trying to figure out the indie rocker who awakens yearning in creative directors, ethical non-monogamists and Josh Hawley staffers.
The other day, through a mutual acquaintance–an heir to the Reynolds Wrap fortune, if you must know–I stumbled upon the Spotify profile of Josh Hawley’s communications director, who, I was titillated to learn, is a down-the-middle Pitchfork-core listener. Like, we’re talking about a guy marching up the steps to Capitol Hill, clocking in and finishing up a speech about how Ibram X. Kendi is turning Missouri schoolchildren into communist furries while absolutely locked in on the entire discographies of everyone in the Times’ Women Are Making the Best Rock Music Today package. He loves BNMs, hates BLM.
It goes without saying that, of course, that his playlists were full of Alex G, whose ascension to the pinnacle of indie rock stardom feels, in retrospect, like it took the decade that it did, but also like it happened with startling suddenness. I woke up one day and this random guy had a VICE documentary about him and his friends; I woke up a few years later and he was playing guitar for Frank Ocean; and then I woke up this year and suddenly God Save The Animals was everywhere, the indie rock album du jour, and he had a three-show run booked at Brooklyn Steel.
But in the interim, it felt, I hadn’t really heard any… songs? It was like the Illuminati had forced Mac Demarco to resign his position as softboy president and retire to Silver Lake, or wherever, and had installed this unelected Alex Giannascoli character.
I went to Brooklyn Steel on Friday night to try and figure out what this guy’s about. A friend I texted described his music as “tender normcore.” His music “makes me want to be in a long term monogamous heterosexual relationship,” she said. The guys I met at One Stop Beer Shop, the bar around the corner from Brooklyn Steel, likewise professed Alex G’s aptitude at writing about the coziness of hegemony: “he writes about white male rage in an acceptable way,” one creative director said.
As he got on stage, Giannascoli wasn’t talking much–his communication with audience was terse. Near the very beginning he launched right into “Runner,” the lead single from God Save The Animals, and the band was tight and he sounded great singing, it actually sounded just like the record.
“They hit you with the rolled up magazine,” is one of my favorite lyrics this year, and I’m not alone, it’s the most replayed part of the Youtube video for “Runner.” I think it’s about the feeling of being pent up, unable to release some libidinal urge that would make you whole because of some external threat–we’re the titular animals, you see. It’s like a real white boy’s lament, the kind I like, about feeling misunderstood and judged. There’s a refrain that he repeats until he screams, that goes “I have done a couple bad things,” and another lyric says “I like people who I can open up to / Who don’t judge for what I say, they judge me for what I do.” I think that’s what people were getting at re: Alex G’s appeal, is this… honesty, I guess. But it leaves me confused, personally, people never really just come out and say who’s holding the magazine, so to speak, what, exactly, everyone feels like they’re being held back from. Maybe you should just let those urges out? It sounds like everyone actually agrees with you, at least all the Alex G fans.
Before I knew it, “we’re gonna play two more songs and then do the encore,” Giannascoli announced (the concert in between was fine). Then he played "Miracles," the song about having a kid, which I also really like. He did this kind of intense, nearly-cringey country twang that made me think of this UVA college radio kid trying to write stuff that'll resonate with Josh Hawley voters, trying to escape the stifling trappings of your actual self, acting out an imagined other to get closer to how you really feel.
Wow, I was really on a roll there for awhile updating the blog every week, and then I crashed and burned. I’m gonna try to get back to that, starting with this kind of half-baked musing. I’ve got some How To Parties in the pipeline I think you guys will like.
In the interim I got a lot of new subscribers even though I wasn’t updating, I think because Michelle Lhooq is recommending me on Rave New World, so shout out to her.
Also, there’s another nightlife newsletter I’ve started reading that I think New York people might like, You Missed It by Joe Kerwin, and Michael Crumplar’s blog is great, and some other stuff I can’t remember right now, and there’s generally just been a lot of cool, promising nightlife writing, and I want to start contributing to that.
Alex G plays Brooklyn Steel