Alex G Brings his Strange Energy to White Oak Music Hall

Alex G, photo by Tonje Thilesen

Alex G stopped by Houston this past Tuesday as part of his most recent tour. He has spent the last decade not only creating inventive music, but also cultivating a unique fanbase and culture surrounding his music. Never taking himself too seriously, his fans are seemingly all as unserious and joking as he is.

As I approached the venue for his show, this carefree aura became apparent. It would be near impossible to bring negative feelings to an Alex G show; how serious could one be at a show that people are attending to hear songs named “Bug,” “Brick,” or “Cow”? “Cow” in fact was the subject of such fervor that my friend and I left the merch table utterly devastated to find they had sold out of the “Cow Tee” and “Cow Tote” well before even the opener went on. We arrived early to ensure spots right up front, and we were fortunate enough that I — a vertically-challenged man — could see the whole show clearly.

The opener for the Houston date was singer/rapper Exum. I was surprised to find that Exum was not a band. Opening his set with his single “Bad Chick Bad Dude,” he immediately established himself as very sonically distant from his tourmates. His energy was infectious, however, and it didn’t take much for the audience to get on his side. Every song was accompanied by a form of choreography that had the same effect on the crowd as a Guitar Hero solo.

There were certainly some exciting songs throughout Exum’s set, and his charisma was enough to carry his performance — even if one didn’t care for the music. The high point of his set, though, was the closing song, “Bad Dude Bad Chick,” a remix of the opening song by Siberian electronic duo Fochs Koshka. Suddenly, the Alex G show became a techno club for a brief period, to my great pleasure. If he were to release an entire project with the electronic production of this track, you’d definitely find me at Exum’s next Houston show.

After his set, the crowd had become more comfortable, as my friends and I began to strike up conversation with the people around us. One couple in front of us made us envious by showing us that they’d managed to secure both the elusive “Cow Tote” and “Cow Tee.” Two girls next to us asked about the record I had from the merch table, DSU, and we all pondered over theories of what the album’s title could stand for. Most interesting was Idan, an Israeli adventurer who was traveling all across America and seeing different artists on his stops. He was seeing Alex G before heading to Austin to see 100 gecs and later ending his trip in Seattle. I found it nice how Alex G’s music could appeal to those all over the world and unite strangers in a way I rarely see at shows.

Soon it came time for the man himself to take the stage. Entering the stage to the “Project 2” interlude from House of Sugar, the crowd’s excitement became palpable. This excitement was met with the intro to the much-loved “Gretel,” but instead of the track’s laid-back acoustic guitars and simple percussion were electric guitars and drummer Tom Kelly’s aggressive drum kit, turning the track into a hard-hitter.

Kelly would go on to carry much of the show’s energy on his back, adding a real electrifying element to the band’s performance. The band would go on to play “Southern Sky” and “Hope,” both two of the biggest and most beloved songs on House of Sugar, with “Hope” being particularly great to hear live.

Alex G in Bristol, Connecticut, photo by Naomi Williams

As is usually the case, Alex G pulled from his whole discography for this set. Anything from his over-a-decade-long career was fair game, including many fan favorites (like “Kicker” and “Kute”). The band played with the same high energy from song to song, for the most part refraining from speaking in between songs — until an animal noise from the crowd prompted Alex G to say “what kind of noise was that?” before immediately regretting his comment. He would later joke, “I don’t mingle with the crowd. Mingling with the crowd? Ugh.”

Every song was played with the same solid musicianship and passion as on the album versions, even for the songs that are now as old as children. A prime example of this was in six-year-old “Bug” from Beach Music. I’m biased as this one is one of my favorites, but I was ecstatic — along with many others — to hear its opening chords. There’s not much to say besides that it sounded amazing live and was the highlight of the show, personally.

Shortly after, the band went into Alex G’s uncharacteristically harsh song “Brick,” infamously known for turning his fans into animals at shows. Though the crowd remained at ease, a quick detour into manic music here was appreciated. However, it wouldn’t be an Alex G show if anyone knew exactly how it would go, and soon the crowd’s requests in between songs led to him and the band making an admirable effort to play the theme song from NBC’s Scrubs. An audience member also yelled for “Semi-Charmed Life,” which I thought was a dumb joke until some research showed that he had played the song on this tour and played almost an entire set’s worth of Third Eye Blind covers before that.

The rest of the set was as fun and solid as one would expect an Alex G show to be. His banter remained as awkward as ever, joking at one point “I got, not a positive COVID test, but let’s just say a false positive COVID test,” and later apologizing “sorry I joked about COVID. I shouldn’t joke about that.” We forgive you, Alex G. We forgive you. What I do not forgive Alex G for is lying to the crowd that, “That was our last song. We’re going backstage, and we’re definitely not coming back.” To the complete shock of his fans, they did, in fact, come back.

His tendency to lie to his fans was on complete display here as he played “Master” to start the encore, a song he had earlier told an audience member he wasn’t going to play. When he played the opening riff, his guitar player amusingly commented to the crowd that they hadn’t played this song in something like eight years, making it feel more like a jam session I would have with my band (albeit a far more talented jam session) than an actual concert performance. This rendition of the song was still fun and surely made the one audience member’s night.

The encore continued with some casual gaslighting from Alex G, telling a fan he had earlier dabbed up, “what are you talking about? I never dabbed you up. I never did that.” Gaslighting aside, what I enjoy about Alex G is his willingness to play random songs from his discography that his fans want to hear, unless you’re my friend who went ignored after requesting “Whale.”

He did, however, play a very special song: the eleven-year-old “Gnaw.” It’s astonishing that this song is as old as it is, as it sounds as if it could have been written for his last album. His evergreen musical style shows his virtuosity at the age of 17 and his still-youthful attitude at 28 (which I suppose is still a young age to most). There was a bit of a country spin put on it, too, which I’m sure my fellow Texans also appreciated.

Before the show was over, the band went into “Icehead” and finally “Brite Boy,” another Beach Music favorite of mine. By the end of the encore, there couldn’t have been an Alex G fan in the audience left displeased. All of his major releases were represented, and represented well. Even if he didn’t play some of his biggest songs, like “Sarah,” he played enough that his fans — and even those unfamiliar with his music — would have enjoyed the concert. I consider myself lucky that I got to see one of the great songwriters of our time in full glory. I encourage anyone who likes good music and has the chance to check him out on his remaining tour dates.

Dates on Alex G’s tour

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