The Sinclair’s show this Thursday may have not been sold out, but the crowd there could have fooled you into thinking otherwise. With indie rock criers Alex G opening for synth rock group Gardens & Villa, a sizable crowd made no effort to hide their excitement for the soon-to-be unfolded sets. Meek diehard softies were lined up next to hair-flipping dancers, the two sets of fans finding peace despite the different sounds. No one summed it up better than Gardens & Villa’s Adam Rasmussen: “You guys are good. Are you having fun? Clearly. You are fun.” Summarized it best
Dubbed “The Internet’s Secret Best Songwriter,” opener Alex G found himself scrambling in his newfound fame this year. The North Philadelphian singer-songwriter, whose full name is Alex Giannascoli, took the stage with his eponymous four-piece Alex G, stringing otherwise intimate indie folk songs with the pulse of a soured heart. Choosing a setlist from the hundred-plus songs he’s released over the years can be difficult, but his set flowed with the structure of a proper album, including hits “Hollow” and “Mary”. Their entire set was sunny with a side of sarcasm. The four boys, donning noticeably greasy locks, rolled through Elliott Smith sadness with loose smiles and comical stances, but every time Giannascoli screamed into the microphone, his rigid body shook with utter seriousness. Alex G didn’t just live up to the blog buzz hype — he exceeded it.
Back in 2011, Gardens & Villa were caught in a similar ebb and flow. Their excellent self-titled debut saw blogs waving their arms and bowing down in praise. It was the first time a flute had made its way into songs without being pretentious, and no one could get over the seamlessness at which Gardens & Villa wound it into their music. Three years later, it’s still a logical fit that feels fresh on follow-up Dunes.
Opening track “Domino” and the twisted “Bullet Train” slithered with Chris Lynch’s flute playing, becoming more tropical live. “Black Hills” vibrated with the misty allure of its recorded self, echoing out like a venomous dream, inviting even with its dangerous trills. Outside of the studio, their sound became more striking, less rounded. The synths never felt like the unimaginative pounding of the ’80s. Instead, the very instrumentation that makes them magical floated with a jagged lightness live.
Come the end of the evening, the five piece went through several more new numbers with excellent fluidity. Chris Lynch, Adam Rasmussen, Levi Hayden, Shane McKillop, and Dusty Ineman never once felt the need to rush. It seems blog hype doesn’t always lead to a rise and fall. If the cards are played right, the only direction you can go is up. Gardens & Villa are talented enough to follow that route.
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