This concert was NOT what I expected (in the best way).

I’ve never before equated (Sandy) Alex G with any sort of intense experience. His music, especially with the addition of a fiddle on Rocket, always fell into my hazy classification of “indie folk.” That’s not to say his sound has never been experimental before (you only have to look to songs like “Brick” and “Horse” to see that). Rather, it’s to say that his dominant narrative has been calmer than what a first-person experience with his music creates. Perhaps such a divergence is conducted by the overwhelming popularity of songs like “Bobby” and “Sarah,” which rely less on the raw grit illustrated live.

My Sunday night experience with (Sandy) Alex G shattered any remnants of those perceptions. Seeming to know my misconceptions, (Sandy) Alex G played “Bobby” early to end any overwhelming hype for the song. Soon enough, his fiddle player left the stage and the rock hidden beneath his calm demeanor came out — much like, some might say, the drunken Alex that emerged from the body of a 25-year-old in a button-down.

Before long, the mosh pit overwhelmed the crowd. I saw a middle-aged man slowly get pushed to the back of the venue due to his inability to stand his ground. His lips were pursed in equal parts frustration at “kids these days” and confusion at how this happened at this concert. Honestly, me, too, on both fronts. However, I stood my ground and stayed with the experience, clutching my camera with one hand as I moved with the crowd’s passionate sway.

Staying proved to be the right choice. My camera and I both (miraculously) survived and were able to understand a realm of (Sandy) Alex G’s music that recordings can never give. The room was alive with nostalgic grit. Alex clenched his teeth and delivered Nirvana-reminiscent roughness. To fill space, he covered classics ranging from “Life is a Highway” by Rascal Flatts to “What’s My Age Again?” by Blink-182. The audience screamed along to these universally known throwbacks and used that same energy to shout Alex’s own songs as well. Even if you didn’t know all the words, the vibe entailed shouting whatever you did know and learning the rest as Alex performed.

The show was messy, for sure. The amount of other people’s sweat I had on me was appalling; Alex himself somehow slammed into the drumset and knocked it over; and I lost my friends in the crowd’s madness. Yet, despite and even because of these details, the show was one of the best I’ve been to this year. It’s rare to be part of a crowd that is willing to give so much to an artist. That energy created something raw and intangibly beautiful underneath the sweat and exhaustion.

At the end, Alex gave back to his enthusiastic crowd by taking song requests. Although earlier, he’d jokingly yelled, “Shut the fuck up!” at someone who asked for “Wonderwall” by Oasis, he honored the other requests. Bending to hear a couple of fans in the front row tell him what to play, Alex dove into a fan-driven encore. The last show of his tour concluded through the fans’ voice.

Even if you don’t view (Sandy) Alex G as the powerhouse I saw perform, it’s vital to know that he provides that for his fans. A show of Alex’s is a chance to run into friends in the crowd (shoutout to my Boston friends who I saw there!) and meet new people in the community. (Sandy) Alex G is the music community’s equivalent of a cult classic, and he knows it. Thus, his shows become audience-centric, his demeanor is as if he’s with friends, and the energy radiates as much from him as from the audience. A (Sandy) Alex G concert is a shared space to thrash your body on a Sunday night, forget your Monday worries, and listen to the music you love (or you’ll grow to).

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