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Review: (Sandy) Alex G brings down the house (of sugar) at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall

November 18, 2019

(Sandy) Alex G in St. Paul on November 8th, 2019 

 

When (Sandy) Alex G and his band swaggered onto the Amsterdam Bar and Hall stage to the distorted computerized track “Gretel” last weekend, I was already grinning. The first note on electric guitar rang out and prompted the most intense head-bopping I’ve ever witnessed at a concert. There’s a lot of head-bopping competition at indie shows, where the average crowd is not known for their dancing skills, but this time I felt the venue shake under my feet. (Sandy) Alex G is well-loved, and for good reason.

 

You’ve probably heard (Sandy) Alex G’s music, whether you’re aware of it or not. The Philly-born 26-year-old released his eighth studio album this year, collaborated with Frank Ocean on Blonde, and has gained a devoted following from college radio DJs, music critics, and casual indie-lovers alike. His records have great range, from the dark rock album Trick (2015) to the folkier, violin-infused Rocket (2017) to his most recent electronic-inspired release, House of Sugar (2019).

 

One of many in the crowd, I could feel the high guitar riffs crystalize in the air, hanging above us like the constellations that glitter on the House of Sugar album cover. The record title is aptly named with the tinkered keyboard on “Crime” and the atmospheric lyrics to “Southern Sky” (“Let my memory run backwards / So together we may lie / I will remember the fire / In the southern sky”). House of Sugar is textured, built on the diverse musical styles that (Sandy) Alex G has experimented with over the years. However, the band lost warmth without a live strings player at the show, especially during “Bobby” and “Southern Sky.”

 

 House of Sugar (2019) album art 

 

The energy shifted when (Sandy) Alex G played “Brick.” “This is the song about the deep anger I feel in the inside,” he said solemnly, and the pit opened up. A lot of the people around me were men, so I decided to take a step back from the angsty mosh pit. Scream-singing “I know that you’re lying” from afar felt almost as good, though I always wish I felt safer in crowds (yes, this is possible- shout out to womxn and/or trans-fronted bands that set this expectation!). At the end of the set, singer-songwriter and opener Tomberlin came back on stage and restored some feminine energy with her vocal harmonies on (Sandy) Alex G’s “Bad Man, “Bright Boy” and “Change” (“How are you today? / I saw your friend's band play / A little show last night / It's not my thing they were alright”).

 

Tomberlin (left) joins lead guitarist Sam Acchione (right) for backup vocals

 

Overall, I had a lot of fun amongst the enthusiasm of the Sandy super-fans around me. The band seemed to be in high spirits too, as they graciously stuck around for a seven-song encore and to greet fans after the show. My friend scooped up a pin of the House of Sugar album art, a poised dancer in a red dress kicking up ice crystals with figure skates, before we headed out after midnight. If you see me walking around St. Paul’s snowy streets with headphones on this winter, I’m probably vibing to (Sandy) Alex G. I can’t help it, House of Sugar is calling me back.

 

Check out (Sandy) Alex G as well as openers Tomberlin and Indigo De Souza.

 

Setlist

Gretel 

Southern Sky

Hope

Bobby

Kute

Taking

Thorns

Black Hair

Near 

Bug

In My Arms

Brick

Bad Man

Mis

Walk Away

Crime

Sugarhouse

Encore

Piano Interlude (I couldn’t find the actual name of this song- apologies!)

When Ur Gone

Mary

Adam

Message

Bright Boy

Change

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