Photos by Julia Leiby for DCMD
(Sandy) Alex G, Japanese Breakfast, and Cende played to a packed house at Rock and Roll Hotel on Friday; a mere two weeks after the release of Rocket, the headliner’s eighth full-length. As arguably one of the more anticipated events at the venue this month, tickets to the first show on the tour sold out quickly.
Cende, a punk four-piece from Brooklyn, played a brief but heavy set to begin the evening. Their thunderous, guitar-driven sound served as an interesting juxtaposition to the evening’s other acts. Walking the line between deliberate and rowdy, Cende’s opening was the perfect kind of music to get the crowd excited for what was to come.
No stranger to Rock and Roll Hotel (this was her fourth time performing there), Michelle Zauner, aka Japanese Breakfast, produced dreamy bedroom pop with sugary vocals. With the backing of her perfectly in-sync band, Zauner bounced weightlessly across the stage in Doc Martens boots, belting an array of tracks off her debut album, Psychopomp, as well as a few new songs from her forthcoming record, Soft Sounds from a Different Planet. In what is perhaps one of the strongest elements of Zauner’s music, Japanese Breakfast’s repertoire tackles topics as personal as grief and as taboo as sexuality while maintaining the project’s upbeat, airy sound.
A naturally magnetic force on stage, (Sandy) Alex G’s performance style is as unique as the multilayered and complex music he creates. When he plays, it is easy to forget you are part of a sizeable audience at a “real” venue, as opposed to someone’s secluded basement.
Switching between his guitar and keyboard, (Sandy) Alex G played almost every song off his latest release, transitioning into each song seamlessly. He only stopped to occasionally thank the audience for attending, but didn’t engage in much conversation. His performance of “Bobby,” the first single off Rocket, got a big reaction from the crowd as they sung along.
As his set appeared to draw to a close, (Sandy) Alex G announced, “I’m gonna tone it down. Then, we’re gonna play our last song, then we’re gonna play an encore after that.” This had everyone laughing–even the band and those on the side stage.
He wrapped up the original set, briefly departed the stage, then returned to a roaring crowd. “Now we’re on Total Request Live, so if you have a request we’ll play it,” he announced. All of the songs requested were, unsurprisingly, older favorites, including a solo acoustic version of “Sarah,” from 2015’s Trick.
(Sandy) Alex G is an indie musician, but it can be easy to forget that with the consistent mainstream acclaim his music receives. Seeing him perform in a small venue like Rock and Roll Hotel serves as a refreshing reminder that despite his overwhelming success, at the end of the day he is simply an artist in its purest, rawest form.