ACL Fest 2017: (Sandy) Alex G bewilders and shines

Recurring thought from a Friday afternoon spent watching (Sandy) Alex G singer Alex Giannascoli deliver this vocals through a teeth-clenched snarl: “This guy is going to kill his voice if he’s not careful.”

There was nothing lacking in Giannascoli’s performance vocally, but his vocal style is the kind that originates in the back of the throat rather than the diaphragm. And if you want proof of how well that approach works, check on Adele and her strings of missed concert dates in recent years due to vocal problems.

Alex G. performs during weekend one of the 2017 Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park Oct. 6, 2017.
Erika Rich for American-Statesman

Time will tell if Giannascoli’s voice can hold up or evolve, so for the moment we’re left to judge his band’s sturdy if occasionally head-scratching performance near the start of this year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival. On the band’s acclaimed new album “Rocket” they deliver blissed-out, often-messy folk rock not far removed from Bon Iver or Devandra Banhart.

What come off on stage, however, was a more brooding and deliberate-sounding mix, with guitars that seemed lifted from the stare-at-the-floor early days of Pavement or other early ‘90s indie rock heroes. “Proud,” a clear highlight from the latest album, bubbled above the barely above 80 beats per minute shamble of the rest of the set and sounded playful throughout.

Not that it was all serious. For a time it looked like the keyboard stationed at the front of the stage was only there so Giannascoli could pull up preloaded up-tempo EDM beats while the band tuned its guitars.

Marla Ellis of Toronto Canada head bangs to Alex G. during weekend one of the 2017 Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park Oct. 6, 2017.
Erika Rich for American-Statesman

The singer did take to the keys for the effects-laden and angelic “Sportstar,” which clocked in at somewhere close top 10 minutes and saw Giannascoli’s keyboard lines mingling with the band’s second guitarist before devolving into a wash of noise for its finish.

It all was a lot to process.

Giannascoli has been lauded in recent years as a gifted and dynamic songwriter. There were flashes of promise and a distinctive voice on display on Friday, but in terms of focus and showmanship in a sunny outdoor setting, he’s got some distance to go.


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