Domino don't have many missteps in their record of signees. Three years into their third decade, their roster only continues to shine more impressively with time. All of that rings especially true for the label's more recent American indie rock signings, of which tonight's sold out Vera Project spectacle showcased three. Your Friend, Alex G, and Porches all show off a very different set of musical chops, but as the night goes on, there's a very distinctive similarity between the three: youthful, raw ambition, with no endgame in sight where sound or inspiration may end. In the last few years, all three of these artists have undergone immense growth and maturity. For Your Friend, it was the breakout melancholy of 2014's Jekyll/Hyde into this year's well-rounded beauty, Gumption. For Alex G, last year's Beach Music, his first LP for Domino, shows off massive evolution from his days of self-publishing. And with Porches, the space in between 2013 debut, Dancing in the Cosmos, and this year's Pool feels like lightyears. Tonight, all three of these acts put down excellent sets, all as well received as they deserved. For three Domino bands who will all be headlining on their own in a short time, it was a pleasure to see them once more in a small room packed with fans, all waiting to see what's next.Alex G is one intense dude. You may not get the impression listening to the lazy dorm room haziness of DSU or the lofty, swirling melody of Beach Music, but in person, Giannascoli shows his stripes. At the far end of the stage, Alex hunches over the microphone, swaying nervously, out of time with the song, strumming along and pushing every line through his teeth. Even in the lightness and melancholy of his melodies, you can hear the influence of songwriting greats: Elliot Smith, Doug Martsch, and the like. It's a good crowd to run with, especially when the hushed anxieties of the millennial age have, with some exceptions, yet to be spun in such a likeness. Giannascoli isn't preachy - he balances the gravity with a lot of playfulness between songs. But behind the messy hair and the goofy smile, there's a lot going on in there. Seeing Alex live, you don't exactly get more of a window inside, but you do realize that you aren't missing any pieces that others have. Alex G is an ongoing mystery, one that only gets richer over time. And while we all have questions - about Alex, about the music, about our lives and the world - he'll keep pumping out gold for us to contemplate to, all with lush melody and a reverent balance of the light and the heavy.
Where Alex G finds himself caught in between the weight of the world and a life of leisure, Porches (Aaron Maine) finds himself tripping through one cosmic reality after another as gracefully as the rest of us. Both his LPs are ripe with youthful lust and haphazard sexual exploration, as well as plenty of questions about the workings of the world. It's this similarity that perhaps draws the quickest similarity between Maine and Giannascoli: a dissatisfaction with status quo and a keen way to churn that feeling into a melody. From there, they choose to do things in radically different ways. Where Giannascoli takes a crunchy, lo-fi approach, Porches' Domino debut Pool is a crystal clear dive into pop bliss. One sparkling melody after another, Maine sings us into lovely melancholy, wondering where the passion of youth fades in the sunset.
Thankfully, much like Giannascoli before him, Maine lets the gravity of his recorded materials wane a bit in the live setting. Before launching into the cool disco groove of "Braid", a somewhat somber burner about the quick replacement of love and rebound, Maine turned to the extremely quiet crowd. "You guys gotta get turnt up!!!!" he screamed, the band chuckling at his tongue-in-cheek gesture. I don't think the lack of crowd noise at the Vera had anything to do with a lack of excitement - just a deep respect for the acts on the stage and a tangible feeling of awe permeating through the packed out room. For their closer, Porches successfully got the crowd to lay on the ground and Maine played the whole song from the crowd, also laying on the ground. This is the kind of stuff. The lovely lack of spilled beer everywhere at the Vera makes magic like this possible. Altogether, I don't think fans of these bright new acts would have had it any other way - a one-time only opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the most potential in the songwriting game today.
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