Groovin’ and Movin’ with Ginger Root

The almighty algorithm often feeds us with an endless stream of familiar content that is only differentiated by slight variation. But once in a blue moon, we are suggested a true artist trying to break through the mold of normality. Ginger Root is one of these few artists who is well deserving of their time in the spotlight. The music video for their breakthrough single “Loretta” was heavily favored by the YouTube algorithm and pushed it into the feeds of thousands (including myself) who took notice of the unique blend of city pop, soul, funk, and elevator music. 

Ginger Root, the brainchild of Cameron Lew, has had a meteoric rise in the indie circuit. A mere seven months before their headlining show on November 17th at Observatory North Park, they were at the same venue opening for Hippo Campus in April. Ginger Root did not waste their opportunity as they put on a show to remember.

Ginger Root performing “Karaoke”

Every detail about their show seemed meticulously planned out by Lew. The stage setup, for example, added to the pseudo-VHS nostalgia evoked by their discography’s chunky synths and syncopated basslines. Two clear rear-projection televisions on both sides of the band created a stereo image with a small projection screen looming over the band in the middle. These screens were occupied by a live-feed from a cameraman who pranced around for the duration of the set. Ginger Root’s live band consisted of a trio with Lew singing and playing multiple keyboards at a time while accompanied by a drummer and bassist. Occupied by covering so much sonic ground through figuring out complex arrangements, the cameraman served as a strong foil (alike to those found in hip-hop live settings) to the band by dancing and keeping the energy flowing.

The concert opened with a news report from the fictional JOSN before the band launched into “City Slicker”. The most striking part of the curtain reveal was Lew’s decision to use two microphones; one being a red telephone and the other a conventional studio microphone. It served the music well however, as the limited frequency of the telephone allowed the verses to build tension while the regular microphone opened up the chorus. It was another example of Lew being conscious of the trio’s limited sonic abilities and compensating for it through simple solutions. 

As the night continued on, Ginger Root grew more comfortable and laid back deeper into the pocket. Tracks from earlier albums such as “Le Château” and “Karaoke” showcased the band’s versatility in style and groove. After the first batch of songs, the stage went dark and a commercial from the Ginger Root cinematic universe played as the band tuned. While the storyline was not as clear for the casual fan, it was still entertaining to watch and experience. The band was truly focused on creating an entire show experience for the concertgoer rather than simply playing for an hour and collecting their check. 

The highlight of the show was a medley of anime covers bookended by “Juban District”. The mashup was most likely prompted by Ginger Root’s covers of the Sailor Moon and Neon Genesis Evangelion themes which both went viral on TikTok. Immediately upon the transition from the second chorus of “Juban District” into “Tank!” (The Cowboy Bebop opening), the energy from the crowd surged and everyone began dancing. Bass player Dylan Hovis utilized every inch of his instrument as he played both basslines and guitar leads for this portion of the set; blistering solos mixed with head-bobbing grooves was a true spectacle to enjoy. Smooth, sudden transitions between songs kept the audience guessing which opening would be coming next. 

As the night came to a close, Ginger Root played a soft rendition of “Fly Too” followed by “Nisemo”. Lew, continuing with the motif of vintage advertisements, quieted down the crowd for a brief bit of banter where he wanted to thank the two sponsors of the show– the YouTube algorithm and fans in attendance. Lew then counted off the band and went into an energetic performance of “Loretta” and “Weather”. 

Ginger Root then went on to perform a special rendition of “Mahjong Room” for their encore. A lone spotlight shone on Lew as began the song using one of his synths as a drum machine and softly singing the verse. When the chorus came around, the other two members of his band strolled on stage before creating a grand instrumental entrance as the song transitioned back into the verse. The grooves were tight and the basslines were even funkier as the band beefed up the arrangement for the live setting. It seemed as if everyone in the crowd was bobbing their heads in sync, as if the band put them in a trance. 

Ginger Root’s set at Observatory North Park was truly one for the books. The attention to detail in every aspect of the show made the audience feel truly acknowledged and cared about; it went beyond the normal platitudes spoken by bands trying to fill empty space in between songs. After two successful EPs and a well-deserved headlining tour, the future is bright for Ginger Root.

Concert Review by Adam Remmers

Alvvays Concert Review

A dreampop resurgence has swept the music scene as of late. The sonic landscapes of classic bands such as My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins, Lush, and Slowdive have caught the attention of a younger generation who needs something to drown out their worries of a disgruntled society that is slowly falling apart. The chorus-laden, overdriven guitars that wash over the mix with their bombastic reverb; the steady drone of the ride cymbal that somehow cuts through the mix to steady the band; the anchoring root notes of the bass that perfectly compliments that kick drum; the soft, bittersweet vocal lines that are barely heard underneath the wall of sound– these are all hallmarks of the dreampop experience. Contemporary bands have taken this torch from their forebearers and made the genre pop-focused through an emphasis on danceability and vocal hooks. 

Two bands at the forefront of this resurgence, Alvvays and Slow Pulp, graced the stage at Observatory North Park on October 30th. Alvvays was touring in support of their latest album Blue Rev, which picks up where their sophomore album, Antisocialities, left off. The band finds themself settling into their own sonic territory with their meticulously crafted compositions that feature classic synth strings and soaring vocals. Blue Rev should be heralded as frontperson Molly Rankin’s magnum opus of power pop songs. The cliches of classic song structures do not hold down the album, but elevate it to a greater level of artistic achievement. Alvvays finds a way to reinvent the monotonous intro-verse-chorus formula into something fresh and exciting. 

Slow Pulp took the stage first and immediately grabbed the attention of the sold out crowd. They opened up their set with “Idaho” off of their latest album, Moveys, which showcased their signature sound. Singer Emily Massey’s overdriven, dark guitar tone perfectly complemented lead guitarist Henry Stoeher’s chimering, bright leads that floated on top of each arrangement. Massey’s vocals were spot on as well, gracefully singing the chorus hook of “I’m losing all the while” that made the crowd feel like they were elevating to an ethereal plane. 

Slow Pulp performing “High”

However, the highlight of their set was a heavy version of their biggest hit, “High”. The intro featured Massey alone in the spotlight gently singing and softly strumming the guitar, singing about the woes of consuming too much of an unnamed substance that has led to a state of anxiety and paranoia. Massey subtly trails off vocally before regaining herself to exclaim the main refrain “I just think I’m too high” which prompted the band to explode in sound. Drummer Teddy Matthews was hitting the cymbals with such force and intensity that he hovered high above his seat in the frenzy. The crowd couldn’t help but follow bassist Alex Leed’s lead of bobbing their head to the chugged downbeats of distorted guitar chords. All in all, Slow Pulp’s performance was extremely memorable and even rivaled that of the headlining act. 

Later in the night, Alvvays arrived and assumed their position on stage. With the musicians in the foreground, the back wall featured VHS projections of winding country roads and psychedelic imagery of distorted shapes that quickly moved across the background. Everything about the stage setup was so eloquently thought out and showed the lengths the band took in creating the best show possible. After a five-year hiatus, Alvvays has grown to understand their image and the best way to portray it in a live setting. 

The band opened up by playing the two lead singles from their latest release, “Pharmacist” and “After the Earthquake”, along with “In Undertow” from their sophomore album. From here, it felt like the band, along with the sound mixing, was finally settled in and the show was ready to begin. Rankin expressed her gratitude for the crowd and gave a brief praise for the city of San Diego before leading the band into “Very Online Guy”.

This performance was one of the best I’ve seen in my brief, yet dense, concert-going experience. Throughout the entirety of the song, Rankin crouched down to fiddle with a Memory Man pedal (a device that adds a modulated delay to the input signal, which would be Rankin’s vocals in this case) where she made drastic changes to her vocals. Foreseeing this move, the band attached a camera to the mic stand that projected a live-feed to the back wall, allowing the audience to understand why the vocals sounded so warped and otherworldly. In conjunction with this, Sheridan Riley’s post-punk inspired drumbeat, reminiscent of The Fall, drove the song with its awkward grooves. Lead guitarist Alec O’Hanley opted to play a synth in tandem with his bandmate, keyboardist Kerri MacLellan, rather than his usual Fender Jaguar for the song, adding to the 8-bit aesthetic. The ending featured Rankin suddenly putting her eye underneath the camera that added an additional level of commentary to her woes about reply guys. “Very Online Guy” showcases Alvvays at their best and the live performance felt surreal.

Alvvays playing “Very Online Guy”

The rest of their setlist was mostly songs from Blue Rev peppered with a few fan favorites from their first two albums. Alvvays did a great job at finding a way to have smooth transitions in between songs and avoiding the awkward silence that loudly presents itself during tuning breaks. Choosing to have the heavenly vocal-organ duo of “Fourth Figure” lead into restlessness of post-grad life in “Archie, Marry Me” is one of the many examples of the band’s attention to momentum when building their setlist. 

Alvvays capped off the night with an encore including “Atop A Cake” and “Lottery Noises”. During the former, a small mosh pit broke out in the middle of the crowd which garnered dirty looks from the band. Despite this, the band still seemed to enjoy their time on stage and make the experience worthwhile. Their memorable performance made attendants leave from smiles on their faces and positive chatter of how the band has truly come into their own.

Review by Adam Remmers

Alex G Concert Review

By Adam Remmers

On October 22, we had the pleasure of seeing Alex G live at the North Park Observatory. Alex G, a once underground artist with a cultish following that has now found mainstream success, was touring in support of his new album God Save the Animals. The album marks another change of form in the artist’s discography as Alex G dives deeper into the sounds of hyperpop, ambient, and jangle rock. In tandem with the impactful brevity of his lyrics, the album is a must-listen for all music fans and a contender for one of the year’s best.

Excitement filled the room as the crowd anxiously awaited Alex G to take the stage. People were chatting about what songs they were dying to hear; some ready to hear the live interpretations of new songs  such as “Ain’t It Easy” and others were eagerly hoping to hear deep cuts such as “Message” that would acknowledge the hardcore fans in attendance. Despite the mix between old and new fans, there was a sense of community among concertgoers. The deeply personal lyricism found throughout all of Alex G’s music served as a common thread for all to relate to. 

Alex G opened up his set with a faithful rendition of “S.D.O.S.”. A strong opener for sure, the hypnotizing piano melody locked in perfectly with the drummer’s tight groove and the bassist’s  simple, yet conscientious counterpoint harmonies. The whole crowd went wild when Alex G began to sing the main refrain, “God is my designer / Jesus is my Lawyer / Curled up in the Shower / High above the tower”. From there, the lead guitarist noodled on some chords before landing on the main progression for “Runner”. The crowd went wild as soon as they recognized the song and phones immediately shot up in the air. It was a masterful performance and you could tell Alex G was in the zone from the quick smiles he flashed in between vocal phrases. 

Alex G playing “Brick”

As the set continued on, the energy from the crowd fed into the band’s performance. Even in spite of the mellow nature of songs like “Judge” or “Mission”, the audience found a way to dance and sway to the steady drum beats and downpicked guitar melodies. When the band broke into one of their heaviest songs, “Brick”, there was a drastic change of pace. The lights quickly changed to a dark red hue as the lead guitarist played the abrasive opening riff. Suddenly, Alex G began banging on piano keys, focusing on creating a cacophony rather than harmony, and screaming into the mic. The energy was so high that Alex G was hovering above his piano seat which nearly knocked over the microphone and keyboard at a certain point. His wide range of artistry was on display with this chaotic juxtaposition of sound and performance. 

Another highlight of his set was the live rendition of “Gretel”. The sped up, autotuned intro played longer than the studio version, building up tension before erupting into the main riff. Alex G opted for doubled distorted guitars instead of an acoustic to give the song a heavier feel. Along with the crashing cymbals, the new arrangement felt as if the band was debuting a new song that was almost Pixies-esque with the loud-quiet-loud structure. 

The crowd was very much in the mood to dance, and two heavy mosh pits opened up quite early in the set. The rest of the show consisted of a great mix of old and new songs, and for the encore, he asked the crowd to yell out songs they wanted to hear, or hold them up on their phones. The singer-songwriter ended his set with a six song encore, playing older, more well-known songs like “Mary”, “Sarah”, and “Gnaw.” 

It was very exciting to see how far Alex G has come, as he continues to hone in his sound and vary his discography with each release. The instrumentation and production quality of this concert was very professional, and the music really stood out while still having the vocals mixed in a perfect amount. We are excited to see which direction Alex G will go next as he continues to blossom as a rising singer-songwriter in the music industry.