Photo by HungerTV
After months of anticipation the show of the summer finally arrived! On July 30th, Casual Hex organized a spectacular show, featuring some big headliners. On the bill was Ottawa band Herons Wake, Canadian singer-songwriter Nicole Dollanganger, and American indie superstar Alex G. Knowing that the show could easily sell out, I bought my tickets in advance to assure I got a spot to see these bands perform. I wasn’t wrong! One third of the tickets had been sold before the date of the actual event. Gabba Hey!, the location of the show, hit capacity by the second set. Here’s how the night played out.
Local dream pop band Herons Wake was first up on the bill. The crowd swayed and bopped their heads as the band created an intricate framework of guitar notes and sung melodies. Throughout the set I saw people’s smiles widening as the set begun to pick up the pace more and more after each song. At one point, around the second last song, the lead singer announced that he’ll be playing the next track solo. He sang a heartfelt melody that set up an intimate atmosphere. The crowd hushed in silence to appreciate every word sung by the man. Afterwards, the Herons Wake ended with one of their most energetic songs, that grew louder and louder until it flew into an orchestra of guitar reverb, vocals, and loud drumming. They played a great set, and if you don’t believe me, check out their recorded music on bandcamp.
Straying from her soft angelic sound, Nicole Dollanganger stole the show with her music. The crowd grew in numbers, and the show was completely sold out at this point. The first I had heard of Nicole was her 2013 album Ode to Dawn Wiener: Embarrassing Love Songs, and I got quite the surprise at her set! Nicole sang heavenly songs back by heavy music from her bassist, guitar player, and drummer – much different from a shy doll-like sounding girl singing about falling in love at the True Love Cafe. Regardless of how different she sounded to me onstage, I truly appreciated her set. It was a unique show and I was sad to hear that this would be the last show they’d play with Alex G.
Finally, the much anticipated Alex G took the stage. Alex Giannascoli, online known as SANDY Alex G, is a singer songwriter from Havertown, Pennsylvania. From a young age Alex had developed an interest in music which continued to grow until he hit college. After releasing songs on his bandcamp and playing house shows here and there, Alex had decided to pursue a career in music.
Beginning with a song off Beach Music, the headliner began. Alex G was accompanied with his bassist, drummer and guitar players. Throughout the set you could hear the crowd chime in with lyrics to their songs. At one point, Nicole Dollanganger’s partner was taking videos of the show. Once the band took notice, they started having a bit more fun and danced like goofs for the camera. Then at another point Alex G began smashing his head against a keyboard and screaming for about two minutes. I joked with my friends asking what song that was. We later found out that Alex got upset for breaking a string off his guitar and in turn that merited the keyboard to receive a brutal beating. Later on in the set, the band took requests from the crowd on what to play next. They agreed to do their songs “Animals” and “People” off of 2015’s Trick, which I saw people dancing to and singing along. Much of the crowd, along with myself, had big smiles plastered on their faces.
After the show, I asked Alex G for a few questions to see what he thought about being a young musician and seeing if he had any advice for young musicians in Ottawa. A transcript of the interview will follow. But for now, I give Casual Hex a 10/10 show. The organizers work tirelessly to put a sold out show together and it went off without a hitch (at least from my perspective at least). If you missed this one, definitely check out the next Casual Hex Show coming up this month at Pressed!
A: Yeah so me and Sam were doing Skin Cells [Alex G’s previous band] in high school and then beginning of college but then up for some reason we couldn’t play a show. So I asked if I could play my stuff and Sam played the drums and John played the bass.
A: That was the default but then we started getting more bookings for that.
J: House shows for at least the first two years yeah
A: Try really fucking hard!
J: Play a lotta shows!
A: Only make what you think is like, the shit. Don’t be like “alright ! this is fine” Make something that’s actually good.
A: I guess that I feel like people are paying to see something. You gotta show em something.