Some shows you walk into knowing exactly what you are going to get, others – not so much. Wednesday night was definitely one of those that I wasn’t quite sure what I was walking into. I stumbled across Alec Benjamin thanks to a little known singer/songwriter named John Mayer. (Ok, so he’s not so little-known). John Mayer, the Grammy award winning singer-songwriter, guitarist, and record producer, also has a hilarious Instagram Live show called “Current Mood with John Mayer.” While mindlessly scrolling Instagram one day I happened upon Mr. Mayer’s little live show and he was going on and on about a “guest” he was going to have on the show named Alec Benjamin.
John Mayer went on to hype up how amazing this guy’s singing, songwriting and lyricism is before bringing out Alec Benjamin to perform a few songs on the show. When the likes of John Mayer is repping some artist you’ve never heard of it, you can likely bet it’s in your best interest to check them out. And check out Alec Benjamin I did. I played through all his music on Spotify and absolutely fell in love with not only Benjamin’s incredibly unique voice but also his story, which I dug into online. Benjamin use to stand in line outside of Troye Sivan and Shawn Mendes’ shows and perform on the street before he was signed to Columbia Records. I love a come up story that includes hustle, grind, raw and unabashed talent (and sometimes a little luck like John Mayer bringing you on his Instagram live show).
When I saw that Alec Benjamin was coming to one of the best venues in Minneapolis I knew it was a show I couldn’t miss. But again – I had no idea what to expect out of this show. Let’s just start by saying – it did not disappoint one bit. The one part of the show I found slightly surprising was the age demographic. I knew it was an all ages show by the doors and set times so I figured it would be a bit of a younger crowd. But sold-out Varsity Theater was packed from wall to wall with parents and kids as young as five or six all the way up to late high school age. There was actually something really special about that all-ages atmosphere that made for a fun and safe feeling show. There weren’t rowdy, drunk people sloshing drinks around. There was just a room full of people (young and old) enjoying really solid music by Alec Benjamin. Looking around the room, there were teenage girls swooning over Benjamin (and his opener Alexander 23 – more on him in a bit), younger boys taking in the music and parents also swaying and nodding along to the upbeat and catchy music of Benjamin. Though most of the parents were likely there out of necessity (chaperones) – I think the smattering of ages speaks to the appeal of Alec Benjamin. Much like John Mayer – there is really a little bit of something for everyone in his music. I think this is because at the heart of Benjamin’s music is a storyteller and the stories he tells contains messages and themes we can either relate to or simply appreciate the essence of.
Benjamin mentioned this was his third time in Minneapolis and I can bargain to bet it won’t be his last. Everyone at sold-out Varsity on Wednesday was lucky to be there because it’s likely Alec Benjamin won’t be playing rooms that size much longer. After his flawless live show – it’s clear there is only one direction Alec Benjamin is going. Up.
Set List: Outrunning Karma / If I Killed Someone For You / Annabelle’s Homework / Paper Crown / Swim / I Built a Friend / The Wolf and The Sheep / If We Have Each Other / Boy In the Bubble / Water Fountain / Death of a Hero / 1994 / Encore: Steve / Now She’s Getting Married / Let Me Down SlowlyOpening the evening shortly after doors was Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter – Alexander 23. With only a song or two spiraling around Spotify and the internet I really wasn’t sure what to expect from Alexander 23. After his short but sweet set – I was left absolutely blown away by Alexander 23’s infectiously catchy tracks. Alexander 23 mixes guitar, drums, synth and vocals live on stage which reminded me of the likes of Jack Garratt or The Dirty Projectors and even some more electronic artists while still heavily relying on his live instruments. Alexander 23’s live set blended instruments and bended genres for a result that was nothing short of magic. Again, I walked into his set having no idea what to expect but was left craving more. The crowd, much like Benjamin was extremely responsive to Alexander 23 and he truly commanded the room with ease. Alexander 23 is definitely a name to add to your “ones to watch” list. His set featured “When I Die” and “Dirty AFIs.”