The doors opened early, and eager fans, mostly on the under-21 side, showed up early for the sold-out show at Crescent Ballroom. A large, white cloth draped across the back curtain of the stage, resembling a ghostly figure with its arms spread, green and pink flowers adorned the mic stands and the synth stations on stage were covered in white netting. At the request of the band, classical music piped into the ballroom and lounge before the show.
Claire Boucher, who performs as Grimes played a smaller venue called the Rhythm Room in Phoenix back in February and it was a mess of a show. Full of equipment mishaps and an ending with the police showing up, Boucher allegedly broke up a fight taking place in the bathroom. Since then, her popularity has exploded, thanks to being the odd girl with a boombox at the football game. Some magic formula known only to her has made her a hipster phenomenon in a matter of six months. Monday’s show at Crescent, a larger venue than her previous Phoenix apperancde, had been sold out for weeks. Tickets that were originally $15 at the venue were selling for $85 on Ebay, and a few unfortunate souls without tickets were drooling at my wristband on the patio.
While her videos have a sense of the bizarre in which pretty much anything goes, will her live show be just as chaotic? Her baby-voiced vocals are also so effects-laden on her albums that trying to understand lyrics without the liner notes is impossible, but her quirkiness and youthful energy seem to make that inconsequential.
Two eccentric-looking stage hands in black fine tune the table full of gear before Grimes takes the stage, and one even freshens the flowers sprinkled in among the synths. They depart and a fog machine fills the stage with haze as white lights from the back blast out into the crowd. The ghost on the back curtain turns purple as the house lights go out, erupting the crowd. Green and pink glowing skeleton figures draped in plastic veils walk on stage with Grimes between them in a dark kimono.
She checks her mic with a funny yip, twitches a knob on a piece of gear and the beat starts. She jumps back from her station to jump around while she sings, pointing upwards as she voices her lines while an orange light shoots out from the ground behind her. Although she’s limited to staying mostly stationary in front of her gear, she’s constantly twitching and dancing while hunched over the table and singing into the mic, and while the vocals may be processed to the point of incoherence, the energy of the music combined with the dancing skeletons on stage keeps things interesting.
Most of the night found the crowd dancing or swaying along to Grimes’s energy. The live incarnations of her catalogue of songs are more upbeat and danceable, sprinkled with several monster noises and poltergeist-like vocals played in reverse, appropriate for the for the beginning of October. A whiz with her gear, she hovers over her table as if it were a bonfire she’s attempting to control and still stand in awe of, while she chirps into the mic in her signature baby voice. The most impressive part a Grimes show is her energy. Giddy and childlike in her own world, she continually whipped the mic cablearound her as she danced and sang “Oblivion” which had an animated dubstep break towards the end, sent the crowd and the backup dancers into a frenzy.
Grimes is, in some sense, a testament to the pursuit and creation of an artistic vision, no matter how outlandish it may seem, and making it fly, and the fact that she is controlling everything coming out of the PA from start to finish is also impressive. After an hour of songs, she speaks to the crowd for the first time. “Hi guys!” she says with a nervous giggle. She thanks her openers and the venue and explains that she’d rather play her last song right away than leave the stage and come back for an encore. She then describes the final song, “Phone Sex” as the most intense of her set. The backup dancers, who performed as Myths earlier in the evening, circle the stage as strobe lights kick in for the chorus. James Brooks of Elite Gymnastics, one of the openers, appeared on stage with a giant stuffed rabbit. After the set, she announces, “You’re a great fucking crowd for a Monday night, or whatever day of the week it is!” The show, like her songs, proved to be energetic, quirky and chaotic.