Grimes Electrifies The Paradise
Published: Sunday, September 30, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
It’s hard to describe the feeling one gets when at a concert performed by experimental-electronic pixie Grimes. While seeing her sold-out show at the Paradise Rock Club on Sept. 26, I began trying to think of ways to describe the experience beyond the standard “it was amazing.” After careful consideration, I feel as though the best way to describe it is akin to being on the ride Space Mountain at Disney World—flashing lights, unexpected drops and turns, and pure, unaltered rushes of endorphins.
Grimes, for those who may be unfamiliar, is Canadian-born Claire Boucher. She started her experimentation in music at McGill University in Montreal, eventually becoming so involved in the endeavor and devoting so much time to it that the University expelled her for failing to attend class. Unlike most undergrads, however that seemed to work in her favor—after releasing two albums on independent Montreal-based Arbutus Records, Grimes was signed to indie music powerhouse 4AD. It was this label that released her most recent effort, the crazy-dreamy-synthy, insanely catchy Visions, and with it came praise from everyone from The New York Times to Pitchfork to SPIN.
When walking into the show this past Wednesday, the stage setup immediately struck me. There were your usual electronic-concert mainstays—microphones, keyboards, mixers with a thousand complicated looking buttons—but they were all wrapped in delicate fabrics and covered in flowers. The whole stage, in fact, was enveloped in a canopy that reminded me of one of those princess-style beds I had always wished for as a kid. The crowd itself was just as unexpected—everything from hipsters to kids who looked like they emerged straight from Anime drawings to one tall man dressed up as Grimes herself.
The opener for the show was Minneapolis-based experimental-pop act Elite Gymnastics. I was curious to see the performance considering that, very recently, with the departure of one of the duo’s members, the former group became a solo project. Since the split, the remaining member, James Brooks, has continued on the current tour with Grimes and even made new music in his lone status. Brooks appeared on stage that night dressed like someone who had dropped out of art school to go spend time in the desert discovering who he was. That, in fact, would probably be the best description for some of his songs too—ranging in everything from spoken word to highly stylized sound frequencies to basic pop melodies.
Elite Gymnastics, though, is quite an entertaining act—Brooks himself seems to be an extremely awkward person but in a way that was endearing to the audience. At various points he interacted with his viewers, even inviting one small surprised girl onstage to teach him and everyone else how to do the “Gangnam Style” dance. He closed with his most recent song, and first solo one, “Andreja 4-ever,” which, with its more traditional pop sensibilities, served to revive and rejuvenate a crowd that seemed to drift off.
After a fairly quick changeover, a cascade of wind chimes and a darkening of lights announced the incoming appearance of Ms. Boucher. Dressed comfortably with a dark hood over her forest-green hair and pink glitter-decorated eyes, Grimes was flanked by the two female members of the electronic group Myths, who served as back-up dancers/singers/technicians throughout her performance. Bursting right into some of her songs, her stage presence was fantastic—somewhat due to the amazement that such a tiny human can dance, sing, and mix all at once and that quickly. As with most artists, she hit her stride during her most well-known and loved songs. Favorites like “Oblivion” and “Circumambient” both seemed to be ignited with some extra energy and fury due to the crazy reaction of the crowd. Boucher, in fact, seemed to be surprised by the enthusiasm of those who had come to see her in Boston, thanking the crowd multiple times and calling them the “loudest” she has had all tour. She originally closed her set with most recent single “Genesis,” which caused an unprecedented reaction in the audience, many of who tried (and failed) to sing along with her startlingly high vocals. Overall, this concert, like Space Mountain itself, was well worth the cost, full of energy, and, at the end, made one wish that it could have gone on for much longer than it did.