Thursday, March 15, 2012

Show review: Grimes, Born Gold at Empty Bottle, 3/14

By Andrew Hertzberg

There’s been no shortage of Canadian artists making dark electronic pop music. Where Diamond Rings goes for glam and Austra translates heartbreak into addicting melodies, Grimes (née Claire Boucher) makes music simultaneously ethereal and comfortable. The 23-year old Vancouver native is indie’s current ‘it’-girl. So much buzz can often have its backlash, and I was skeptical going into the show, (although I am quite a fan of this year’s Visions). Any doubts I had, though, were quickly scared away. Right off the bat, she asked if there was any way to make everything louder. She had a genuine excitement to be playing the sold out show and it came through in her ability to handle a sampler, a synth, two mics (with effects and loops) and dance the whole time she was up there.

In a recent Pitchfork interview, Boucher cited Aphex Twin, Outkast and Mariah Carey as some of her biggest influences, not to mention her grasp of K-Pop, IDM, and any other sub-genre under the electronic sun. With such a vast array of inspirations, you’d think the music would be a garbled mess of maximalism. And while you can hear the multiple ideas going through Claire’s head at once, she somehow doesn’t let the product sound chaotic. What’s most impressive about her, and the live show certainly affirmed, was her ability to stay in control of the situation. Openers Born Gold joined her on stage as her backing band, but not unlike Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, Boucher’s multitasking was front and center of the show. Whether it was on the industrial sounding girl-group romp of "Oblivion" or the Eastern-tinged R&B of "Genesis," Claire was confident, commanding and somehow having too much fun while doing all of the above. The set closed all too soon with the trancey (and aptly named) "Nightmusic," the room filled with sweat but wanting more.

Opening up was the aforementioned trio Born Gold. For those that think Grimes is trying to cram too much into her songs, stay away. For those looking for mega-upbeat, low-end heavy, catchy dance music, alternating between conventional 4/4 beats and broken up percussion, with an absurd amount of vocal effects all in the vein of a more schizophrenic Baths, then this might be the group to invite to your next dance party. Hell if I could tell what they were doing on stage. Twisting a few knobs for show it seemed, but they throw quite a spectacle. Helmets, masks, blackened Chinese fans with lights inside, a black tarp pulled over the audience, a processor attached to a shovel in the shape of a guitar kept you entertained even if you weren’t dancing…just leave the lightup leather jacket at home next time, guys.

Didn’t get into the sold out show? Grimes comes back to Chicago Saturday July 14th for the Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park (single day $45, weekend pass for $110).

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