Canadian Claire Boucher has been making tidal waves in the indiesphere of late as Grimes, an experimental electro-pop act whose 3rd full-length, Visions, recently got a Best New Music nod from Pitchfork Media and is trending at a solid 80 on review aggregate site Metacritic. While her self-proclaimed “post-internet” synth pop thrills through speakers, it’s always a do-or-die endeavor for a solo artist to produce an equally gripping live show. Fortunately for her fans, she managed just that last Monday at a sold-out Sunset Tavern.
Opening the show was fellow Canadian spaz-masters Born Gold (previously GOBBLE GOBBLE), whose light show consisted of catastrophic, arresting strobe lights and a cavalcade of 8bit blips and bleeps over trembling vocals. The sizable crowd shrieked and cheered along with the incessant shout-along lyrics, swinging in perfect time with bouncing beats backed by unstable guitars and roaring arpeggios. The band ripped through cuts from their 2011 release Bodysongs, including stomp-worthy hits like “Alabaster Bodyworlds” and “Wrinklecarver” that left the audience all but breathless.
As frenetic and blissful as Born Gold’s set was, everyone their knew that the main event was the real treat. Anticipation reached its peak before too long, and the Sunset seemed to be bursting at the seams with antsy fans eager for their fix. When Boucher finally took the stage, technical hiccups added to the crowd’s sense of unruliness – although much of the joy of discovering an up-and-comer like Grimes lies in watching them work through difficulties onstage. Joined onstage by Born Gold, Boucher lurched into single “Vanessa,” which suffered from a lack of loudness despite an early promise to the contrary. Following a segue into bass-laden Visions track “Oblivion,” Boucher & co. finally seemed to hit their stride, as the levels increased and rhythm was discovered.
Despite the hiccups, Boucher was all smiles onstage, and began and ended her night with a series of understated introductions (“Hi, I’m Grimes,” and “”Bye, I’m Grimes,” as if there were any doubt). Fans expecting her to be decked out in garish, avant-garde outfits may have been disappointed by the denim jacket over floor-length robe, but for an artist still finding her footing, the more casual approach ended up being a wise choice. Either way, the crowd was completely smitten, if a little unsure which pauses were the endings of songs or a technical gaffe. While some of the show was spotty, a good portion of it flowed smoothly. When Grimes is on her game, the sounds produced can be as dazzling as fireworks.