Listen to Austin 360 Radio

ACL Fest review: Grimes

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Eric Pulsifer

Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 6, 2013

As Junip’s set ended at the Honda Stage, a tidal wave of festival goers flooded to the front to get a prime spot for Grimes. Grimes (Claire Boucher) is an unlikely pop star. Awkward yet charming, she’s a quirky with a capital “Q” Vancouver-based 20-something who dabbles in an experimental concoction of dance music I’ll just go ahead and label “industrial twee.” She’s also someone who, I discovered, is a massive hit with the kids.

Grimes’ set opened with a choir of prerecorded Grimes-es chanting away, growing in intensity until a trance beat dropped to hold it all in place. Around this time, Grimes realized her keyboard was shot. Undeterred, she decided to power on with her backing track and backup dancers — a pair of women in matching high-waisted pants whose maneuvers answered the question, “How does one dance to the music of Grimes?”

With a a face full of gold glitter and an outfit that felt equal parts Peter Pan and Urban Outfitters, Grimes’ show felt as much like performance art as a concert. Between tossing out the flowers that decorated her stage to the audience, she profusely apologized for her dead Roland keyboard. “Imagine I’m playing keyboard here,” she said repeatedly.

Boucher offered up some other bits of banter, but admitted it wasn’t her strong point. “I’ll stop talking now,” she said. “I always crush the momentum by talking.” If only the crowd realized they were doing the same thing. As the show went on, I noticed more and more young faces on people riding on shoulders and more and more unweathered hands waving to the beat. Was I the only one over 21 in attendance? No, (sadly) I was quickly able to spot the other adults by their inability to quiet down and focus on the performance they spent a couple hundred bucks to see. It seemed Grimes’ sprite-like soprano was a bit too mousey to keep the chatters in line.

Rude audience aside, the only other problem I had with Grimes’ live show was that all the reverb and vocal layering in the world couldn’t hide the fact that Boucher isn’t one who would traditionally be labeled a “good” singer. But, I’m fine giving this a pass as her forte is freaky, and Grimes is a warrior of the weird.