As a techno auteur, Grimes (aka Claire Boucher) has her tribe. They have brightly coloured hair. They wear high ponytails. Plus they tote novelty children’s backpacks. And that’s any gender. The Grimes contingent was out in force as the Canadian fulfilled her first gig in Australia since 2012. Not unsurprisingly, this Laneway Festival sideshow was sold-out. Grimes is today’s most influential, innovative and transgressive electronic producer, advancing post-IDM (‘intelligent dance music’). In late 2015 she aired the gothic Art Angels, which, with its “live” shoegrunge orientation (shoegaze + grunge), made many a year-end “Best Of” list.
Opening for Grimes was Los Angeles’ little-known HANA. She has only two songs on SoundCloud – very mysterious. It transpires that HANA is Grimes’ “good friend”. She presented a versatile solo set, her music comparable to Zola Jesus, CHVRCHES and… Grimes. HANA brilliantly covered Eurythmics’ ’80s standard Here Comes The Rain Again, transforming it into millennial electro-pop. The programming did falter – HANA too similar stylistically to the main act. Supports should complement or contrast. She later briefly joined Grimes.
During the interval, punters listened to loud classical and opera – a countercultural mixtape presumably curated by the renegade Grimes herself.
Grimes – in an aerobic rave outfit – sprang on stage at 10.45pm, accompanied by two female dancers (she herself studied ballet). Behind her console of gear, Grimes donned a guitar to perform Flesh without Blood, Art Angels’ lead single. This evening its breakbeats were amplified for a rumble in the cyber-jungle, Grimes rockin’ out. Sadly, there was no transition into Life in the Vivid Dream. Next, Grimes offered a squelchier REALiTi – one of her ‘orphan’ (non-album) numbers, yet cult.
Grimes’ dynamism was impressive. She managed to work that kit while singing – her otherworldly, disembodied soprano recalling the timeless Enya, urban nightingale Mariah Carey, and a sci-fi K-pop starlet – and bouncing around. It was high-energy. The New Age (or fairyland) lighting design was sublime. Introducing Art Angels’ SCREAM, hardcore transposed into the electronic idiom, Grimes revealed that she generally avoids chit-chat during gigs because she gets nervous. Grimes shrilled the track, originally a collab with Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes, in… Russian. One of the night’s multiple highlights was Genesis, from Grimes’ 2012 breakthrough Visions. It was just as serene live as on record, though Grimes introduced some Casio-like keys at the start. The dancers twirled ribbons.
Grimes performed the recent indie-dance Butterfly after divulging that she always forgets its lyrics. An endeared crowd laughed when she snuck a peek at a piece of paper midway. Grimes’ most famous orphan is Go, an avant-trap banger with Blood Diamonds that (ostensibly) Rihanna rejected – and it was her set’s apotheosis, the singer bathed in warrior-red. Grimes subversively led an ambitronica rendition of Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria – fo’ real. And she impeccably recreated another Visions classic, the cosmic techno Oblivion. The show closed with Grimes’ favourite song: Kill V. Maim – all intense guitar and whiplash breakbeats whilst the dancers wielded hand lazers.
Grimes doesn’t do those fake ‘encores’, so that was it. No other contemporary artist is both so celestial and menacing, cerebral and visceral – Grimes is the ‘ether’ in ethereal. She’s going to kill it at Laneway.
Gallery: Grimes @ 170 Russell, 2016 / Pics Nikki Williams