Grimes @ NYC’s Bowery Ballroom

by Jen Hazen


Montreal’s Claire Boucher (aka Grimes) seemed a bit shy on stage in front of a sold out crowd at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom recently. She confessed that she hadn’t played a show in a while and was forgetting songs. Well, I didn’t notice. Here’s what I did notice: Grimes’ songs are basically the perfect soundtrack for a f*ed up Grimm Brothers Fairytale. It’s that tense “Hansel & Gretel lost in the woods after being coaxed to the candy house” kind of 

creepy. In other words, goth/industrial synth-pop that’s eerie and drugged-up dreamy. Tall and willowy thin, 22-year-old Boucher certainly looked the part whether she was trying to or not—soooo ’90s goth: combat boots, long skirt, oversized black shirt, cross necklace, and ultra mini-bangs with a partially shaved head. Holy shit, she looked like me at 19. Me and all of my goth friends who flocked to Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, and Depeche Mode shows. (I totally wanna hang out with this lady and raid her music collection by the way.) 
Boucher stood stage left surrounded by a Roland Juno synthesizer, samplers, some pedals at her feet. There was a floor tom off to the right that was occasionally played by some curly-haired dude wearing a t-shirt and cut-off shorts. I wish that he would’ve been wearing a cape or something to keep my goth hard-on going. Just kidding. 
For some reason Grimes’ music tends to be categorized as “witchhouse” or “chillwave.” Sorry, but those labels do zero justice. Boucher has a serious knack for mixing big, intense beats with dark, tense atmospheric synths. All while adding a layer of vocal loops on top of live vocals. Wait. I really need to talk about her voice. She tends to sing in a high childlike pitch that sounds a lot like Alison Shaw of ’90s spooky dream pop band, Cranes. Boucher’s not a 
one-note though. The vocal range and power is there, too. During the show, Boucher’s facial expressions were a giveaway. When the audience went crazy as she began to play her hit, Vanessa (a departure from her typically dark sound), she looked up from her keyboard and smiled in a way that read, “I’m so glad you like it.” It was so unaffected. Love that. There were also a couple of endearing “Oh shit, I screwed up” faces, but like I said, the audience didn’t know and  didn’t care.  Boucher was fascinating to watch during the set, too. She darted from keyboard to sampler, sang as she looked at the audience with huge doe eyes, and then quickly turned to a sampler and fussed with knobs while lip-syncing her own vocal loops, cradling the microphone in between her cheek and shoulder. Oh, and she danced while doing all of this, too, twirling her hands in the air as though she was cueing some imaginary orchestra when a dramatic beat sequence hit. It was brilliant. Check out a video from the show right here and you’ll see what I mean.  


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