Partway into her set, Grimes (the stage name of Montreal-based electronic artist Claire Boucher) asked the sound man to turn up the drums so she could [pantomimes bouncing in her chair] and the light man to give her less spotlight and more fog machine. As the next midtempo dance tune bounded forward, the petite performer could hardly be seen underneath the haze, an oversized camo parka and DJ headphones.
For someone who’s fashion sense is becoming definitive of the cultural moment, there’s something slightly reticent about Grimes, the performer. Having exploded into the spotlight since the release of Visions in January, 24-year-old Boucher is representative of a generation of electronic artists (with opener Elite Gymnastics) whose work is crafted in the intimate confines of the bedroom—not unlike the acoustic folk music of prior generations—before enduring the potentially agoraphobic transition to the big stage. It’s no coincidence, then, that Boucher has taken her stage name from reclusive outsider artist Ken Grimes.
A summer tour with the likes of Skrillex and Diplo has seemed to shake most of Grimes’ major inhibitions, though, as her set on Tuesday proved that her music deserves a big, delicious sound system and plenty of floor space for the audience to move around in. Moving about her rig of samplers, drum machines, synthesizers and loop-effected microphone, she built and segued a fleet of tracks from Visions, combining all the unlikely elements of dark industrial with sugar-coated dream pop. Lisping cutely between songs to thank the show organizers for giving her the chance to play outside of a big city, she cut the figure of a millenial Madonna, at once feted in surrealist dance-party artifice and borderline-mumblecore in her humble, every-girl demeanor.
Madonna may seem like a lowbrow referent for what Grimes aims to do, but there is no denying the aerobic pop of album singles “Oblivion” and “Genesis,” not to mention a host of other standouts like “Nightmusic” and “Infinite Love Without Fulfiment,” whose hooks are as lyrically cryptic as they are melodically intuitive. Almost a year into performing this material, it was clear that Boucher is still inspired by these deviously infectious microparties. The fog probably helps, but the crowd of dancing people can’t hurt either.