Claire Boucher, as Grimes, may be the most hyped indie act of the year. Her mercurial blend of dance-floor rhythms, Top 40 pop sensibilities, and outright weirdness makes for a captivating, unique persona—and one that the blogosphere has latched onto like a barnacle on the bow of a ship. Fortunately for Grimes, she has the chops to sustain the hype. Her recent show at D.C.’s 500-capacity U Street Music Hall sold out months in advance, and it was a great opportunity to see how her live show has evolved along with her place in the spotlight.
At early shows, like her breakthrough set at 2011’s SXSW, Boucher seemed confident but shy, engaging but not quite sure what to do in a live setting. After all, she’s the solo proprietor of Grimes, and until recently her set involved her simply splitting her time between a few keyboard and synth rigs onstage. Now, Grimes comes equipped with backup dancers who double as auxiliary musicians and cheerleaders, bouncing around the stage while Boucher herself spends less time programming and more time singing and dancing.
It’s a good decision. Boucher is an extravagantly talented musician, and her early sets showed—if nothing else—her virtuoso talents on the keys. But it didn’t always make for an engaging set if you weren’t immediately at the stage. Now, she’s figured it out, and her physical presence and sheer ebullience when dropping the beat on “Oblivion” ups her live game to a whole new level. The crowd responded in turn, bouncing and shaking and generally transforming into a single entity of flailing limbs and sweat. Grimes has serious momentum at her back, and she’s running with it. Here’s to seeing where she takes things now.
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