Review: Grimes, fairly decent


The musician Grimes played Mao on Wednesday night. It was absolutely packed as she was the big booking of this year’s JUE Festival.

Grimes is the stage name of Claire Boucher, a young electronic musician from Canada. I would describe her as a dark wave kind of sound, experimental; definitely stuff you can dance too. She sings as well. Her major albums are Halafax (2010) and the more popular Visions (2012).

I was really looking forward to the show even though I’m not really into her albums, because I’d heard good things about her live performances. But to be totally honest, I was also sort of dreading it in a way because I knew if would be full of, you know, people, and also, I’d tried to poison myself earlier in the day with some very sketchy takeout. But I’d already paid for my ticket and if I’ve paid for something, goddammit I’m going.

I was late so missed the opening act. Some woman? I don’t know. The place was super busy and even though JUE has been using e-tickets which is super awesome and supposed to be faster and eliminate paper tickets because you can just scan the code from your phone, everyone still seemed to print their tickets and the whole ticket area was just confusing and packed and every intern in Shanghai was there and then the coat check filled up and I’m like, “Seriously, Mao?” so now I have to lug my massive winter coat around the whole night when there’s a shitload of people and it’s going to stink of cigarettes for a week. And then I was chatting and hanging out and some gigantic dude with a backpack comes and stands right in front of us and I’m thinking, “Who brings a backpack (a full backpack!) to a gig?” Because these people with backpacks at gigs, they don’t realize it but when they start jumping around they start knocking people over.

Anyway, I say all this to set the stage of me being in an awful mood and because I wasn’t thrilled with her albums I didn’t have high hopes and then when she started to play I thought, “Great. Glorified DJ” and was dreaming of all the delicious (non-poisonous) food I could have bought with the 150rmb I spent on a ticket.

And then you know what happened? Grimes totally pulled it out. She tore it up. All of a sudden she started singing and didn’t suck. And then she started playing some pretty awesome stuff. And despite the fact that that dude with the backpack was knocking people over left and right and I was pretty sure I was going to lose an eye, it was a pretty awesome show.

I would say Grimes is about 40% talent, 40% image, 20% sheer loudness and 10% terrible hair (the hair is so terrible it actually puts it over 100% which is mathematically impossible but you should see this hair). But her songs were legitimate and she knew what she was doing and although I wouldn’t put on her album to just chill around the house or whatnot, she’s pretty engaging live. And people were having a great time and when other people are having a great time I’m like, “Why am I not having a great time?” and I just decide to have a great time. So it was definitely a good gig. At one point she had to pause for a moment to reset one of her pedals and she said something like, “This pedal is really complicated and I’ve only been using it a month so sometimes I don’t know what I’m doing.” Come on. That’s adorable.

grimes at mao

Grimes. Not pictured: terrible hair (but a decent show).

So yeah, well worth it. I don’t believe Mao Livehouse was sold out in Shanghai but I do know she sold out Beijing so maybe she’ll be making more stops in the Middle Kingdom in the future.

The following night was Gang of Four, also at Mao, which unfortunately I didn’t get to go to as I was out of town. Sad face. One of the best post-punk acts evaaaaar. I’m still a bit surprised that an act called Gang of Four was actually issued visas to perform in China since the original Gang of Four was a bit of a dark piece in the ol’ Chinese history Cultural Revolution pot. All reports say that it was a pretty awesome show.

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