Karl Walter, Getty Montreal electro-popster Grimes and breakout R&B star…
- Posted on Sep 21st 2012 4:30PM by Melody Lau
Simon Joyner, Getty
Opening the night were friends and touring partners, Myths and Elite Gymnastics. The former, a Vancouver synth duo, were an amalgamation of Grimes' electro-pop rhythms and Crystal Castles' frantic and chaotic style. The set was filled with hits and misses, but the duo of Lief Hall and Quinne Rodgers seem to be onto something that, with time, might gain traction on the back of the Grimes phenomenon.
Elite Gymnastics is "an art project by James Brooks," as his online biography reads, and his one-man show onstage was definitely something more of the experimental variety. Brooks kicked off his set with a slow-jam karaoke rendition of the Spice Girls' "Say You'll Be There," complete with a projection of the lyrics set to imagery of Japan and house fires.
The karaoke theme stuck, though, as his entire set played out like a night of nervously singing along to songs on a screen, almost always drowning his meek voice underneath the computerized beats. It's hard to distinguish whether Brooks' shy-guy demeanor was genuine or not -- he paused a number of times between songs to express how uncomfortable he was and at one point completely stopped the show to give out flowers and ask for the names of people in the audience -- but he definitely left the crowd sympathetic and thoroughly confused. Which is something. Whether it's art or not, we're still undecided.
By the time Grimes, a.k.a. Claire Boucher, took to the stage, the audience was riled up and ready to go, pushing and shoving towards the front. About two years ago, if you saw a Grimes set, you would've most likely caught a anxiety-ridden Boucher who would stumble through a set and probably vomit from nerves afterwards. That Claire Boucher no longer exists -- at least not so obviously anymore.
Having developed a cult-like following, especially in Montreal where she lived for many years, Boucher is clearly more comfortable now thanks to the audience's support, enthusiasm and trust in her off-kilter electronic project. Accompanied by two back-up synth players and four back-up dancers onstage, a Grimes show has turned into a celebration of sorts filled with spastic dance moves, bombastic beats and a solid -- and more importantly, consistent -- set of hits that boasts a confidence that has elevated her show to a whole other level.
A Grimes show now feels like you're partaking in a ritualistic experience. Songs like "Oblivion," "Be a Body" and "Vanessa" suck you into a flurry of electronic beats and rhythms and it's almost hypnotizing to see Boucher at the helm of all her equipment, bouncing around and dancing almost as hard as everyone else. As much as she's the creator of it all, she also acts like a participant in her own music and it's hard to not enjoy a show when its frontwoman is so clearly enthralled by it as well, which is what makes her a dance leader anyone in the crowd would happily follow.
Earlier on Thursday, Toronto's Yacht Club played a daytime BBQ at Parc de la Petite-Italie; their third show ever as a band. The four-piece is fronted by Fucked Up's Ben Cook and is far from anything his main act would ever do. Yacht Club is a throwback to cheesy '80s synth pop, but perfected in a way that's less cheesy and more fun. Even three shows in, the band is already a tight outfit who will surely dominate dance floors across the country soon.
Also performing at the BBQ was tUnE-yArDs' recent opening act, Mozart's Sister. Essentially a one-woman act from Think About Life's Calia Thompson-Hannant (she was accompanied by a bass player yesterday), Thompson-Hannant's similarities to Grimes are many. Though singing in a significantly lower register than Grimes, Thompson-Hannant's vocal loops and electronic beats were of the same caliber as Boucher, veering into some of the darker territories Grimes sometimes only hints at.
Montreal staples Parlovr also performed, alongside Toronto rockers PS I Love You at Divan Orange. Parlovr, as always, delivered a sweat-filled energetic show that combined theatrics, speedy rhythms and even a bit of therapeutic release from all that screaming. Playing mostly tracks off their Polaris long-listed album, Kooksoul, it's evident the band has kept their music, and show fun and lively while continuing to grow into a sound that's sure to evolve.
PS I Love You also put on an impressive show last night; whereas the duo of Paul Saulnier and Benjamin Nelson can often sound too brash and loud, last night at Divan Orange everything came together, perfectly displaying the band's heavy guitars without overpowering our ears. It was the sort of set that perfectly expressed the great songs this band sometimes hides underneath their wall of guitars.
To read about Pop Montreal 2012, day one, go here.