Grimes w/Wild Nothing, DIIV
Hudson River Park/Pier 84
Thursday, August 9
Better than: Halloween.
Denizens of New York City know painfully well the dangers of the fabled “free show.” Some have risen up against the tyranny of the Vans House Party and lost their lives evenings, while others have struggled in vain to catch a glimpse of what, Brooklyn is told, is called the Prospect Park Bandshell. The prospect of one of Hudson River Park’s RiverRocks shows stacking up three much-discussed electro-alt projects and then not charging for admission was, as one can imagine, daunting at first. But Grimes, Wild Nothing, and DIIV had a surprisingly exemplary evening, and not just because most of the people waiting on the approximately 17-mile-long queue—filled with cut up tanks, raggedy bottle-bleached self-sculpted hairdos and smeary eyeliner—managed to make their way into the venue.
Whether or not they’ve “outgrown” the comparison, DIIV’s just-too-loud-enough set took cues from the band’s grunge forebears in its delightfully simple delivery; from the sound of frontman Zachary Cole Smith’s stage banter (apologizing for their “DIY amps,” exclaiming disbelief at being there), you’d think that 4,800 people (and just as many food trucks) had materialized in their backyard, $8 beers in hand, while the quartet jammed through their new record, Oshin, in their parents’ garage. Even though you wouldn’t know it from the unfocused look on the audience’s collective face (seriously, even the front row), the performance admirably straddled the line between mainstream indie polish and why-are-we-not-at-a-sweltering-basement-show-right-now; by the last song, just as a few drips of rain speckled the pier, Smith’s sunny missives seemed to have hit home, and the crowd indulged in the slightest of head bops.
Wild Nothing picked up where their younger Captured Tracks brethren might have lacked in the veteran department (no shade, no shade!) when it came to doling out a precise-and-concise dose of dream pop. The project of Blacksburg, Virginia, native Jack Tatum was solidly fleshed out by his touring band, which immediately took to the environment with an almost methodical delivery that made (justifiably) liberal use of its extra-mic’ed kick drum and demonstrated incredible ease with their own material. (The act’s comfort with the outdoor environment also might have been easily predicted by anyone who’s seen their gnarly lunar-themed website.) Amid equally comfortable stage banter that included teasing a press pit member for filming them with an iPad, the four-piece previewed the beautifully crafted tracks that will be offered on their forthcoming record Nocturne—almost to a fault, though, because despite the audience’s loud boos when Tatum announced their last song, they were almost too comfortable playing just one or two songs beyond what might’ve been a more compact (and therefore effective) set.
Grimes (live at Pier 84, August 9, 2012)
Finally, of course, came the real craftswoman of the evening—but first, of course, she had to take off her shoes.
Over the past few months Claire Boucher has been raised on the shoulders of poptimists who’ve heralded her project Grimes as that of a pop messiah doing zany, clever things with vocal processors. This is true, but watching her at the knobs in person is an entirely different experience. As she worked her boards and mic like clay, exaggerating every knob twist theatrically, the decision to remain producer first and pop star second made her performance all the more electrifying
Boucher commands her equipment with ease, but her crowd manipulation seemed almost laughably effortless. She hops up and down to pump up herself as much as to excite the mobs of men, women, and teens—many bedecked in Grimes-appropriate bindis, glitter, and headscarves—until they’ve surrendered themselves to the bouncing infectiousness of “Oblivion” and the militant march of “Phone Sex.” She samples her own feral squalls, breathy whimpers, and wistful sighs, giving the literal impression that she is the show. When her own theatrics aren’t enough—which was rare—her M.I.A.-meets-Azealia Banks backup dancers take the lead and commence what can only be described as “flop-and-locking.” A few relevant statistics: one (1) semi-successful crowdsurf by a psyched (and surprised-looking) fan; two (2) on-stage bubble machines going straight up hog wild; one (1) Grimes actually or pretend-forgetting if she had played all her songs or not.
As if the past hour hadn’t been enough to charm the pants off any fence-sitters, she departed, post-encore, with a simple statement: “I like playing outside.”
Overheard: The camouflage-clad Grimes dancers, two men in tow, fittingly shouting loudly to one another about their vaginas.
Random notebook dump: “Tumblr game Gwen Stefani, bringin’ back the hood and bindi, I see.”
Random notebook dump II: Perhaps worth noting, despite it being unsurprising: Cassie Ramone of Vivian Girls and Babies fame hung out side-stage during DIIV’s set and mouthed all the words.