SXSW Music: Grimes at Clive Bar

All I can really say is that I feel sorry for Grimes. Tonight will be the night that she remembers as her worst show ever. Unfortunately, it could also be the show that makes or breaks her very young career. Grimes is of the ripe old age of 24, according to Wikipedia, but doesn’t look a day over 15. She has just been signed and released her third full album through them in February. Just listening to these songs you can hear that the girl has talent. However, perhaps throwing her to the wolves of SXSW was a moment too soon. I’ve heard that she had some technical difficulties at her other shows down here in Austin, but this was the only one I was able to attend. Again, I just felt sorry for her.

First we all sat and waited for what seemed like a longer than usual time frame between sets for her to start. I realized after a while that she was actually on stage already and apparently setting up her own stuff, which I couldn’t see from my vantage point, but appeared to be two DJ tables and a microphone. As I sat and watched her sound check, there was repeatedly nothing coming out of the microphone. Every once in a while, we would hear a loud screech of feedback and she would jump back and cringe, as that went straight into her ears. After awhile, it seemed the sound board just gave her the OK to start, and off we went.

She managed to spurt out through the mic that her name was Grimes and she was happy to be there, but her throat was a little sore. It was obvious through out the first song that problems were building. The levels of everything were turned way down, no one could hear her sing and the look on her face said that she was having issues on her end as well. She said something through the mic, in between songs, about perhaps she should just turn everything way up. The crowd liked that idea and for a minute it worked. She started in on her second song, which is her new release, “Oblivion” and the crowd started to jump with anticipation but would soon be disappointed again, at least to those who noticed she was now lip syncing. I hate to call her out on this one, but she did start to lip sync the song just in order to get the recorded vocals to come through the speakers loud enough. She did a good job of playing along until one small part started back up before she was ready and didn’t have the mic to her face yet.

By this point, I was contemplating leaving the show. Not because she was so bad it hurt, but because I felt so bad for what she was going through that I didn’t want to bear witness to it any longer. I ended up sticking around for two more songs. The third song started strong. I thought perhaps the worst is behind us. Far from correct on that thought. The song started in and all of the sudden her vocals came in, the real ones, strong and loud, and the crowd cheered. Then about half way through the song, the entire stage went dead. Oh the horror! It was complete silence as the set died and someone off to the side gave her the gesture to keep going. She threw her arms up as if to say she couldn’t figure out what was going wrong. Then as if someone had just switched off the master switch, it all came back on again, for a minute.

So you can see the frustration that was in the air with Grimes herself and her fans in attendance. Some had been waiting there for hours just to see her perform. There were even a couple of “jumpers” that climbed the fence at the back in hopes of sneaking into the “At Capacity” show. They were quickly escorted out and promptly put in police cars. And rightly so, they knocked a girl into the trash can in the process!

All in all, I will not write off the little youngin known as Grimes. She is playing one more show here at SXSW, but perhaps seeing her at another show here in all this chaos is not what either of us needs. She is continuing on a tour after Austin, opening for Born Gold, also from Canada. My little bit of advice to her would be just keep repeating, “Practice makes Perfect.” She’ll figure it out. In the mean time, go listen to her new album, Visions.

photos and story by Angela Davis

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About Angela

Angela is the Editor-in-Chief of Lost in Reviews. She and Ryan created Lost in Reviews together in 2009 out of a mutual hatred for all the stodgy old farts currently writing film reviews. Since launching the site, Angela has enjoyed reviewing indie films over all other films, picking up new music from all corners of the world and photographing live shows. She is the co-host of Blu Monday and a member of the Kansas City Film Critic Circle.

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