The much lauded River Rocks series at Hudson River Park concluded on Thursday with the unimpeachable lineup of DIIV (pronounced “dive,” not “div”), Wild Nothing and the indie electro dreamboat of the moment, Grimes. Originally from Vancouver, Grimes’ propensity for electronic innovation didn’t flourish until she moved to Montreal to go to school. Her ethereal, dreamlike music landed on her debut album, Geidi Primes, quickly followed by Halfaxa, a sophomore effort that punctuated her penchant for songs that featured lyrics heavily based on sounds and intonations rather than words. That styling proved to be an indelible part of Grimes’ stage presence at River Rocks.
Demurely taking the stage in a hooded sweatshirt and long braided pigtails that seemed to change color throughout the night, Grimes shyly announced, “I’m gonna take off my shoes.” Her awkwardness like a second skin, she somehow seemed completely at ease as she delved into the tracks from her latest album, Visions, a tour de force of aural phantasmagoria. It also bears the distinction of being her first album on the 4AD label (whose existence we should praise everyday as, without it, the entire musical landscape would be complete shite).
Looking very much like the puppetmaster wielding her synths as The Wizard of Oz, the crowd, consisting mostly of gay boys you wish were straight, couples and girls that Grimes could easily turn (like myself), was powerless against the charisma and musical genius of Grimes. The threat of rain, lightning and thunderstorms seemed only to add to the specialness of the show. Even as the first act, DIIV (the innovation of Beach Fossils’ Z. Cole Smith) played, it was clear that the energy of the at capacity crowd was as electric as Grimes’ music.
As Wild Nothing served as the transition from DIIV to Grimes, the musical tone shifted slightly from the grunge-tinged nature of DIIV to the more upbeat, yet celestial songs from Wild Nothing’s latest album, Nocturne. The River Rocks series, in all of its efficiency, didn’t allow the buildup to Grimes’ entrance to last for long as she took the stage around nine and played until ten, including one encore that she stated was a slightly unfinished song. Though, in many regards, most of her songs have an unfinished vibe. That’s part of what makes them so true to life.
When asked about the writing process for Visions, Grimes stated, “I started to feel like I was channelling spirits. I was convinced my music was a gift from God. It was like I knew exactly what to do next, as if my songs were already written.” Watching her onstage that night, the channeling spirits/gift from God elements appeared in full effect.