It was an expected encounter in an unexpected environment: Claire Boucher, better known by her nom de guerre Grimes, was lounging in a black leather LC2 chair at Prague’s Hilton hotel. With her wild haircut and the silver glitter on her face, she didn’t really fit into the oversized architecture of the American hotel that seemed so detached not only from Grimes, but also from the beautiful city of Prague. She was there and talked about Marilyn Manson. “I admire him. He showed people like me that you could break out of a strict Catholic family. I shaved my hair when I was thirteen. My classmates would throw me into garbage cans, and they would write dirty words like ‘bitch’ on my locker. But I liked it. I felt like an outcast. Just like Marilyn Manson.”
Seven hours later: It’s pouring buckets of rain outside Archa Theatre in Na Po?í?í Street. People are queuing up inside the roofed passage in front of the venue to see Grimes at Prague’s Electronic Beats Festival. Nobody understands why her first gig in the Czech republic was scheduled so early in the festival’s timeline—at 10 p.m., after Prince of Tennis’ warmly received opening slot. Because everybody seemed so eager to see her perform. And that’s what Claire did: She pumped the lowest imaginable sub basses through the PA and tweaked her juvenile voice until it became an abstract rhythmic structure. Her set was nothing less than breathtaking. One word about staging a felicitous show like hers: Three friends of Grimes from Berlin were dancing and animating the crowd (with the same silver glitter on their skins)—one of them a dignified old man. In fact he was one of the skinny dancers’ father. All the while Grimes was wearing yellow neon socks that perfectly matched her white self-made Buffalos.
Next on the bill and also for the first time in Prague was shooting star, Woodkid best known for directing groundbreaking videos for Lana del Rey and Rihanna. Located in Paris, he is a master of viral marketing. Whenever he uploads a video of his eclectic music, you can be sure that half a million people will watch it immediately. He was very aware of his audience that he directed with great passion like a preacher. His intimate vocal performance was backed up by a semi-acoustic band consisting of a tight brass section, a percussionist and a keyboarder. Woodkid’s first appearance in Prague was cheered by a crowd of 1,200.
By the time Erlend Øye and The Whitest Boy Alive had entered the stage, Grimes was already on her way to Prague airport to catch a late flight – which explained why her intense show had been scheduled so early in the evening. She missed an equally intense performance by TWBA, though. The true inventors of Berlin hipster style (remember Erlend’s oversized glasses!) delivered an astonishing set—taking into consideration that the band hadn’t gotten together for nearly a year. Only minutes before bass player Marcin Öz walked on stage he told us: “We didn’t know how it would feel to be a band after such an interval. We knew we could only make another, our third album if we’d still feel like a band. That’s what we tried to proof tonight.” Well, they gave the answer to an uber-euphoric crowd: Erlend seemed to be more involved than ever, Marcin gave a brilliant impersonation of Chic’s Nile Rodgers, Sebastian provided steady jazz-informed drum patterns and Daniel, on Rhodes and synthesizers, got wild, animating the audience to share his love. Amazing. Truly amazing!
By then, it was time for The Street’s Mike Skinner to deliver a Jungle-infused UK funky set to the people, incorporating exclusive dub plates of bass versions of his classic tunes. While doing so, he was enjoying one cigarette after the other to the sound of an exclusive bass version of his track “Let’s Push Things Forward!” Smoking cigarettes and dancing to the records Skinner was playing, he did the same like his audience: Smoke was in the air. See you next week in Bratislava!
Photos: © Luci Lux / Tomáš Martinek
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Published May 06, 2012.