Grimes – Is She Real? Live Review & Thoughts – Manchester Ritz 30/8/12

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Last week, Grimes & I were sorting through nuclear warheads. They were like huge rounds of cheese, and some had gone mouldy. It was a tough job, but at least we were together. I didn’t have to prove to her who I was. Just as she was in my dreamworld, I existed in hers too.

Cut to Thursday night in Manchester’s granite reality: “This would happen to you!” says pal Bjorn, as I am being asked to prove who I am at the Ritz’s box office. Do I have photo ID? No. Can I show her the confirmation email? No. I just can’t seem to provide evidence that I am me.



Proof is the raison d’être of culture. Both the artist and the facebook-whore hoard Likes to prove their own reality. To be, you must become real to your fans.

Grimes’ two support bands tonight are called Majical Dreams and Becoming Real. Put together, these names sum up the metaphysical quest of Claire Boucher’s alter ego: to express herself into reality using the magic of Art.

Majical Dreams is a lost unicorn, effervescent but empty. Becoming Real is a rave inflicted on toddlers, a boy dancing like a malnourished laptop lizard, more gecko than ghetto. But take the unicorn to the rave and you have Grimes.

Claire Boucher was kicked off a degree in neuroscience – the study of the nervous system, which tells us where our body ends and the world begins. By becoming Grimes, she swapped the limits of the physical for conceptual infinity.

She starts by singing “I don’t need hands to touch me/[to] Be a Body.” She doesn’t need a neuroscience degree, or a nervous system, to exist. She has become a social body, an idea available to all, but it is still a girl-shaped one. Like it or not, she’s the poster girl for alt.culture and will always be judged on her looks, an eternal truth like that when I push my 6’2 frame to the front at gigs I will always receive dirty looks.

So when a 6’6 boy sidles up to me, I feel like I’ve initiated a Giant’s incursion into the sacred shire of Small People Who Want to See. But at least I’m not the tallest anymore. I notice that he has the same problem as me. While cute average height blokes bounce deliciously around their perfect centre of gravity, us beanpoles sway reluctantly like storm stricken anchors, unsure whether to batten our arms to our sides or let them flail up to the surface.

Grimes is a vessel filled up with the drips from an apothecary of genres: rave, hipster, muso, seapunk, indie (sch)mindie, industrial, soft goff. And a growing contingent of ‘straights’. In this dolly mixture crowd, life is framed through the swinging radius of a fleshtunnel, and lit with the stardust sheen of Instagram. ‘One Size Fits All’ says the merch sign next to Grimes’ Pussy Rings; one icon fits all our needs.

“Better freak than geek,” read my art school graffiti at the fag-end of the 90s. A decade of genetic modification later and we are spared the decision. Grimes unites the two ex-insults & modes of being (scientist & artist, pretty & punk, fashionable & humble) into one adorkable bundle to be passed around the interweb like a parcel at a kid’s party, which is exactly what the gig feels like.

The Ritz’s sprung floor acts like a bouncy castle, flinging even reluctant dancers into the rhythm while Grimes performs like a little girl in cat tights and cardigan. Like Grimes’ voice, normal rules are distorted into a thousand variations. Here, dancers who look like Rick Moranis jostle hipsters. The usual discussions about which of the dancers were hotter could be heard afterwards, only in this case they were all topless boys. “He was a crowd pleaser, into his own thing. The other was just hot.” Grimes’ spell allows the meek to inherit the world for an evening.

So it seems fitting that from the date of this gig onwards, spells, prayers, blessings and hexes can no longer be sold on eBay. These ungraspable ideas can’t be proved, ergo they can’t be real. But while magic is being eradicated from commerce, it will always be conjured in art. Culture trades in the power of ideas. Celebrity trades in the power of judgment. Celebrity culture then lets us judge People As Ideas.

On the dark drive home over the Peaks, we share ghost stories. Whether what we’re shuddering about actually happened is academic; what matters is the power to mould our own realities.

While Grimes may be an academic failure, she’s a straight A student in celebrity iconography. And that furnishes me with all the evidence that I need. I am a fan, therefore I am.

words Vienna Famous


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