(Photo: Oliver Peel@ Konzerttagebuch.de)
The real, true big question of indie music is this: what the hell do you do during an electronica concert? Do you dance? If you live in a hipster town such as Portland, do you clutch your PBR and barely nod your head? Do drugs help things become less monotonous, allow you to ride the intricate bleeps and bloops? I love Four Tet’s records to death, but seeing the man live had to have been one of the most boring concert-going experiences ever.
In front of a sold-out crowd Cecil Frena’s newest outfit Born Gold didn’t give us much choice. And before I talk about their music, I must mention The Jacket. In a slice of avant mayhem, we’re talking about a military jacket decked in LED lights with a sampler sewn right in. That jacket exemplified the good and bad about Born Gold’s set. It looked great, made the crowd cheer and added a dimension to a style of music that eschews stage theatrics. But it was also plugged in, keeping the wearer firmly planted at the rear of the stage.
Call their brand of electronica minimalist or whatever, Born Gold tried their damnedest to energize a too cool Portland crowd. We’re talking snow shovels turned into instruments, perhaps a nod to the band’s Canadian roots. During the 50 minute set we also saw members of the band shroud the audience in a blanket and dance with fans (the ones you fan yourself with). Born Gold, who thanked us for supporting Canadian music, are no mere nob-twiddlers. But just like the Flaming Lips live show, I wondered if the theatrics overshadowed the music. It’s a fine wire act and I think Born Gold is still finding its way.
For the main attraction, blogosphere darling Grimes (aka Claire Boucher) came on around 11pm, riding on high on buzz for recent record Visions. There is something eternally girlish about Boucher, hair done up in a ponytail, wearing an extra large T-shirt, singing and dancing while playing with the world’s largest karaoke machine. And while self-assured as she sang and danced, Boucher was giggly and seemed nervous during her limited banter in between songs.
Her music was perfect for the crisp night and sleek contours of Portland’s Holocene. Somewhat chilly and distant yet vulnerable, songs such as “Colour of Moonlight” and “Nightmusic” recall the cool dance music of the ‘80s. Boucher had sound problems for most of the set. The music was just really quiet and despite her pleas for the sound guy to turn it up, there was no need for earplugs. It still sounded good, as Boucher’s sweet falsetto rode over the beats.
Members of Born Gold joined Boucher for songs towards the middle of the set, but the first and final songs belonged to Boucher. The crowd remained patiently quiet, except for the dude yelling for “Vanessa,” even after Boucher played it. Visions is already short-listed for album of the year and based on the enthusiastic reaction Boucher got from a normally stoic crowd, her Grimes act seems destined for great things.