On stage, the artists affirmed their unworldly beauty and talent while offering a glimpse into the remarkably human personas behind their incredible art.
Hana’s pure, ethereal vocals signaled the start of the show. Swinging her nearly 3 foot long braid to the beat of the fresh, minimalistic production, Hana moved with a hypnotic flow that got the whole room slow grinding along. The singer owned the concept of “less is more”–from the simple Japanese umbrella decor, to her basic but trendy outfit, to her completely solo status on the stage, there was something so pure about Hana’s sound and performance, which enticed the audience like the clear waters of a spring. Until the end of her set, when she humbly thanked the crowd for being so attentive to an opener, I’d almost forgotten she wasn’t actually the main attraction. Hana released her spell on us, and we packed in towards the stage among fellow show-goers with colored hair and strap on wings, waiting anxiously for Grimes.
Luckily, the self-taught singer, songwriter, and producer didn’t make us wait very long. As the eerie strings of “Laughing and Not Being Normal” soon began to resound throughout the room, one of Grimes’ ultra talented dancers emerged, a silhouette voguing gracefully through the purple haze of the fog machine and stage lights. The audience teemed with pent up energy, silently preparing to release it all once Grimes herself appeared. And, as anticipated, with the first beat of “REALiTi,” everyone lost their shit. The serene spring waters of Hana’s set suddenly transformed into a tidal wave of ecstasy.[slideshow]
Grimes, decked out in a rhinestone covered fanny pack and patchwork printed cargos, commanded the stage alongside two dancers as well as Hana, who added extra vocals and guitar. All four artists seemed like they were having the times of their lives while putting their all into an incredible performance. Seeing a totally female dominated stage makes you realize how rarely that occurs in the music industry and how unique this show was in that its women had full, or close to full creative control. Their camaraderie was so fun, inviting, and contagious, and I found myself pulling my own friends closer to me throughout the show as I was reminded of how cool and valuable friendships are. Everybody was dancing like no one was watching, whether to the infectious bass of “Venus Fly” or to the witchy synths of “Genesis.”
In an unexpected turn of events, Hana and Grimes followed the punchy and attitude packed track “Scream” with an amazing cover of Schubert’s “Ave Maria” that was partly cute, partly haunting, and fully quirky, in classic Grimes fashion. And as always, while catching her breath at the end of the show, Grimes explains that she’s uncomfortable with encores and would rather just play it as a last song before she leaves the stage. Grimes is a master of playing dress-up and constructing bold, enchanting personas, and it’s easy to forget that a real, more timid, and utterly relatable human being exists behind the many faces of the Grimes project. This time, she chose “Kill V. Maim” as her quasi-encore, adding that it’s her favorite song that she’s written. It’s probably my favorite track on Art Angels too, even though after many painstaking hours of analysis I still can’t figure out what it means. I’ll always appreciate Grimes’s aggressively avant-garde art, but I’ll never fully understand the artistic genius behind it–I mean, what captures the essence of genius more precisely than someone who sings, writes, records, and produces all of her own music, taught herself to play five instruments, but feels too awkward to give an encore?
Photos by Reyna Wang