Noise Pop 2012: Grimes @ Rickshaw Stop 2/22/12
Photos: Nicole L. Browner

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Wednesday night’s Noise Pop show at the Rickshaw Stop should have been titled, “The Case for Live Electronica,” as all four performers offered unique arguments in support of taking synth-driven pop off of the hard drive and onto the stage.

I’ve been following Yalls for some time now, to the extent it’s been possible to keep up with Dan Casey’s steady stream of new electronic jams, but the show opener’s set really made me take notice. You never know what a one-man-and-some-synths operation is going to turn into, but Dan’s morphed into a charisimatic electro-soul-pop frontman. Paired with engaging and varied visuals courtesy of Dylan Travis, it’s a pretty killer combination.

Born Gold delivered arena-level productions at rock club prices. Seriously, normally this kind of stage show — the jacket with the rhythmic lights in it, the guy on stilts playing a shovel-sampler, the coordinated light-up fans — is meant to compensate for (and distract from) wack music. While I admittedly wasn’t focused as much on the sound as I was on the spectacle, it was obvious that the trio knows its way around supercharged electro-pop. The whole experience was captivating and euphoric, and you could feel the whole audience having a collective “What the fuck?” moment. See Born Gold the next chance you get. Hell, book their next show here, and I’m there too.

Following a band like that could be a challenge, but SF’s oOoOO responded with a mix of screwed beats and bewitching gloom that slowed things down considerably, while jamming in its own way. Songs like ‘Burnout Eyess’ felt all-consuming under the speakers’ heavy thump, and the hypnotic sound deftly veered between melodic instrumentals and more experimental fare. The artist’s New Wave-inspired video projection added a bewitching visual layer, until it looped around and started playing again from the beginning. That moment was the one thing that pulled me out of the haze, but it certainly wasn’t enough to sour an otherwise strong performance.

After that downbeat 40 minutes, Grimes sought to bring the energy back up to a frenetic pace, in part by employing Born Gold as a backing band. This was a good strategy, I think, even though the crowd was already hot to hear songs from Claire Boucher’s universally-acclaimed Visions. Amidst the perpetual flurry of flashbulbs that identifies a buzzed-about artist, Boucher was a wellspring of energy, as she bounced around and delivered her warped update of 80s synth pop.

For all of its pop, my initial take on Visions is that its more introverted nuances are the record’s most interesting moments, but I recognize that it would be unreasonable to expect a headphone experience on the dance floor. Grimes’ set felt all-too-brief, but, after she concluded with a spirited solo take on “Nightmusic,” it’s was difficult not to feel as if we’d seen a performer headed toward what qualifies today as indie stardom.