Grimes’ second Coachella set was fine — but she has the potential for so much more

After a disastrous Weekend 1 set, the Canadian creative “wanted to come back rly strong”; she could have come back even stronger.

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Grimes at Coachella Weekend 2

Grimes at Coachella Weekend 2. Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Coachella

Grimes was feeling “a lot better” after her Coachella Weekend 2 DJ set.

As pretty much everyone in the world knows, her DJ set during Weekend 1 didn’t go to plan. The tech-obsessed singer/songwriter/DJ stopped the music multiple times with more than a handful of frustrated yells. The major issue was apparently misanalysed track tempos in Rekordbox.

“I’ve outsourced essential things like rekordbox bpm’s and letting someone else organize the tracks on the sd card etc.” she wrote in a tweet, apologising for the technical issues after the first performance. “The cdjs were showing me bpms like 370 so I couldn’t even mix manually by ear and the front monitors were off so it was literally sonic chaos on my end trying to guess how stuff was sounding for u guys.[sic]”

For the second weekend, Grimes fixed the BPMs. There were no abrupt sound cuts and the visuals perfectly aligned with the music as she mixed her tracks, such as We Appreciate Power and IDORU. Every time she got on the mic, she expressed excitement more than anything.

The set went without issue…well, technical issues, at least.

But there was a bigger problem lurking between the perfectly timed transitions (which attendees speculated to be pre-recorded this time around).

Grimes settled for being just another big-stage DJ instead of creating something unique and special for Coachella.

Her set was basically a parallel of Anyma, who also played at Sahara on Sunday. It was so alike to the point that Grimes sang their collaboration track, Welcome To The Opera, with him during Weekend 1.

For the past few years, Anyma and his duo project, Tale of Us (who performed at Sahara at Coachella last year) have become immensely popular, thanks to their dramatic visuals that match their emotive melodic techno. Anyma essentially brings stadium-quality graphics to a DJ set. They’re also character-driven, with an I, Robot-style automaton as the central figure that connects all the different shows.

Because Anyma makes DJ-centric music and has always toured as a DJ, making these grandiose sets pushes the boundaries of his craft. His visuals set him apart.

But where Grimes should have curated a performance that set her apart from other Coachella performances, she just did the same thing as Anyma. Instead of a robot, the fairy-esque character who represents her in all her album artwork swirled through different, colourful, and technological environments and scenarios against mostly four-on-the-floor music. This is barely different from all the other big DJs who played Sahara, like Steve Angello, John Summit, and Dom Dolla.

Every artist is allowed to perform how they want. If Grimes wants to be a DJ, she should be a DJ.

But, frankly, she has the potential to do something far more unique.

Grimes’ music, while heavily electronic, is not strictly club music. On early hits such as Genesis and Oblivion, she gracefully dances on a tightrope that connects two alien cruisers in outer space named ‘pop punk’ and ‘electro dance’. The Canadian artist’s newest music isn’t just club music either. Her latest release Geidi Primes (Nightcore Edition) is an intriguing alternative rework of her 2010 album, Geidi Primes. Her latest official album, Miss Anthropocene, does have some pure dance music, like the drum & bass track 4ÆM, but she also touches on tech-tinged country music on Delete Forever.

She’s turned so many heads with her unique sound and has been a proud advocate for innovative technology; it’s permeated everything about her persona, down to her children’s names (X Æ A-Xii) and her performances.

Her 2012 performance on KEXP (which has over 4 million views on YouTube) sees her sitting on the floor manipulating synths and drum machines. At Glastonbury in 2016, she was singing and performing with hardware, accompanied by onstage dancers.

Her music and past performances demonstrate her exceptional creativity, and Coachella is the place for exceptionally creative performances. She even said in her apology tweet that she “wanted to come back rly strong.[sic]”

You can only come back so strong with a DJ set at Sahara. No matter what the visuals look like. It will just be one set among many.

Grimes had the chance to create a technical mastery, something people will talk about for years to come. People will be talking about her Coachella set for years to come, just not in the way she’d like.


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