It’s rare to find an artist that manages to successfully blur the boundaries between two seemingly incongruous genres. Though many try, many also fail, and are exiled to far-flung niche markets with little hope of worldwide success. Lindsey Stirling’s success flies in the face of this stereotype. With her infectious blend of electronic, dance, and classical violin, Stirling has managed to carve out her own unique place in a market that has seen nothing like her.
Stirling’s Music Box Tour was one of the rare tours to grace the hills of Santa Barbara this summer, and although the venue is a little off the beaten path for most Californians, fans still came out in droves. The Music Box Tour boasted an all-female lineup with up-and-coming pop powerhouse Olivia Somerlyn, and veteran electro-pop queen LIGHTS. Stirling herself had (literally) just graduated from BYU that morning, and many fans were shouting their congratulations before she took the stage.
A self-described “film nerd,” Stirling’s live performances have always been quite theatrical. As her popularity has risen over time, so has her production budget. Stirling took the stage, shrouded in a cloud of swirling smoke, and when the time came for her performance to begin, she was silhouetted by a spotlight from behind.
Throughout her entire hour-plus set, Stirling’s attention to detail was apparent. She flew around the stage through each carefully choreographed number with grace and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy. Her famous youtube videos were enacted live onstage, with the help of fog machines, lasers, projection screens, and a number of props in each song. She began her set with “Ascendance” off of her 2014 release Shatter Me and followed up with a creepy, zombie-inspired performance for “Moon Trance,” where she used the power of her music to defeat a glamorous zombie hoarde. Her performance featured many themes, including not just zombies but also pirates, acrobats, and more. Her show even featured a medley of her famed video game covers, with fan-favorites from The Legend of Zelda, Halo, and more. Complete with backup dancers and a plethora of expensive stage props, her show was part cirque-du-soleil, part epic EDM concert and each song told its own story onstage.
What makes Stirling’s performance so special is how accessible it makes classical music. Most teenagers would consider a classical concert to be “boring” and most parents would never think of going to a pop concert with their kids for sheer enjoyment, yet the crowd at a Lindsey Stirling show is surprisingly diverse. There were many families, groups of teenagers, and even a few pockets of adults who seemed content to sit in the summer air and enjoy the spectacle while sipping on wine from the bar. Because of the impact Lindsey has had on popular music itself, it’s becoming harder and harder to write off individual artists because of their chosen crafts. Sure she plays violin, but who’s to say that means she has to put on a boring show?
It’s difficult to put Stirling’s performance into one box or another, but that’s precisely what makes it so refreshing. By pushing the boundaries of traditional pop and dance music, Stirling has made a name for herself and created a community of immensely dedicated fans. Her live shows bridge the gap between classical music and major entertainment productions, and her music has the ability to appeal to both younger and older generations. Though only time will tell where her career will take her next, for the moment, she’s still touring, and leaving thousands of fans thinking about her certain je ne sais quoi after each performance. In recent years, popular music has taken many new and unusual shapes, and if a classically-trained violinist with a backing band is any indication of the direction of music, it looks like we’re in for an exciting future.