Wednesday, 6 November 2013

cocorosie 2013

CocoRosie  |  Société des Arts Technologiques

                                         PHOTOS  |  VALERIA VEGA

CocoRosie was formed in 2003 by sisters Bianca “Coco” and Sierra “Rosie” Casady. Both were born and raised in the United States, but their band was formed in Paris, romantically, after the sisters were reunited there for the first time in years. Freak folk is the label that looms predominantly over their music, which contains shades of opera, blues, pop, hip hop, and electronica. Thank you, Wikipedia.

Tonight it’s all high ceilings, red tables, and a hip candlelit aesthetic at SAT. The acoustics are intimidating: you don’t want to cough too loud for fear of drawing all eyes to your little red table, and you definitely don’t want to fart here. The perimeter of the venue is a series of massive glass sheets, giving us a perfect view of the street and the seemingly unending line. It’s Monday night, CocoRosie’s in town, and people are flocking in en crisse.

My friend Giancarlo fills me in on what he knows about CocoRosie while we wait for the opener to get on stage. “It’s really fucked up music. She talks about sucking cock, how her dad raped her... they call it freak folk.”

My own pre-concert consensus on the band is this: they are weird, which is good; they are good, which is wonderful; and one of them (Sierra) can lullaby me into ethereality within the first few bars of a verse. Bianca’s voice, however, while somewhat refreshing, is really not for me. I respect that the strength of the duo is based on the steep contrast between the two sisters’ opposite approaches to singing, but that does not mean I should be enjoying Bianca’s excessively saccharine affectation emanating from her possibly cinammon-coated esophagus. That sounds way too harsh. I’ll dampen it by saying I like CocoRosie, which is why I’m here. You don’t hear slick vocal contrast like that these days, especially not when it’s backed by such lucid lyrics and composition. Bianca’s singing style just seems to me like a neat trick female singers are pulling now because it’s shocking and relatively new and seems to work for most people despite the diabetic overbite and-- okay I’ll stop.

Opening for this great band is Bus Driver, equipped with his mic and mixing decks. After the first song he’s already sweating (“How you guys feelin’, man? I’m disoriented.”) and we can all tell that this set is going to be mostly him rapping over big house beats, a la Kid Cudi and whoever else was on the Project X soundtrack. It’s worth some light toe-tapping. Alarms are raised as I remark that the concrete floor is sticky with a gooey substance I pray is alcoholic.

“Make some noise, Montreal, yo fuck that song.” I’m loving his self-deprecation slightly more than his music. He’s rapping too fast without enunciating his words properly enough for me to hear, but the lines I do catch are oddly resonant. Perfect example: “We’re gonna party ’til we’re pregnant! We’re gonna party ’til we’re pregnant!”

Giancarlo is unimpressed. “Do you know Old Dirty Bastard?”


“He reminds me of an electronic bad version of Old Dirty Bastard.” Yikes.

Bus Driver exits and a pack of minions begin preparing for the main act, positioning an assortment of strange items on stage: a harp, a mirror, and a bunch of hip clothes hanging on a clothesline.

The line outside still seems to be going on and on ad infinitum. Inside everyone is drinking, talking, staring straight ahead at the harp and the goddamn clothesline on stage. People shift and hop to get a good look at themselves in CocoRosie’s mirror. The venue throbs with old and young, male and female, with a great deal more transgendered beings than you see at most concerts. If the overall mood could be given a colour it would probably be purple, like a pale face holding its breath for too long, or a totally misplaced and impertinent simile.

The two sisters get a barbaric reception as they step on stage; audience members of all creeds and classes turn into raging baboons at the sight of them. Sierra takes a seat by the harp, gives us a starry wink, and begins the heavenly harp arpeggios that introduce “Tearz for Animals.” She opens her mouth and I am so willingly kidnapped by the noise. Show me someone who can sustain a falsetto better than this and I will show you an angel or an alien.

Surprisingly enough, I find myself now really loving Bianca’s voice as well. I think the excessive crispy-sweetness I heard back home is muffled in just the right way when she sings live. The vocal contrast is making me go loco; I feel steam blowing out of my ears. The goosebumps on my arms are sprouting their own faces and arms and appear to be swaying.

They visit the clothesline to put on a different outfit between every song (they do not strip, deviant; they just put the clothes on over the ones they’re already wearing). With each outfit and each song comes a completely new feel that somehow still oscillates within CocoRosie’s signature spectrum of sound, a spectrum basically comprised of: urban, hip-hopish rhythms; entrancing arpeggios; Sierra’s impeccable classical singing; and Bianca’s disarming vocal affectations. A beatboxer comes on stage and makes some really impossible noises, and all I’m mulling over in my head is what that man’s mouth could do to a woman’s... never mind.

What I thought would be a decent live show ended up becoming a completely blissful experience from start to end. Bianca won me over, Sierra stole my soul. I walked into SAT feeling quite strange, and left feeling even stranger. To all you strange strangers out there looking to get a little bit stranger, CocoRosie might be the show for you.

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