Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Part Anthropologie catalogue, part Exploding Plastic Inevitable, a dash of Puccini and a splash of Charlie Chaplin. Throw in some CrazySexyCool-era TLC for good measure and you might have some idea of what a CocoRosie concert feels like.
Yeah, they’re a little gimmicky, and easy to hate upon for their whole prodigal émigré shtick, but on Tuesday at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, CocoRosie was totally captivating, providing a full-sensory experience of shifting sounds and enchanting visuals that truly blew me away.
In the center of the stage sat an old wooden crib with a slightly sinister-looking baby painted on the side, innovatively converted into a drum kit and flanked by a grand piano, a bright blue harp, a lopsided keyboard and a table covered in a clutter of battery-operated children’s toys that would later be used as instruments. The place looked more like a pimped-out nursery than a music stage, and Bianca "Coco" and Sierra "Rosie" Casady matched their surroundings well, dressed up like little girls who just raided a fashionable mother’s decade-spanning closet.
Live, the freak-folk sister act succeed where their recordings fall short, managing to draw listeners fully into the strange, carefully crafted little world they so clearly live in. Heady, uncanny, and slightly cloying, this place is a cosseted fantasy land of lovingly crayoned rainbows and expensive vials of Parisian patchouli. There are plenty of vintage costumes to try on. Come on in.
There’s something a little Flowers in the Attic about the whole affair, but from the floor of the Variety—where throngs of decked out, boozed up cult fans screeched their praises and even, in rare moments of composure, tossed flowers—CocoRosie seemed nothing short of fabulous. As did the truly fantastic beatboxing of lovable Vanilla Ice doppelganger Tez, who wore sweet flip-up sunglasses and possessed some serious skillz on the mic. His 10-minute solo during an intermission was one of the coolest parts of the whole show. Also worth mentioning, the stupid fake mustaches that Coco and Rosie have been shoving down our throats lately (gender-bending sensibility: thoroughly noted) were, happily, nowhere to be seen.
The Casady sisters have certainly retained the bond they nurtured back in Paris while recording their first album together, the appropriately titled La Maison de Mon Rêve (The House of My Dreams). Their most recent album, 2010’s Grey Oceans, has a similarly enchanting feel to it. Sierra’s classically-trained soprano bubbles up against Bianca’s grating warble, which kind of sounds like the voice of Danny Torrance’s finger in The Shining (“Red rum, red rum, red ruuummm…” You remember).
In Grey Oceans, the sisters toy with a widened range of influences, all spliced up and pasted together, with results ranging from the intricate beauty of medieval mosaics to the tawdry, gluey messes of overwrought decoupage.
The concert showcased this bold blending at its best. The lovely Judy Garland-esque chorus sandwiched between the mournful vocals, slow-jam percussion, and delicious brass accents of “Lemonade.” The lindy hop patty-cake cameo of “Hopscotch.” The gorgeously danceable “Fairy Paradise,” where Sierra’s haunting coloratura sidles alongside a particularly delightful stretch of Bianca-style lyricism in which “trance music makes the fairies dance.”
CocoRosie is what Tegan & Sara might become if they went to Devendra Banhart’s house, took a whole bunch of acid, and started believing in fairies. “Welcome to New Weird America,” the fairies would say. “You’ll like it here.”
--Written and Photos by Hilary Cadigan