Going into last night's show at Music Hall of Williamsburg (9/15), I admit I had little idea of what to expect not only from CocoRosie, but from the extravagantly worded opener as well. (To borrow the phrasing of the Bowery Presents event listing, the opening act was a "Gay Mormon Kissing Club DJ Set with special guests Nomi Ruiz, Kembra Pfahler, Laundrymatters and Rebecca Wright.") This was clearly more than a straight-forward DJ set.
As if attempting to live up to the frenetic nature of the description, the "DJ Set" was a wild mixture of music manipulation and performance art. I arrived about midway through the set - not long enough to witness all of the 'special guests,' but with plenty of time to get a sense of the strange scene. Immediately upon entering the room I was so distracted by the spectacle on stage of the two DJs - their faces obscured by multiple scarves and handkerchiefs - that the music blaring through the speakers became only ancillary. After quite a performance, which involved an angry monologue set in part to Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together" (and a host of other attention grabbers), the stage cleared and the crowd pushed forward.
In between the sets, the stage was adorned by a number of Mylar helium balloons that depicted mixed messages. (Was it someone's birthday? No wait. That one said "Get Well Soon" and another - "It's a Girl!") Though the meaning of the balloons was never made clear, the stage was set for a theatrical and highly spirited performance.
Sisters Bianca (Mom called her 'Coco') and Sierra (you guessed it, 'Rosie') Casady create an intriguing combination of hip hop and "freak folk", and their live show is certainly a spectacle worth witnessing. Set to a background of swirling, carnivalesque projections, their first song began with a lovely little piano intro. Then, enter Tez, the skinny, hipster-glasses-framed beatboxer, and Sierra on vox. Like a woodland nymph, Sierra danced around the stage, singing sweetly.
Sure, the dancing, sound effects (cue haunted house noise), outfits (Bianca had a severed ponytail hanging from the front of her dress), and beatboxing were a bit over-the-top at times, but the sisters seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves on stage. These were not cool, aloof, self-appointed divas. One look at Sierra's huge smile between songs made this abundantly clear. As if performing for the first time, the girl could not contain her glee, and the effect was charming.
Midway through their set, Sierra and Bianca left the stage to Tez, whose impressively powerful beatboxing quickly caused technical problems. No more than a few minutes into his performance, his mic gave out. He began again, after a quick apology and some assistance from the tech guy, but his new mic gave out even more quickly than before, and he bashfully welcomed the others back on stage.
Apparently, the short break had been enough time for a costume change - at least for Bianca who now wore a satin bustier. For the second half of their set, the number of performers nearly doubled thanks to the welcome addition of a 4-piece horns section. Invigorated by the additional force of the brass, CocoRosie delivered an impassioned performance, that began with the song "Hopscotch" and concluded with "Lemonade."
Though their stage personalities seem to greatly vary, the dynamic and highly collaborative nature of their music makes for a compelling scene. Throughout the show, they switched off vocal duties regularly, Sierra's operatic vibrato interestingly pitted against Bianca's spoken word raps.
The crowd's fanaticism following the conclusion of CocoRosie's set was impressive. The floor was shaking due to all the clapping, cheering, and stomping... but of course, the room was filled with admirers who had willingly (and even lovingly) paid the steep $30 entry fee. It's no secret that the merits of CocoRosie are stringently debated in the blogosphere. Between Bianca's baby-talk voice, and the duo's bizarre theatrical personas, the Casady sisters make music people love to hate. But then again - how many fans would stick around long enough and cheer enthusiastically enough to invoke a second encore... and how many artists would be gracious enough to respond to the call?
Cocorosie are now on tour. More pictures from the Brooklyn show below...
Gay Mormon Kissing Club