Last Night: CocoRosie at the Regency Ballroom

Categories: Last Night

Photos by Gretchen Robinette

@ The Regency Ballroom
June 29, 2010

Better than or equal to: Lisa Frank on steroids

You could spot the freak-folk believers from afar: in their pink tights,
Navajo vests, and single-eared feather earrings, each teal plume like a
smoke signal calling, "Don't you kind of feel what I'm kind of feeling?"

A makeshift tent of neon draping was plopped onstage; gold garland
cluttered the floor and wreathed the mic stand. It was like something
Lovefest and B2B aborted, and a giant magpie came in with its frantic
cabling of the twig, the hair, and the sparkly shit to make its nest/my
childhood dream-fort. This was the -- inspired? -- backdrop for opener
Cibelle's uninspired set.

Lost in reverb, the nuances of Cibelle's voice were hard to separate and the
lyrics just a rattle in the echo-effect -- though a lovely and lush rattle.
With such a beautifully breezy voice, she was drowned out by her own
discordant beats and mismatched melodies, blurring each song into the next.
Despite her amazing voice and penchant for a colorful, kitschy ambiance,
Cibelle was pretty muted.


But perhaps she was muted so not to detract from the headliner; after all,
Cibelle uses hip-hop beats and jazz melodies similarly to how CocoRosie uses them, juxtaposes ethereal vocals with electronica just the same. So when CocoRosie and its frontladies -- sisters Bianca and Sierra Casady -- took the stage, the sound increased considerably.

CocoRosie's newest album, Grey Oceans, is boring. But it's a vast improvement from The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn, which was a blundering mess. Disclosure: I was one of those aforementioned believers, minus the groupie garb. I held the Casady sisters in my heart from La Maison de Mon RĂªve to Noah's Ark. But when Ghosthorse came out, I cringed at the trite lyrics I had once excused; in the past I ignored them because I'd been so interested in the sisters' sheer energy, but after the gimmick exhausted itself, it was hard to see CocoRosie as anything more than art-school whimsy.

But last night's performance renewed my belief, because, as with all their
performances, they know how to put on a show. The crowd thrilled at their
beatboxer, Tez, who never ceases to amaze, if not by the dexterity of his
lips, then by his lung capacity. And each time Sierra's voice opened up
operatically, the crowd praised her. At times, however, it was hard to make out Bianca's vocals; she sounded like an incoherent Joanna Newsom, drunkenly sing-telling you about her dreams. With a mouthful of marbles. But, still, she did the "grating" thing well.

Talented at building tension with dramatic crests and troughs, CocoRosie
defended Grey Oceans. "Lemonade" was played with more heart live than
on the album, and even "Hopscotch" was passable, despite the sisters'
decision to indulge in a clapping game onstage.

Their cover of "Turn Me On" was more subdued however than in previous shows. In the past, Bianca and occasional opener Spleen would grind to the song; sans Spleen or any grind-buddy, the energy wasn't quite there this time. On the plus side, no matter how CocoRosie covers this song, it's far better
than the original.

Though Grey Oceans is at times hard to sit through because of the
word-association babble and vapid storytelling, the album comes through
successfully live, though not as strongly as the first two. The ethereal
thrums of the harp, lilting hymnals and insistent beats come together best
live, whereas they sound messy and benumbed on record.


Critic's Notebook
California Love: Felt a little bit of u-n-i-t-y when Bianca announced, via AutoTune, that she lived at California and Larkin in "nineteen-ninety-sev-ehhhn."

YTMND: The video in the background was bizarre, per usual, with its neon
dolphins and one-eyed cat, but skimming through submissions on YTMND would be just as satisfying, if not for the "levitating cat accelerates upstairs for a nap" gif alone.

Follow this blog @SFAllShookDown and the writer @jolenetorr

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