By David Courtright
CocoRosie has always been an entity steeped in mystery. Their history borders on mythology: a pair of sisters with a transient childhood, vision quests through the desert with their father, separation and estrangement. Only in early adulthood did the sisters reconcile and find their love for making music together. Their visual presentation is inseparable from their music, as they delve into the macabre and the occult, using elements of cabaret and vaudeville and bizarre or obscure instruments. In the music criticism world, their authenticity and relevance is a hotly contested debate. Their music generally moves people quite violently in one direction or another: adoration or loathing.
Seeing them live was revelatory. The last time they were set to tour in America, they were arrested at the border for “documentation discrepancies” and the tour was canceled. This was a large bummer. The Variety Playhouse, always a pleaser, was the perfect venue for them. Their audience was a decidedly bohemian, rather same-sex oriented crowd. With little fanfare they appeared onstage – the two sisters, Bianca and Sierra, their beat-box wizard, a percussionist and a piano/synth player. The drum/percussion kit was encased in an antique baby’s crib with fat baby painted on the side. The sisters sported a very French ensemble, complete with floral-patterned black stockings with runs and holes, red lips outlined in black. Bianca, the more subdued, baby-voiced sister, wore a bowler hat with a cloth doily underneath. Sierra, the elder, was all smiles and operatic gesturing.
Behind the band was a large screen that projected every kind of bizarre psychedelic image, anything from doll heads dripping blood and crying to orbiting paper roses, flashes of heat lightning, close ups of lion fur and mane, carousels spinning, lots of eyeballs crying and blinking, and crucifixes. Their set leaned heavily on newer songs, though they played the crowd-pleaser “God Has a Voice She Speaks Through Me,” and a surprising, almost indistinguishable from the original, cover of Kevin Lyttle’s “Turn Me On.” Bianca had a table set up for all of her children’s farmyard toys, which she would float over to on occasion to elicit a perfectly-placed “moo.”
One of the true highlights of the show was their beat-boxer. A waif-like blonde man with wild hair and flip-up sunglasses, he was a dead ringer for a Bond villain. The rest of the band went off stage for a moment and he exhibited the superhuman range of sounds he could make with only his mouth, accented by hand gestures and the occasional cock of the head and devilish smile. For such a weird band, one goes into their live show having no idea of what to expect. Safe to say they put on an amazing show.