CocoRosie Fitzgerald's September 28, 2010
A kaleidoscope of musical and visual colors filled up the second floor of Fitzgerald's Tuesday evening as Bianca and Sierra Cassady of CocoRosie performed a nearly two-hour set for an enthusiastic crowd. Still glowing from the new remodeling transformation, the upstairs stage served as a playground of sound for the sister duo and three additional musicians.
After a mild and calm set from the opening act, whose Feist-like vocals and midtempo beats mellowed out the crowd, projection of a brightly pigmented carrousel appeared. As the music started for "R.I.P. Burn Face," one of the highlights on CocoRosie's latest album Grey Oceans, the eclectic, artsy crowd erupted in approval and jumped both feet into the musical wonderland.
The tender vocals strains of Sierra, a classically trained opera singer, lovingly reached out to the crowd, as if they were the hands of a little child waving you onto the playground, pleading you to come out and play.
Play they did, from the very first song until the last as nostalgic images of swings and fields flickered across the painted faces of the sisters. The musical texture of "R.I.P. Burned Face" stayed true to the ripples of sounds and effects of the album, said to be mostly improvised from multiple studio sessions. Bianca supported her sister onstage with a thin flute, echoing the folk-like melody.
A thin man wearing a ski cap and funky glasses served as the hype man/beat-box extraordinaire, supporting the hip-hop-like beats and clicks of a percussionist armed with a small trap set and various drums. Pianist/keyboardist Gael Rakontondrabe, a direct artistic participant on Grey Oceans, switched between a Korg keyboard of organ and synth sounds and a grand piano.
Grand piano? In Fitzgerald's? Yes folks, this place sure has been classed up lately. The shimmering C1 Yamaha served as the main musical force throughout the evening, offering washes of watercolor textures to the landscape. The sisters quickly swooped into "Undertaker" with bell-like twinkles and a haunting melody.
Sierra sang the reverb-drenched main vocal of a traditional Cherokee song that serves as the main thread throughout the song. A simple piano motif helped introduce Bianca's vocals, which seemed to be a cross between the soulful phrasing of a classic New Orleans jazz singer and the breathy phrasing of Bjork.
Eerie synth sounds lead us into Sierra's operatic introduction of the next song as flutes fluttered darkly underneath. While one might at first be caught off-guard by the heavy classical nature of her singing, it became very apparent that her vocal studies at the Conservatoire de Paris crafted a delicate yet powerful voice that perfectly matched the beauty of their musical style.
Heavy beats soon accompanied and the crowd bobbed up and down in approval as Bianca once again chimed in with her vocal swing, carrying out line after line of crafted poetry. Although you couldn't necessarily understand every phrase, when you did catch some of the words, you could tell that they pictorially depicted the worlds that Bianca created in her notebooks over the years.
Images of children and neon lights entered us into a track from their previous album, while an old-school Nintendo-sounding keyboard loop played. One may have started to question the authenticity of the music that resembles a lot of the kind that has been produced in Brooklyn's art scene over the years.
Seeing that loops resembling video games and quirky imagery seems to be a main staple of their presentation as much as the quirky costumes doesn't take away from the bursts of originality. The second half of the set, kicked off by a impressive beat box solo that included beats from early-'90s rap, truly showed the crowd why Cocorosie deserves to be called unique. The bass frequencies dropped lower, the piano became more colorful and the percussion more eclectic.
The interaction between the sisters was more playful and sincere. During "Hopscotch," the girls' faces beamed with smiles as they played clapping hand games to accompany the old salon-type piano rag that quickly turned into a nod to dubstep. Trance-like dance beats and more nods to knee sinking dub beats turned the crowd into dancers as they grooved along through the remaining songs.
Towards the end of the show, Aftermath ran into Ryan Chavez of Super Unison. When discussing the show, we noted that this concert filled with clips of classic jazz, Baroque opera, dirty hip-hop and children's songs, all executed with precision and heavenly grace, was like a musical purification of Fitzgerald's. The club once plagued with gagging screaming over thrashing drums and instrumentalists with bad emo hair swoops now played host to pure musical beauty.
Just as audiences hundreds of years ago filled concert halls to hang on the emotional strains of Handel's opera arias, so too did a packed crowd delight in the vocals and musical wonderland of CocoRosie. Houston should be proud that Jagi Katial and Omar Afra, the new captains of Fitzgerald's, have given us a new playground to experience music such as this.
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Personal Bias: Aftermath has a soft spot in our heart for quirky staging, costumes and presentation... especially when there is talent to back it up.
The Crowd: Not your typical music faces - a wide age range of artsy folks along with diehard fans who have memorized every poetic jaunt.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Look at this place! This is going to be the best night of music ever!" (Also, we're going to make this "over-seen in the crowd": Spiky-haired scarf-wearing man swirling his body to the music who jazz-handed us out of the way to belt out his favorite lyrics.)
Random Notebook Dump: Is that a gritsy version of the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way" blaring over the PA as we wait for CocoRosie to come on stage? Why yes, yes it is.