Last Night: CocoRosie at Revolution, September 24

Photo by Ian Witlen
with Raffa & Rainer
at Revolution, Fort Lauderdale
Friday, September 24, 2010

Check out a slideshow from the concert here.

Better than: A drum circle with a beatboxer, a pianist, a woodwind combo, harp, and images of horses and beach scenes. Wait. Does that even exist?

The review: Attending a CocoRosie show is much like going to the circus as a kid: You don't know what kinds of characters you'll end up interacting with or what kind of show you'll see exactly, but you do know you're in for some kind of treat. One major thing in common with Friday night's show and the aforementioned flash of nostalgia? Bearded ladies. Lots and lots of bearded ladies. 

It was hard to know what to expect from CocoRosie's Bianca and Sierra Casady. A downright spectacle was the likely result. They love layering Victorian ballgowns one on top of the other to feel like "flowers," and somehow morphing ladylike attire into something decidedly androgynous. But then a video of a carnival ride with chairs spinning midair appeared on the stage, and curtains opened to reveal the Casadys wearing what looked like merely old-fashioned undergarments. Bianca seemed to have abandoned her trademark mustache -- from where we were standing, it looked like a simple black lip outline that curled at the edges. She didn't don any menswear except for a leather harness fastened around her shoulders and rib cage. Was this a new era of CocoRosie, or were they just victims of their extremely hot environment?

What happened after can best be described only as "you had to be there." The sisters Casady were like pied pipers, lulling their audience into a trance with the rhythms and the movements to the point that everyone just stared in amazement. Somehow, they'd filled out the band with a beatboxer and Gael Rakotondrabe, a classically trained pianist from France, to make a sound that didn't make our ears want to bleed.

One sister picked up the flute while the other flailed her arms gracefully in the air and bent around almost aimlessly. The beatboxer added extra drums and bass to the backdrop as Rakotondrabe stroked the ivories. Closeups of a horse's eye, plant life, and spinning skyscapes were projected onto the back screen. Balloons with messages like "It's a Boy!" "Happy Birthday, Princess," and "I Love You" anchored the stage. Front-row showgoers blew bubbles and waved wands, and it was a little like what you'd feel right before an out-of-body experience.

At one point, the entire band left the stage, and the beatboxer returned solo. He started by merely counting, and we thought he was just testing the mics or something. But what happened next was equal parts head-scratching and head-bopping, as he went from sampling beats of Ginuwine's "Pony" to making sounds we'd never heard come out of a human being's mouth. Were we on the set of Police Academy? The crowd ate it up, each and every bit of it (video below). After his performance, the girls returned with different headpieces. They sweetly played hopscotch during "Hopscotch," and then slowed it down visually with serene beach backdrops juxtaposed by their ever-present beatboxer.  

Once they left the stage and returned for an encore, Sierra took to the piano as Bianca danced almost marionette-like, switching back and forth between full-on jumps and the Trepek Russian dance. The energy at this point was beyond contagious.

Miami-based folksters Raffa & Rainer's opening set required Rainer Davies to fly in for the show from his new home in Philadelphia, and though we'd seen Raffa Jo Harris perform several times sans her guitarist, we now got the reason why several people have referred to them as "R&R." Their down-home, decidedly Southern sound blended perfectly, and Raffa's curled vocals seemed to wrap around Rainer's extremely revealing facial expressions, enveloping guitars and bass into a neat little package you can't wait to open. Though their set was brief and minimal, they still brought it, and we felt the passion behind every note as it was played.

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: I dig concerts that come with built-in visual stage shows.

The crowd: A lot of women with shaved heads, teen girls with mustaches and beards painted on, 20-somethings, hipsters, middle-aged couples.

Overheard in the crowd: From a middle-aged guy: "They're such pretty girls. Why the mustache?"

Random detail: An interesting array of costumes. Personal favorites: Girl with a Peter Pan hat, someone with a layer of tutus on, and a guy with a pig hat/mask.

Set Lists
Raffa & Rainer
"Little Bit"
"Tip Toe"
"A Good Man Is Hard to Find" (Tom Waits cover)
"Preventative Heartache"
"Long Way Home"
"North Carolina Boys"
"The Boy in the Bar"

"R.I.P. Burnface"
"Black Rainbow"
"The Moon Asked the Crow"
"Happy Eyz"
"Smokey Taboo"
"Turn Me On"
"God Has A Voice (She Speaks Through Me)"
"Fairy Paradise"

"Beautiful Boys"
"Tranny Power"