Tuesday, April 26
I love CocoRosie!
by Amy O'Neal
Here it goes... I had such a lovely, euphoric, time at On the Boards last night (Saturday April 23 05). Being a dancer/choreographer in this city, I frequent On the Boards on a regular basis either seeing shows or performing myself. It was so refreshing to go to a sold out show of 450 people and only see about 10 that I knew (usually I know at least half of the audience at OTB). That needs to happen more often.
So, I am going to proceed with sharing some thoughts that came to mind that I jotted down while watching the show.
Devendra Banhart -flying carpet floating, speaking in tongues, soft and sexy, quiet ranting, pleasantly possessed, smooth, delightful
William Basinski- boring green video of effected water, I wouldn't care if I was stoned (sorry, I work with video and have seen ALOT of it and it just wasn't my thing)
CocoRosie-haunting, I cried, I never cry at shows, I love CocoRosie!, these voices were made to sing together, beautiful sad stories full of sentiment and longing and reality, so sweet and sour, the song about wanting to be a housewife and dying a housewife nearly killed me, bitter sweet and surreal, I am so impressed with the musicianship and inventiveness of these women, the care bears video even made me cry at one point ( I was a Care Bearaholic growing up)
Antony and the Johnsons- so tragic ("I am very happy so hit me, I am very happy so hurt me" damn), "the lake" affected me when I heard the recording, but hearing it live was something else, humans love to be in pain when it comes to love, "be my husband" by Nina Simone was so intense, wanted more from this set somehow, but not sure what
The evening as a whole was so bitter sweet. I felt like I had a crush that was unrequited. Reveling in the quiet satisfaction of how alive and awake it makes you feel. (Except during the video, I had to pee really bad and I was annoyed that it was so dark and that if I got up, it would be rude, and I was bored on top of it, again sorry). I came to this show only knowing very little about these artists, only hearing a few recordings here or there. I have to say it is very rare that I get to see art for the art itself without any information about the people themselves. Sometimes knowing too much about the artist and their past work can be helpful, but other times a detriment to the initial experience. I am grateful to have had this opportunity and now I am going to do some homework on them and possibly follow CocoRosie around. It was really interesting to see how these artists are connected and how they inspire each other, (except William Basinski, I am not sure about that one, again, homework). Smart programming OTB.
Friday, April 22
The earth is composed of four different layers: The crust (the layer we live on), the mantle (the hot layer below the crust) and the outer and inner cores (the super hot layers below the mantle). Now because I’m an obnoxious English major with a penchant for obnoxious metaphors, I’m going to compare Saturday night’s Devendra/Basinski/CocoRosie/Antony to the four layers of earth. Please stick with me. I promise this won’t hurt too much.
THE CRUST A trill-off. A warble-down. A forward-thinking/forward-singing quaver crooning competition. On the surface (yes, the crust-level), that’s what Saturday night’s Devendra/Basinski/CocoRosie/Antony show was. And in case you’re wondering, Devendra and his beautifully dynamic chirrup, and Antony and his icy hot alien blues vibrato, tied for first place. The fedora-sporting half of CocoRosie wasn’t bad, but she sounded too much like uber-harpist Joanna Newsome, who I’ll get back to in a second. To conclude, warble-style singing is big in crust culture (i.e., the underground. Damn, this analogy’s paying off already) these days and I love this fact.
THE MANTLE Dig a little deeper and Saturday night’s show contained a strong time traveling element. Devendra and his guitar-playing “brother” Noah Georjeson looked and often sounded like two wandering Andalucian minstrels hailing from the wine-in-a-deerskin days of yore. William Basinsksi’s shimmering, water-muffled compositions contained an undeniable Brian Eno influence (the perfect soundtrack for a trip back to the late ’70s/early ’80s experimental ambient scene). Philosophically and aesthetically-speaking, Antony has the whole Warhol thing going on (he has strong ties to early Downtown NYC culture) and there were fascinating moments last night when it almost seemed as if he had traveled into the future as a representative from those long lost days of Basquiat goodness. Musically, you can link Antony’s voice all the way back to the great wounded female blues singers of the early 20th Century. I know much of this time traveling business probably sounds a bit trite and easy, but remember, we’re still only at the mantle.
THE OUTER CORE This is where we talk about originality. Hot as magma-style originality. While it’s true that the above-mentioned artists wear their blues, folk, early ambient etc. etc. influences on their fabulous sleeves, they put a strikingly original spin on their music. Devendra’s lo-fi global village folk culture mash-ups are insanely creative, especially during these days of highest-tech musical production. Antony and the Johnsons sound like a band of exiled Broadway bastards creating desperate ballads and show tunes for more accepting civilizations of the future. Hell, even CocoRosie (who in my mind gave the least unique and earnest performance of the evening) supplied a couple of inventive moments, blending opera, children’s instruments and fuzzy samples into something good, if not a bit creepy. Overall, I don’t care what anyone says, it’s a great time for music and these artists exemplify this greatness.
THE INNER CORE The last stop, my friends. The hottest and deepest stop. The core of last night’s show—the essence of last night’s show—was love. Sorry to get all soft all of a sudden, but it’s true. A good old-fashioned love connection occurred between the artists producing wild-ass sounds on stage and the drunk-on-red-wine audience member scenesters. I felt it. My girlfriend felt it. The black-rimmed glasses set (at least 50 percent of all audience members) felt it. The orgasm of this love connection took place when, toward the end of the show, everyone in the room clapped along to Antony and friends’ meditation on the elements. “Water and dust” sang Antony as we clapped out rhythms like ancient tribespeople. “Dust and water, water and dust.” Yes, last night the earth—from its inner core to its outer everything—shook with delight at this lovely little On the Boards experience.
P.S. The only performer missing last night was Joanna Newsome. Where was she? I love her.
Baldness and Care Bears
This evening of music opened with Devendra Banhart (with Noah Georjeson), whose trilling, yelping vocals combined with delicate guitar plucking to create a gypsy/folk/samba sound, very pared down, but joyous in its simplicity. Devendra chatted comfortably with the audience, giving his set a cozy, intimate feel. One song, an affectionate ode to baldness (made all the more curious by the sumptuous hair of both Devendra and Noah) was a particular favorite of the crowd.
This warm and human opening was then virtually wasted, as the next act was generic "experimental" music (the sort that sounds like the surf or a passing subway car filtered through a kazoo) accompanied by generic "experimental" video (a series of luminescent green patterns, wave formations, and assorted flickering colors). Really trippy, man, circa 1971.
Fortunately, the third act, CocoRosie, a sister act who play guitar, harp, piano, and assorted electronic children's toys, come across like a 2-person Cat Power, mixing fragmented melodies and raspy vocals to slightly spooky but charming effect. Maybe it's just the bits of a Care Bear video that were projected behind them ("I remember that episode," murmured the audience member sitting next to me, as two Care Bears slid down a fracturing rainbow), but CocoRosie's songs seem like they're sung by cast-off stuffed animals, worn and ragged once-loved toys that now pine for their owners' cruel affections.
Antony's voice lived up to the gushing descriptions I'd read---the love child of Nina Simone and Little Jimmy Scott, I think one critic said. Unfortunately, his songs seem to exist solely to display his voice, and as a result Antony's uncanny epicene sound overwhelms them. The songs are certainly pretty as you listen to them, occasionally lovely, but their passing leaves no mark on your senses. In the middle of the set Antony and the Johnsons covered a song (I'm not sure by whom; it sounded like Leonard Cohen) that had a structural integrity of its own and thus, ironically, framed Antony far better than his own meandering work. (As I can't identify the song, I could be wrong, maybe Antony did write it---if so, it's a much stronger song than the rest of his oeuvre and I hope he continues to travel down that road.) /x-tad-smaller>/fontfamily>
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