CocoRosie / Busdriver Venue, Vancouver BC, October 24

CocoRosie / Busdriver Venue, Vancouver BC, October 24
Photo: Alan Ranta
Surrealism was in the air as the CocoRosie faithful came out in force, as hippy-gypsy Renaissance Fair ladies in frilly dresses that looked like they walked out of the freak-folk duo's liner notes filled Venue to capacity.

With skeletons and mummies hanging from the ceiling to light the Halloween spirit, and a clothesline stretched across the stage, Los Angeles rapper Regan Farquhar (a.k.a. Busdriver) warmed the crowd up with a solo set. He tweaked beats ranging from hard house to symphonic glitch over which he laid his signature cerebral flows, delivered at a breakneck pace that could rival Busta Rhymes in his prime. While obviously talented, Farquhar seemed almost schizophrenic, alternately dazzling and befuddling as he attempted to engage the distracted crowd with hard-stop teasers and beckons to the crowd for responses.

Upping the theatrics, CocoRosie sisters Bianca and Sierra Casady, along with multi-instrumentalist Takuya Nakamura and ace beatboxer TEZ, took the stage wearing stripy muumuus, the first of many costumes they'd move through. Sierra would rock lingerie, an apron, and a sequin geometric tutu, while Bianca put on a Twin Rivers t-shirt from the clothesline, a top hat, overalls, a "Pride" baseball hat, and saggy bottom jogging pants, with both later donning the tribal masks from their "We Are On Fire" video.

Their performance went far beyond costumes, though: Nakamura played a Nord keyboard, upright piano, and trumpet, among other things; Sierra spent time between harp, piano, and vocal processors; and Bianca laid down bass lines on a Korg and performed various wind instruments. TEZ was the only musician who didn't change instruments between every song.

Everything felt live and fresh. For all the dense soundscapes, they sprinkled in stunning minimal moments like when Bianca sang the majority of "Harmless Monster" from their recent album Tales of a GrassWidow with just a piano accompaniment, or when TEZ nailed an awe-inspiring solo beatboxing exhibition mid-set, including his take on Ginuwine's "Pony."

Their theatricality was something else. They played with the clothesline, or at least got caught up in it a couple times, and used a white vanity set to stage Broadway moments, fanning themselves there before an early costume change or reapplying makeup. With her creepy, childlike voice and hip-hop style, Bianca was reminiscent of Beth Gibbons, but Sierra earned MVP of this show; her opera training at the Conservatoire de Paris shined through, hypnotizing with her shimmering soprano, and imbuing hooks like "welcome to the afterlife" and "this is the end of time" with all the drama of a Disney princess.

Near the end of their set, during a downtempo new-age take on "God Has A Voice, She Speaks Through Me," Sierra put on a silver dangly headpiece that slipped down and became tangled. Abandoning the third verse, she turned away from the crowd and ripped it off, taking a large chunk of her hair with it. While Bianca momentarily looked at her with concern, Sierra ditched the clump of jewelry and tresses and returned to the mic, powering through to sing the rest of the track like nothing happened.

Although the biggest crowd response arguably went to their trip-hop laden "Smokey Taboo" from 2010's Grey Oceans, Busdriver came back for an incendiary verse on their upbeat take on "K-Hole" from Noah's Ark, which brought their set to a natural crescendo.