This spring I had the opportunity to attend intimate, small venue shows of well-known artists across the arrondissements of Paris, basking in the fact that such an event is rare and prized in Chicagoland for the likes of Ben Lee or Alkaline Trio. Reverse nationalities and nations and you can anticipate how excited many were to see Cocoon, a heralded French folk-duo from Clermont-Ferrand, play our Empty Bottle lat Monday night. Cocoon conquered television and radio stations in France, earning gold-certification for their debut album and a nomination for the country's Mercury Prize-equivalent the Prix Constantin before playing their first dates on American soil.
Describing the night as 'familial', the intimate setting brought the curious and the accustomed together to listen to Mark Daumail's wispy voice melding into a melancholic melange with Morgan's innocent keys and gentle harmonies. The gradual Hummingbird, poignantly progressed by Morgan and an egg shaker gave way to the folk pop frolic of Vultures soon after. The song aptly mirrors many others, coupling sweet, fragile singing with surprisingly dark, gloomy lyrics. This juxtaposition will soon bend, as evidenced by the bevy of new songs off their upcoming sophomore release. With subjects and titles such as Sea Lions, Sushi, and Lighthouses and Sailors, the theme was easy to discern and with more optimistic content. Musically, the new songs draw more from Bryter Layter than Pink Moon; to elaborate on a comparison to a fellow folk artist, Nick Drake.
While the fragility and sullen singing of Cliffhanger may weigh the heavily colored contrast of the Empty Bottle's stage, the duo's interactions effortlessly reversed the emotional dichotomy to lift the crowd. In response to being in America and hearing 'American', Mark excitedly proclaimed, "I love the way you speak. It's really funny and cute!" before lamenting Mexican food proportions. Likewise, cheers urgently met Chicago clothing purchases and while his guitar was bought in France, he wittingly came to the defense, "But it's a Gibson!" The night's most memorable moment did not come from the bands, but the crowd itself. Nestled on the corner of Western and Pearson, the audience capped Cocoon's concert in the most unexpected way; with chants of "Une autre!" (Another!) rather than the typical encore claps and cheers. A rare moment in our multicultural metropolis!