Me? I was striving to be enraptured. I leaned forward and tried to will myself out of a nightclub and into a setting where the music would've been more appropriate: perhaps a garden party with those small, crustless finger sandwiches. It'd be sunny and warm, and instead of plastic beads maybe there'd be a parasol or two. But despite the delicacy of the music, I remained in reality — thanks to the steadfast shouting of a girl in rabbit ears standing next to me, her back to the band, totally unawares. I scanned the crowd, and it seemed much the same: pint glasses bonking in revelry. No one in the cheap seats — meaning the people who were standing — seemed to notice they'd even begun playing.
That is, until Kooy said, "Well. Hhhi. We are Cotton Candy. There's so many of you this evening." As the Candies started playing "A Public Service Announcement about Clowns," a psychological sea change took place in the music — and in me. With the addition of lyrics, the dainty hues of the presentation mixed with ribald reds, the color of a freshly spanked ass.
"Clowns," Kooy sang. "Clowns get urges too. In the backseat of the clown car we can do a trick or two."
For me, this is where it all happens with Cotton Candy: the collision between long, delicate fingers on a microphone, a stately soft-shoe across the stage in an ankle-length dress, and bawdy lyrics about horny clowns, psycho roommates, and — on a song omitted from the set that evening but featured on their self-released 2005 debut, In the Pink — a perverted landlord who's fond of public enemas. (A second CD, Fairy Floss, is due this fall, and HarperCollins will publish Robertson's autobiography, What Rhymes with Bastard?, in 2007.) Flash back to the garden party, and you'll see that next to those repressed sandwiches are some cock-shaped cookies sitting serenely on a doily. And what's that rustle in the bushes? Victorians have the rap of being antisex only because they were so sex-obsessed they had to put some strictures on it. Strictures that, I might add, must have added up to some frantic unlacing of lace bodices in pantries.
Fancy, albeit filthy, pants
The crowd bantering through the instrumental opener was one thing, but after they continued their coarse chatter through the licentious lyrics, the one thing that might have held them in thrall — well, that was unforgivable. I officially aligned myself against them. And despite the fact that I probably would've enjoyed a quieter setting, I got a good deal of pleasure fancying myself to be a true cultural connoisseur, someone who clearly got it.
This stance on my part was a total farce, of course, but that's part of the fun with Cotton Candy. You can feel fancy and somewhat dirty at the same time. I liken the group to Shakespeare: On one hand, Cotton Candy are highbrow, and not a lot of people even attempt to understand them. Yet, on the other hand, they're really just about a bunch of dirty jokes. "I don't just want to be friends with you," Kooy sang. "I want to rip your clothes off too." They cut through the prim and proper façade while appearing to observe all the social niceties.