If LA provocateur Ariel Pink has a long lost female twin, then it must be Soko (nee Stephanie Sokolinski). The French singer – who first launched to fame thanks to the viral “First Kiss” video in 2014 – has the same affinity for secondhand clothes, retro synth-pop, onstage antics and occasional flashes of nudity, all of which she brought in spades to the Bootleg Monday night.
Making her grand entrance via a woozy tumble, she launched into her set after introducing herself in an accent that can only be described as “vaguely European” (a combination of her native French with hints of a Mario brothers-style Italian impression).
The blue-haired sprite was diminutive in stature but big on manic energy. Blunt to the point of awkwardness, she jumped from talking about depression and suicidal thoughts to needing a “fat pick” in almost the same breath. It was her way of disarming the audience and preparing them for a set that’s both emotionally intense and raucously fun.
Soko’s new scuzzy pop-punk sound, combined with her earlier tender acoustic recordings, have brought her some decent notoriety in the last three years. She has a small, but impressive fan base that she embraces with open arms (literally). She clearly wants her audience to be a part of the performance, both physically and spiritually. At one point during her set, she invited a random woman onstage to share her own “Bad Poetry” (a short feminist ode read from an iPhone) and later brought a girl in pigtails and a Soko t-shirt on stage to dance along to “I Thought I Was an Alien.”
Throughout her performance, Soko moved like a whirling dervish and made piss jokes, refusing to be a grownup. “I refuse to conform / I refuse to transform…I am living in a dream,” she sang on “Peter Pan Syndrome” after belching into the microphone and having a bra strapped to her head. Later in the night when she flashed her breasts to the audience, remarking playfully, “I would take my shirt off but it’s illegal to do that in California!”
It is a move that is neither leering nor lascivious and which her audience accepts/embraces as part of her presence.
Speaking of Pink, he made a pseudo-appearance on their collaborative effort “Love Trap,” which she performed with creepy sound bites of Pink’s voice sampled throughout. When she played “We Might Be Dead Tomorrow” towards the end of her set it’s such a departure from her hyperactive persona that it left us stunned; the faint orchestral strings pulsating in the background, reaching dramatic crescendos, while her voice cracks with raw emotion. It was a reminder that Soko is a performer who can knock you on your ass with her spunky attitude or with her subtle way of expressing the darkest parts of herself.