By Carol Cooper
Last night at Joe’s Pub in lower Manhattan I witnessed a quintessential “downtown” event: the simultaneous launch of a sultry caberet-rock album and a feature-length video memoir. It was D.I.Y. multimedia at its finest!
First, Adriana Kaegi, co-founder (with August Darnell and “Sugar Coated” Andy Hernandez) of Kid Creole and the Coconuts draped her curvy blonde frame in a spectacular white and chocolate gown to perform excerpts from *Tag*, her brand new I-Tunes release. Then she premiered the film *Kid Creole and My Coconuts* in which she describes with archival footage the volatile interpersonal chemistry which both shaped and tormented America’s quirkiest multi-culti pop band.
Humor is the pivot around which both projects turn, a quality that renders even the heaviest moments in her movie, music, and life oddly inspirational. People expecting unclassy stuff like onscreen ranting, anger and sour grapes won’t find it: Kaegi and her production crew know that bitterness is boring, and the real story here is how despite every internal or external impediment this pioneering ensemble consistantly produced unique art and music… of a quality which will never be surpassed.
A wise person once said that no man–no matter how famous–is a hero to his wife. Literary testimony from spouses of guys as diverse as Pablo Picasso and Tibetan meditation guru Chogyam Trungpa proves that even the most inspired and influential cultural heroes can be full of internal contradictions and annoying flaws. And no one knows such flaws better than a loyal spouse. So when a wife is also her husband’s creative and business partner, her insight and tolerance must expand to cover the multiple roles her marriage demands of her. Especially when the working partnership outlasts the marriage!
Few ex-wives are better equipped with enough dry wit to describe the highs and lows of marriage to a Great Man than the Swiss-born singer, actress, and high-concept choreographer Adriana Kaegi. As proven by her documentary, it’s the comedic actress in Kaegi that gave the Coconuts and all her subsequent creative projects their iconic energy.
Informed as much by mime and silent cinema as by ethnic and modern dance, Kaegi’s choreography works to illustrate and enhance any song, from Darnell’s gigolo anthem “I’m A Wondeful Thing” to her own Bardot-esque “C’est Ma Vie”. Her personal thoughts/commentary on any topic in her own or Darnell’s catalog are always telegraphed by her dance moves–something critics too often overlook. Kaegi’s acute sense of irony is so infused with compassion and love of life that she responds to all adversity with the light, almost surgical intervention of a diplomat.
On *Tag,* information-age club rhythms steeped in Latin, funk, and pop-jazz flavors slide underneath Kaegi’s silky contralto as she makes wry observations about financial anxiety, sex, rebellious trust-fund kids, sex, downsized expectations in career or romance, and well, sex. If David Bowie had been born Swiss and female he might have made an album like this in 2009. In many ways *Tag* is the perfect cool segue from overheated Kid Creole flashbacks…which is probably just what Adriana and co-producer Patrick Grant had in mind.