The Conspiracy of Venus Offers Ethereal Arrangements in Berkeley

Freight & Salvage hosts the all-female vocal ensemble recognized for its voluptuous sounds and sumptuous harmonies.


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Conspiracy of Venus spreads love, soothes angst, and assuages bleakness.

Photo courtesy Conspiracy Of Venus

We live in an age of suspicions and paranoia, of cabals, secret deals, schemes, connivances, and collusions. But what we need is a Conspiracy of Venus. Fortunately, the all-female vocal ensemble is here to spread the love, soothe our angst, and assuage our bleakest moods with ethereal arrangements of songs by the likes of Björk, Joni Mitchell, Iris Dement, Tom Waits, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, and Leonard Cohen.

With nearly 30 members, the Bay Area group kicks off its 12th season Tue., Nov. 20, at Freight & Salvage (and also performs Nov. 4 at the Swedish American Hall as part of the San Francisco Leonard Cohen Festival with Conspiracy of Beards & Friends). It was Cohen’s luminously incisive verse-turned-song that provided the half-shell out of which this particular Venus spun-off from the Beards, a nattily attired all-male ensemble devoted to Cohen’s songs that started performing in 2003.

Founded and directed by Berkeley-reared composer, vocalist, and pianist Joyce Todd McBride, the Conspiracy of Venus casts a wider musical net, weaving McBride originals into the voluptuous program. While often described as an a cappella ensemble, the Veni are not averse to instrumentalists. At the Freight show, they’ll be joined for several pieces by bassist Stacy Starkweather and drummer Jeff Fraass Pera.

McBride, a prolific composer with a vast and varied body of work, also breaks out with the players to perform several songs as a trio, drawing on a different repertoire encompassing George Gershwin, Leon Russell, George Harrison, Dave Frishberg, and her originals. Whatever the configuration, Conspiracy of Venus builds lapidary sonic structures that practically compel listeners to enter and explore, lolling around in wave after sumptuous wave of harmonies.

Conspiracy of Venus, Tue., Nov. 20, 8 p.m., Freight & Salvage, Berkeley, $14-$18, 510-644-2020, TheFreight.org.

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