Ed. note: Friend of Treeswingers Jonathan Hall gives us a first-person account of what it’s like to get caught up in a haze of pandas, teeny boppers and Starfucker.
It’s the loaded Friday night of Noise Pop and I am going to a Starfucker show for the first time. Words and phrases like “insane,” “cross-dressed” and “floor-bouncing” buzz in my ear.
I arrive early and do my best to blend in with the adolescent crowd leftover from Blackbird Blackbird. Eventually I settle in, upfront and early, only to realize I’m the only one in the front row old enough to drink the whiskey and ice that’s in my hand. As I down my plastic cup of booze and wait for the teenage dance carnage to begin, a brief flashlight guides the four lanky members of a group now known as the more radio-friendly STRFKR into position.
The Portland foursome land on the stage and come out of the gates with the solid funk hook of “While I’m Alive” and segue without pause into track after track off February LP release “Miracle Mile.” The words and phrases from earlier seem impossible. These guys are no longer in it for the sprint. They are well-paced electro-pop marathon machines.
My expectations are lowered and I realize I’m a gentrifier; the transition from Starfucker to the Radio Disney STRFKR is now complete. It’s all fun and bloodsugarsexmagik without the blood and sex and heroin addiction. The fact that the sold-out Regency is filled with 20-and 30-somethings shows STRFKR may have lost their basement-edge but they don’t disappoint as performers and kick out completely accessible and danceable electronic jams, backed by Phoenix-like vocals and chestbumping pandas.
What, I didn’t tell you about the pandas?
The show builds from the moment bassist Shawn Glassford begins wildly beating on a single snare that’s set in front of guitarist Patrick Morris on drums. Frontman Josh Hodges trills down his keys right before breaking into the compact triangular synth of “The White of Noon” and spontaneous rhythmic claps erupt from the packed crowd. But they refrain from jumping (mostly) and only dabble in an occasional outpouring of dance.
We’re standing in the balcony when they start in on the truncated prefix to “Leave it All Behind” and the crowd never sees it coming. Shadowy figures tear open trashbags and dump their contents onto the crowd below when the song kicks into gear. Hundreds of colorful balloons float to the surface of the jumping crowd and costumed figures rush out on stage, flailing their furry, plushed arms wildly.
It’s a motley crew: a banana, a panda, Gumby, someone dressed in a pink-nude suit and baseball hat, and a shy skeleton (who dances a modestly modest dance behind bandmember Keil Corcoran). Many balloons are punched. Some kicked. Worse yet is when the nudesuit bro pops them in his bare hands. It’s a 10-year-old’s birthday party bloodbath. At this point time slows.
STRFKR fiddles with their keyboards and pretend they won’t emit anything but static-like noise. “This keyboard’s broken,” Hodges says and almost immediately launch into Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Fighting past security, a guy dancing in a banana suit, and balloons on balloons, a guy in a Marty McFly tech vest climbs on stage and chest bumps the panda.
That’s when I blacked out.
Starfucker- While I’m Alive (download)
Starfucker- Golden Light (download)