There are some bands that you have to see in concert to truly appreciate. Their studio recordings might be alright, but whenever you are introducing the band to someone or they come up in conversation, you make sure that everyone knows that they have to see them live. Starfucker is one of these bands, and their reputation as such was topic of excited discussion among those of us standing outside the ticket office at Neumos who had not seen them before. We had heard a lot about them and we didn’t know what to expect, but we were hoping for a wheels-off, dance party of a show, and we were pretty sure we were going to get one.
Opening for Starfucker were local beat-makers Truckasaurus. About all I knew of them was that they were local and made beats, and that was precisely what the band’s four members did for the hour or so they were on stage. Huddled over an assortment of keyboards, synths, drum machines, and God knows what else, they pumped out heavy hip-hop and house beats, barely uttering a word or stopping to take a breath. The only drawback to such performances is that from a live viewing standpoint, it isn’t very exciting to watch. As an audience member, I appreciate seeing the notes being played on actual instruments and being able to follow along with the band. Fortunately, Truckasaurus supplied a looping VHS mash-up of the most gratuitous scenes of brawn, revolver shooting, ass-whipping, and plain old American badass-ness every filmed, ranging from Hulk Hogan in an eye patch and bandana riding a jet ski, to a repeating slow-motion loop of Rambo blowing the shit out of some jungle. Combined with the music it was nothing short of entrancing, and I’m sure the audience members who had chosen to intoxicate themselves with something more than the whiskey and waters I had been drinking would agree with me.
The members of Starfucker came on stage in dresses and wigs, save for front man Ryan Bjornstad, who sported a suit, tie, and hair that looked like it had been combed by his mother before he went off to school. They calmly tuned their instruments for a few minutes before abruptly bursting into their first song. Caught by surprise, the audience joined in a beat later, the entire mass of bodies crowded in front of the stage jumping up and down in unison. The floor and walls of the venue started to shake, almost unsettlingly so (keyword: almost), and the party was on, led by Bjornstad, who was dancing harder than anyone in the audience. As soon as the first song ended, sweatshirt after jacket after sweatshirt was hurriedly flung over the banister I was standing next to. If they didn’t know before, it was now clear to everyone that this might turn out to be a sweaty affair.
Starfucker’s set began and ended with a slew of upbeat dance songs, but slowed down a bit in the middle, with an assortment of more subdued, echo-y songs that were more reminiscent of Air than MGMT, who are perhaps the band’s most adequate mainstream comparison. All of Starfucker’s songs, however, were poppy, synth-y, lighthearted, and dominated by a snare drum that was seemingly turned up as loud as possible, and a cornucopia of beats and effects that sounded like they were lifted straight off of an old Nintendo.
Starfucker was greeted with deafening applause when they returned to the stage for their encore. They played “Pop Song” with the help of a kid they brought up on stage who couldn’t have been older than 13, who danced his ass off and sung along the entire time. For their last song, Starfucker welcomed out a special guest: Pearl Dragon from Champagne, Champagne. They started the song and Pearl Dragon stepped to the edge of the stage, turned his back to the audience, and fell backwards into their arms like someone from a trust-building exercise at a company retreat. He ended up singing half the song horizontal in the hands of the front row before returning to stage and shouting out a few parting “Champagne! Champagne!”s for good measure.
As soon as the house music came on, I booked it out of the venue as quick as possible. Outside, I stood smoking a cigarette and it was like counting sheep watching sweaty, sighing body after sweaty, sighing body pour out of Neumos’ emergency exit, sweatshirts now retrieved and in tow.