Starfucker and Unknown Mortal Orchestra
March 9th at the Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco
A young crowd packed into the Rickshaw Stop on Wednesday night to see Starfucker, a Portland based pop indie-electronica group. The audience danced up a sweat and sang along to the band’s familiar catchy synth-drenched songs while being treated to a first listen of the band’s new album Reptilians, which was released the day before. Spirits and temperatures were high in the small venue, and the band with the self-proclaimed “stupid name” gave it their all under their neon night sky of laser beam stars projected onto the ceiling.
The opening act consisted of three guys from New Zealand that played an unremarkable set of psychedelic rock songs with some mellow punk moments. They were the Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and they are serious about being ‘unknown’. Their label’s website describes them as ‘anonymous’, and that’s pretty much their only presence on the internet. I was in the back of the room which may have contributed to the disconnect from their set, but none of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s live versions jumped out at me as amazing. Their EP does them more justice, as their harmonizing vocals and flanging guitar echoes are assembled into well put together, chilled out tracks, but they’ve still got some work to do in the live format.
After a set change graced by a soundtrack of Muppets tunes, I was definitely ready to hear anything not sung by Kermit the frog. I made it to the front of the stage to get a better view, which came at the price of being next to a group of high school girls with, let’s say, very wide dance moves. I’ve never seen a single beer smuggled into a venue last so impressively long. This sidebar of extra “entertainment” was worth it if only to witness the confusing antics of multi-instrumentalist Ryan Biornstad. The frontman and creator of Starfucker is Joshua Hodges, but Biornstad definitely was commanding everyone’s attention in the room with his erratic dance moves and strange personal interludes, including a moment where he stopped playing and stared blankly into the crowd while drawing lipstick all over his face. Biornstad eerily reminded me of a hard dancing version of Alex from A Clockwork Orange, and he either is just an eccentric, enthusiastic guy (likely), or he scored some drugs that he failed to share with the rest of the band that evening (possibly). Either way, it was greatly entertaining.
Starfucker played songs from their new album as well as old crowd favorites with nonstop enthusiasm. “Pop Song” and “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second” had the biggest responses from the audience. Members would constantly switch between instruments effortlessly to create great synth layers, guitar melodies, and very danceable rhythm-heavy songs. At some points, three people jumped over to play auxiliary drums to fuel a heavy beat, or Hodges would switch to guitar while Biornstad jumped on their DJ rig to scratch out some additional sounds. Their sound is reminiscent of MGMT, Love is All, and Passion Pit, but having seen all those bands, I can say that Starfucker definitely has a more energetic stage presence that makes it a very fun act to watch. Their encore featured a bass heavy sing-along cover of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” that contrasted greatly with the following intense bout of ear piercing forced feedback that evolved (or devolved?) into a background track recording of “Rumpshaker” by Wreckx-N-Effect that continued to play as they exited the stage. It was a goofy way to end the show, but it fit well as a conclusion to their set of playful dance songs. The band looked to be having a great time on stage the whole night and was really getting into the music. Their energy directly translated to the enthusiastic crowd which made for a great midweek dance party.