On the last Sunday of February of 2013, one of Portland’s favorite sons, STRFKR/starfucker, loaded their van for a twenty-date national tour in support of their third LP, Miracle Mile. On Wednesday, February 27 at the venue with the tightest security control, Roseland Theater in the smack grime of downtown, turned into an underage paradise. Though STRFKR’s music embodies the youthful jubilation, I hadn’t anticipated being squashed by schools of rosy- cheeked and glittered adolescents.
Far as opener goes, Blackbird Blackbird couldn’t be more perfect for pre-STRFKR. The San Francisco one-man production of Mikey Maramag can’t escape that “c” word (chillwave) that has become too generic for serious journalism. Until Maramag came on stage with a guitar, accompanied by a bass player and a drummer, I never realized all the digital sounds on his record was a shiny gauze hiding the pillars of substance (not that the studio version is in any way the lesser). Not one keyboard or even an iPad app of keys was visible on stage with Blackbird Blackbird. Instead of a wash of synthesized numbers, his Fender and vocal skills (especially on “It’s a War”) proved that Maramag has many talents under the plain white t-shirt. Not a moment went by during Blackbird Blackbird set where it felt like killing time for the headliner.
STRFKR truly thrives on and appreciates their fans. They requested the removal of the standard barricade in front of the stage, which often serves as the photo pit, to let people get close to the stage as possible. Unfortunately for this fan, the lack of barrier meant I had to compete with the crowd. As the stage time approached for STRFKR, bright-eyed youngsters pushed their way into the front but with much cordiality. Once the first note was struck, as if it released some magical spell, everyone around me exercised every limb of their bodies. I felt like a blind photographer, and all I could do was to hold my camera up and snap away – hoping something legible came out. After the third song, I made my way out of the tangled net before suffocation got the best of me.
It only took about good 15 minutes before there was enough space for the staff to let me into the upstairs, where the drinking age crowd looked on with composure. By this time, I lost all hope for any decent photos and realized that I had to write this review to make up for it. I admired the energy of the audience by the stage but felt safe from the balcony, with a nice view of their antics. There must been at least a half-dozen stage hoppers. Most of them jumped backed into the crowd before the security could get their hands around them. Frontman, Josh Hodges, only asked them to be careful and don’t get hurt.
The hour-long set had one misstep when the fan favorite, “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second” fell apart after a few seconds. Hodges commented that we heard it way too many times anyway. The quartet got it right the second time, after playing their cover of “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”. And no Josh, no matter how many times we heard that song with a long name, we wouldn’t mind hearing it again. For this show, instead of the blow-up dolls they’ve used in the past, STRFKR unleashed bags of balloons that were blown up just a few hours before the show with the help of their fans.
The songs from STRFKR’s latest album did not have the spark of their older material. Tracks like “Medicine”, “Bury Us Alive”, and the show closer “Boy Toy” had established STRFKR as the band full of infectious synth-pop. Their experimentation on Miracle Mile has not received the most positive reviews, but we Portlanders don’t thrive on perfection. And the journey does not end with a big shot music site.
STRFKR didn’t need the fancy light show for such a vibrant music, but then they couldn’t spell out the big “THANK YOU” at the closing. Afterwards, the four chaps took as long as it need to autograph and pose with their starry-eyed fans. The Blackbird Blackbird crew had their fair share of signing away their names.
With the support of Voodoo Doughnut, Maramag, his band mates, and tour manager enjoyed their first taste of Portland’s specialty. Wasn’t able to all four members of STRFKR for the photos, but Josh and Patrick found an ATM that gave out doughnuts.