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Monday, January 9, 2012

Live Review: Starfucker Asks to Be Taken Seriously While Playing in Drag

Posted By on Mon, Jan 9, 2012 at 8:36 AM

click to enlarge Starfucker at Great American Music Hall on Friday.
  • Starfucker at Great American Music Hall on Friday.


Painted Palms


Jan. 6, 2012

Great American Music Hall

Better than: Pyramid or Pyramiddd.

Look, we all get it. With a name like Starfucker, it's hard to be taken seriously.

Nearly any time the band is mentioned, the absurdity of its name comes up. Critics cite it as a reason why the group remains under the radar. The members even acknowledge it themselves. And the sign outside Great American Music Hall ("Starf&cker") served as a not-so-subtle reminder of the issue.

But Starfucker played the first of two sold-out S.F. shows on Friday evening (the second Saturday at the Independent). Its 2011 effort, Reptilians, may have been snubbed by every major music outlet's year-end recap, but apparently no one in attendance got that memo. Starfucker played a ridiculous 20-song set entirely in drag -- complete with tights and fairly well-executed eyeliner -- for a crowd that wouldn't stand still for a second.

click to enlarge starfucker_gamh_drag_2.jpg

Ignore the band for whatever convoluted reason you'd like, but it puts on a hugely satisfying live show. Seeing Starfucker live makes it easier to interpret the name: "Fuck it, let's just call ourselves something so we can go play."

The boys of Starfucker are in their element with instruments in hand. They come off as slightly shy during crowd interactions, keeping them limited (a "We fucking love this city" to start the night) and slightly awkward in a way that must somehow correlate to way the band's vocals fall to the background in most songs.

But as soon as the music starts, they really put on one hell of a show. Their set is equally satisfying on a danceable level as it is musically or as it is visually. Seemingly every track forced everyone, band included, into incessant movement. Onstage, wigs flailed all over and dresses shrugged low enough to cause a few male nip-slips. The crowd was no less raucous. If you had the ability to stand still for a second, you quite literally could feel the ground shake. The setlist spanned both of the band's albums, some b-sides ("Dragon Queen," anyone?), a slew of well-placed instrumentals, and the '80s pop cover they've become known for ("Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" is an undeniably satisfying song to encore with).

click to enlarge starfucker_gamh_drag_3.jpg

The band plays with all four members (except the drummer) situated equally far forward on the stage. This positioning mirrors their sound -- lyrics are nearly inaudible at times, creating a feeling there is no lone frontman and whatever sound each member makes is simply part of the fray. Starfucker comes at an audience with a expansive wall of sound, engulfing the venue as thoroughly as its signature red and green-dotted light show does. At any given moment, you can find yourself lost in a bass lick, a driving synth line, some intricate beats, or indecipherable vocals.

At the end of the night, the bandmembers left the stage wig-less, faces covered in mascara drip. They don't seem to take themselves too seriously -- name aside, seeing tall guitarist Ian Luxton in his dress was playfully Robert Palmer-esque -- but the visible exhaustion said otherwise. Who knows how they could replicate it again the next night.

Next: local duo Painted Palms delivers the surprise of the show.

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Nathan Mattise


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