Starfucker, Onuinu / Tuesday, October 30 / The Blue Note, Columbia, MO
Some of Portland, OR’s best electro-pop bands ascended on The Blue Note in Columbia last night, and it was definitely worth the road trip. Starfucker, or spelled in the “safe for work” way of STRFKR, are touring to warm up for the release of a new album on Polyvinyl Records at the beginning of 2013. It’s a bit of a surprise that St. Louis was passed on this tour, as this show would have easily fit had it been held at The Luminary or Firebird, though the college town crowd in Columbia helped to fill up the venue on a Tuesday night.
The night began with Onuinu, the moniker of Dorian Duvall, whose album Mirror Gazer was released this past September on Bladen County Records. Duvall’s music is self-described as Disco-Hop, mashing together two genres into a warbled and danceable groove that sounds like somebody melted a bunch of warped old 12 inch singles together. Onuinu is currently touring as a two-piece, with most of the backing tracks prerecorded versions from the record, over which Duvall sang while playing both guitar and synthesizers, and his hoodie-wearing friend triggered the tracks and added more synth.
The gold in Duvall’s arsenal is his voice: soaked in reverb, his blissful tones help to humanize the retro electronics into a syrupy mix, which, with more work, could be performed as one continuous, nonstop set. Tracks like “Always Awkward,” “A Step in the Right Direction” and “ Happy House” sounded even bigger than the versions on Mirror Gazer, and would feel right at home spun by a DJ in a nightclub. The crowd was slow to catch on as they first shuffled in, but by the end of Onuinu’s set a few more costumed patrons were bobbing their heads around to the repetitive, bass-heavy beats.
Starfucker took the stage around 10:15 in front of what looked like a giant Lite Brite, which projected simplistic visuals for each song. Images of Bart Simpson, the Death Star, and Luigi from Mario Kart popped up in super pixelated form, among colorful patterns and shapes reminiscent of late-'80s Windows maze screensavers. The set began with a few early tracks from their 2008 self-titled record, including their break-out song “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second” that got the crowd into it right away. While the vocals on some Starfucker songs tend to play second fiddle to the music on their records, there were times during the show when lyrics were almost unrecognizable because of how far back mastermind Joshua Hodges' vocals were placed in the mix. It was unclear if this was intentional or a problem with the sound mix.
Starfucker has crafted a flawless blend of electronic dance music with experimental pop sensibilities that not only makes for amazing records, but also transmits another energetic, pulsating beast in concert. There were moments so intense—brought on from the layers of up to three synthesizers, drums felt deep in the chest, and calculated measures from bass and guitars—but the most mind-blowing part of the show was the transition from an impressive version of “Julius,” the first single from last year’s Reptilians, into an incredible new track. I didn't catch the name of the song, but the main synth part was psychotic and frightening, like something on a John Carpenter soundtrack, while also maintaining a groovy bass line and playful guitars. Somehow it managed to stay both incredibly dark and funky at the same time, and was an exciting taste of what’s to come from the band next year.
The set covered a full spectrum of all of Starfucker’s best tracks, even throwing in a crazy, super-upbeat version of “Boy Toy” from the Jupiter EP that ended in distorted chaos. After a brief break, the band got right into the encore with a crowd-pleasing “Bury Us Alive,” garnering the biggest cheer of the night—that is, until they broke into their version of Cindy Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” And the bros back by the bar were right when they shouted for “German Love” as the last song to end the night. The whole crowd sang along, and kept it up after the band popped offstage, and we all danced our way out onto the street.
Starfucker plays like a well-oiled machine, pumping out dance hits and electro-pop perfection on every song. They may only become as huge as a name like Starfucker allows, but they are not to be missed when they play anywhere within driving distance from our town.