If there is joy in copulating with stars, STRFKR laid it down on Sunday evening. Indie beats, an ecstatic atmosphere, astronauts and sex dolls, it was all there, culminating in an experience that was both invigorating and psychedelic. In many ways it stood out as a testament to the power that the Associated Students Productions Pop Music team has to bring contemporary music to campus and the understanding they have of both what’s current and what students want.
I walked to the concert at 8:30 p.m., an hour past the start time. The Viking Union Multipurpose Room stood three-fourths full with college students. Eavesdropping, I caught wind of classic concert indie talk: bros in tank tops mentioning to girls in T-shirts how they “discovered” the band years ago, that one old dude in the back trying to sound professional, the chatter of hurried stage hands moving from the soundboards to backstage. After nearly six months of not seeing a live band, it felt nice to be back in the music scene.
The first band Kithkin, a self-proclaimed “Cascadian Tree-folk Tribe,” entered the stage after an hour and began to play. With strong bass lines, echoing vocals and tribal drums, Kithkin played a set that was reminiscent of the lo-fi late-1990s pop scene and the scream vocals of Modest Mouse’s song “Bukowski.” They began rather slow without much enthusiasm from the crowd, but quickly got up to speed when they performed an impromptu version of Phil Collins’ hit “In The Air Tonight,” a song that the audience readily sang along to. After that it was all smooth sailing as Kithkin’s bass player/drummer stage dove into the crowd and stunned the audience by jumping off amps to deliver blows to his tribal drum. The entire set was a true performance, but nothing was more memorable than when Kithkin’s bass player went backstage and returned to scream out what appeared to be a story, all the while throwing fruit from the greenroom at the audience. Although quite a few members of the audience looked like they did want a bite from flying fruits, I could tell from my vantage point in the front row that at least two or three members of the crowd got an unwanted apple in the Adam’s apple. Although they weren’t what I would call a perfect performance, Kithkin played a good set and it was sad to see them go.
After an hour of waiting for the stage hands to get the stage warmed up, STRFKR took the stage. No warm-up, no wait for the feeling of the band to reach the crowd, the moment that STRFKR took the stage the energy was ecstatic. Within two songs balloons dropped and confetti was shot out of fireworks. Within four songs members of the band were crowd surfing. Within five, I briefly looked away and looked back to find that there were two male sex dolls crowd surfing. Seven songs in, one of the band members returned from backstage wearing an astronaut’s costume. And at eight, the astronaut was riding an inflatable raft atop of the crowd, buoyed between the two male sex dolls.
I have been going to concerts since I was in seventh grade. I have seen bands wear tin foil hats and unicorn costumes. I’ve tripped out to crazy movies behind psychedelic music. I’ve watched a barefoot man try to swallow a microphone in the middle of a set.
In all my years of going to concerts I have never seen a performance so quirky, exciting and fun as STRFKR delivered on Sunday. And despite the overwhelming stage presence, the music was still good. They played all of their hits: “YAYAYA,” “While I’m Alive” and their highly popular cover of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” Apart from a few microphone issues, it was perfect.
All in all, it was an experience I’ll be telling my friends about for a long time.