White Oak Music Hall
September 28, 2018
It's been ten years since STRFKR released its first album.
Their sound was inescapable in 2008, and it wasn't even theirs alone. Plenty of other indie bands were capitalizing on the genre's popularity at the time: MGMT, Vampire Weekend, Ratatat and Cut Copy were just a few of the other acts blending keyboard-heavy indie rock with club-friendly beats.
But these days, that sound isn't nearly as pervasive. You'd be hard pressed to hear it on the radio or see it charting on the Billboard 100. And perhaps it was because of the genre's rarity these days that Houstonians packed White Oak Music Hall for the Portland quartet's show Thursday night.
Despite their R-rated namesake, STRFKR's music is anything but. In fact, it's almost too sugary. But plenty of Houstonians possess a sweet tooth so the venue ended up comfortably filled by the time the headliners were scheduled to perform.
Donning wigs and dresses, STRFKR appeared onstage to a roar of applause as philosopher Alan Watts' voice boomed through the speakers. "The real you is not a puppet which life pushes around," a recording of Watts said. "The real you deep down is the whole universe."
And with that, the four-piece began to play "Florida," the first track on their eponymous debut. Laden with ambiguous lyricism atop an upbeat, dance-friendly beat, the song set the stage for STRFKR's show in the same way it set the stage for an entire album upon its release: It's unapologetically weird but fun as hell.
A few songs later, they performed "Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second," which probably constitutes their biggest hit to date. Comprising a single stanza repeated four times, the song is a love letter to singer Josh Hodges' best friend from high school. It was featured in a Target advertisement back in the day, which helped propel the band into the mainstream.
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In between songs, the quartet riffed with the crowd a bit, recalling their first visit to the Bayou City (which was to Fitzgerald's, of course) and sending a shout-out to one member's girlfriend's parents, who were in attendance. Unfortunately, I couldn't tell you who it was, due to the wig, dress and sunglasses he was wearing.
There wasn't much talking otherwise, as STRFKR allowed their music and accompanying artwork to speak for itself. Their show was supplemented with psychedelic images onscreen behind the band: Finger scissors cutting through the air, floating jellyfish, masked figures meditating, rainbow pyramids and naked women swimming backwards. Confetti was liberally shot overhead throughout the evening as well.
STRFKR has released a total of five albums - most recently 2016's Being No One, Going Nowhere - but none of them quite captured the magic of their debut, which was released at exactly the right time. Fortunately for the band, if last night was any indication, plenty of fans still hold that first record very near to their hearts.
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