STRFKR and Painted Palms at Crescent Ballroom, 1/10/12

Over the years, it's been hard to peg Portland solo project turned electro-pop trio Starfucker as any one thing. Known for wearing women's clothing during live performances, having song titles like "Biggie Smalls" and "Queen Latifah," and changing their band name more times than they've changed their performance panties, it's human nature to ask ourselves, "Are these dudes for real?"

And, while standing elbow-to-elbow at their sold-out show at Crescent Ballroom last night--a show I'm pretty sure nobody anticipated would sell out-- it's clear these dudes are, well, definitely for real.

Openers Painted Palms, a three-piece experimental electronic band from San Francisco, were the perfect warm-up for Starfucker. With a gifted lead vocalist who held a very close comparison to James Mercer of The Shins, the group makes the whole DJ/pre-recorded drum machine thing make sense -- er, more sense than it ever has for me, anyway.

Buoyant electronics got the crowd moving, especially the all-ages section -- and the awesome dude next to me doing the quintessential "I'm on ecstasy" hippie dance.

Between sets, the all-ages section (which was sectioned off to make up the entire front portion of the venue-- a first I've seen at Crescent) looked a lot like a middle-school mixer (I swear to God I saw a 12-year-old with facial hair). For the most part, the crowd was young but varied in style, ranging from button-ups to skater boys to die-hard hipster fucks.

When Starfucker finally took the stage at a late 10 p.m., they opened with one of their more well-known hits, "Biggie Smalls," packing us all in like sardines (sardines wearing moccasins and blunt bangs, of course).

Wearing fishnets, baby-doll dresses and full faces of make-up, the band's theatrics alone are attention grabbing. Frequently switching between instruments and utilizing stage effects like polka-dotted lasers, it's clear these dudes know how to put on a damn good show. The bass player/keyboardist, who somewhat reminded me of a brunette Courtney Love, may have been my favorite to watch. During the sixth song, "Bury Us," he picked up his own pair of drum sticks and whaled on the cymbal. And, ah yes, during a few songs there were definitely some maracas.

Toward the end of the set, the energy bouncing back and forth from the band to the audience was undeniable. There's something about the music Starfucker is putting out. They prove that "feel good" music doesn't have to be throw away tunes pigeonholed to drunk dance parties. It's "feel good" with substance, but substance that strays far away from pretentiousness, by way of goofy theatrics.

These dudes are serious musicians -- serious musicians wearing skirts. And what's not to love about that?

Taking the stage again for a four song encore, the band finally voices what has been clear throughout the show. "This is by far the best show we've ever played in Phoenix," said my brunette Courtney Love. "We'd like to thank Crescent Ballroom. You guys are lucky to have this here."

Critics Notebook:

Last night:
Starfucker and Painted Palms

Personal bias: I'm a sucker for boys in bands, especially boys in bands who aren't afraid to rock knee-highs.

Overheard in the crowd: "I want the drugs that guy's on," pointing to the guitarist wearing a pink dress and smeared eyeliner.

Random notebook dump: Any band that ends their show with their rendition of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want To Have Fun," is a winner in my book.

Set list (Painted Palms):
Untitled Acoustic
Falling Asleep
Untitled 1
Untitled 2
Water Hymn
Great White
Untitled 3
Untitled 4
All of Us

Set list (Starfucker):

Biggie Smalls
Mystery Cloud
Bury Us Alive
Isabella of Castile
German Love
Hard Smart Beta
Hungry Ghost

Rawnald Gregory Erikson The Second
Quality Time
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

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Nicole Smith
Contact: Nicole Smith