Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, AL is May 16-18, 2014 - www.hangoutmusicfest.com

Sanitized STRFKR Stable and Synthy

STRFKRStarfucker, much like Republican hopeful Rick Santorum, has a bit of a name problem. The band began life in Portland, Oregon with the (purposefully) absurd moniker of Starfucker, then attempted to change course after finding a surprising amount of success (and landing in a Target ad) after their first self-titled LP in 2008. That name swap, to PYRAMID or Pyramiddd, dried on the vine and the band has since embraced the ridiculousness of their chosen nomenclature, releasing 2011’s Reptilians under the Starfucker banner on Polyvinyl Records. They sometimes tour with the license-plate foreshortening STRFKR, one can only assume for the sake of public moral health.

STRFKR – Reptilians by Polyvinyl Records

Such was the case Tuesday night at One Eyed Jacks, as a band took the stage in a slightly reconfigured lineup, founding member Ryan Bjornstad having recently departed, and slid through an energetic set of synth-aided, danceable indie pop. The band first gained notoriety in their native Portland for swapping instruments freely and occasionally utilizing two drummers, but the intervening years have seemingly ossified that alignment. The group remained in a static four-in-front, single-drummer configuration for the entirety of Tuesday’s show.

The best moments of Tuesday night were, much like the band’s catalogue, heavily reliant on that exceptional self-titled first record. “German Love,” and “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second,” are show stoppers in any setting; singular composites of pure euphoric dance and hazy, harmonic Beatles pop. The live touchstone that springs to mind is Cut Copy, which is indeed a high mark to hit, and STRFKR didn’t match that Australian outfit’s sheer, sweaty, crowd-pleasing sonic force (the only indie dance band that could’ve, LCD Soundsystem, is no longer among us) but it was a good showing nonetheless. The only real problem is the band’s lack for a full set’s worth of catchy singles. The band’s newer output lacks the simple, earwormy charm of those first songs—not necessarily a bad thing until it’s time to get a room full of people dancing. Reptilians, for all its charms, is more death-obsessed and less immediately arresting.

Still, it’s hard to argue with that moment when “Pop Song” or “Julius” really kick in, and the crowd reels while the pointillist light show dizzily whirls about. And if we can’t agree on indie-minded dance pop, what chance do any of us have?