words by Rebecca Hirschman, photos by Grant MacAllister
I entered Lincoln Hall at 9:00PM, and was immediately struck by the room-shaking bass pumping out of the speakers. This, was my introduction to the Seattle's "Tropical Trip Pop" group, Champagne Champagne. The ensemble is composed of three members, rappers "Pearl Dragon" and "Sir Thomas Gray" along with DJ Gajamagic (aka Mark Gadjahar), described as the bands only producer and multi-instrumentalist. Both Pearl Dragon and Sir Thomas Gray applied stage antics such as climbing the speakers, to amp up the crowd. Pearl Dragon ventured into the crowd, but not exactly to crowd surf as much as to "crowd walk" until he fell to the ground and continued to dance within the audience. Between the band's chants of "Champagne! Champagne!" to which the crowd gladly echoed with enthusiasm, Pearl Dragon asked the audience which song they wanted to hear next. When a member of the crowd screamed, "Starfucker!" (Not to be confused with the band, Champagne Champagne also has their own song titled "Starfucker"), he responded with "That one's actually coming up next! We just put our black minds together!" As the group's set ended they brought back their chants, this time screaming "Starfucker! Starfucker!"
Starfucker, or STRFKR-the band's "family friendly" option for their unconventional title, took the stage at 9:45. They kicked off with "Hungry Ghost" complimented by the voice of British philosopher Alan Watts, who often appears on their tracks. The band then moved into "Mystery Cloud", followed by "Astoria" all tracks off of their newest LP Reptilians, released March 8th via Polyvinyl Records. One thing in particular that makes Starfucker so notable is the fact that all members of the band are multi-instrumentalists. They chose to use these skills to their advantage, switching roles throughout the set.
The ensemble recently put together what they call a "mixtape, mash-up CD" featuring samples of artists like Lil' Jon and the Ying Yang Twins, Gucci Mane, and Lil' Wayne. They performed one of these tracks for us, and the sound of Ryan Biornstad's synthesized, high-pitched voice was reminiscent to that of Dan Deacon's. The band once again captured the audience when they inquired, "Chicago! What's up?" followed with "We fucking love your city! We're so happy to be here!" To which the crowd responded with a loud chorus of cheers as the band dove into their most widely known song "Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second", named after youtuber "hiimrawn". The song featured four of the members singing in unison, over the instrumentals you would've recently heard playing in Target's "Pink Pepto" commercial.
Returning to Reptilians, to play "Mona Vegas" although they were advised against it, as founding member Josh Hodges claimed, "it didn't sound very good earlier..." With four members manning keyboards, and Biornstad applying lipstick (to compliment his blue eye shadow) while singing, it appeared that playing the track was the right decision. "Boy Toy" was next, featuring a well-executed three-part harmony, bringing us back to Jupiter, the bands debut EP. "Millions" followed, as all members of the band banged their drumsticks on any and all available instruments within close vicinity.
Their set ended with "Quality Time" prefaced with, "This song is dedicated to Chris. He made a video for it and it's our last song." The video being referenced is not in fact an official Starfucker video, rather it was created by Chris Michael Berkmeier, a Chicago-based writer/director who apparently made the video "just to do it". Back on stage for a well-deserved encore, the band played three more songs including a cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", which previously appeared on Jupiter. The grand finale of the show saw the return of Champagne Champagne to the stage, and total chaos as Ryan Biornstad, Pearl Dragon, and Sir Thomas Gray jumped on top of speakers, dove into the crowd, ran through it, and ended an already exciting show with a bang.
Champagne Champagne will remain on tour with Starfucker until April 28th, after which Starfucker will head off to Europe for the remainder of their spring tour.
You can view more of Grant's photos, Starfucker's setlist, and Chris Berkmeier's video for "Quality Time" below.
STARFUCKER - LINCOLN HALL 4/12 SETLIST
Bury Us Alive
Unknown Mixtape/Mashup Song
Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second
Helium Muffin (Julius Single B-side)
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (Cyndi Lauper cover)