You might have had a hard week. I had a hard week. STRFKR — the synthpop rockers who hail from Portland, Oregon but now call Los Angeles home — had a hard week too. Frontman Josh Hodges wanted the El Rey Theatre crowd to know they had an escape.
“What a crazy could days it’s been,” he told the attentive fans, inspiring a fervent “Fuck Trump” chant from onlookers. Hodges offered another salve to the pain due to the election results: “If you want a hug afterward, we’ll be up there to talk this out.”
The four-piece sought to take the crowd out of this world during their Friday night set —literally. The curtain dropped at 11 p.m. sharp to reveal a group of astronauts standing at attention, before transforming dancing fanatics that happened to look like spacemen and spacewomen. Two hours of openers didn’t dampen fans’ excitement to dance during the 90 minute-party.
It took about two or three songs before the astronauts blasted off with stage dives (while singing along), guided back by the colorful LED boards behind STRFKR that regularly flashed. They disappeared for most of the set, but came back to end the show as they started it. Fans followed suit, and even hopped on stage a few times. While a mysterious security man hurried from backstage to remove the joyous fan, Hodges flashed an amused smile.
Boogieing really started to go down about a third into the set when the opening notes of “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second” were plucked; dudes in the secret “Hawaiian shirts preferred” dress code grooved out. The biggest roar of approval was saved for the group’s cover of Cyndi Lauper’s smash debut hit, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” That powered the rest of the set and sent everyone home at 12:30 a.m.
The dancing fire burned with STRFKR, but the openers supplied the gas. DJ Gigamesh spun his low-key yet sneakily upbeat remixes. He truly grabbed people when he threw on his take on Grouplove’s “Tongue Tied” and never let go with his specialty in modernizing the old. (Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” Made a much welcome appearance on his setlist.) People also loved Gigamesh’s visuals, including one montage of cats in Tron-like environments. Death Race 2000 clips came out of nowhere, but were very much enjoyed.
Brooklyn duo Psychic Twin were first up with their dreamy brand of pop. The stage and show was minimalist, which made all the work Erin Fein and Rosana Caban did all the more impressive. They worked the boards to create a full sound with just the two of them. Things were chill until Fein asked the PA to turned off all lights for their finale, leaving only the on-stage strobes. The El Rey crew audibled admirably and complemented Psychic Twin’s sendoff with a blistering black-and-white light set.
STRFKR finished their two-night LA run at the El Rey on Saturday night. NorCal fans can head to The Fillmore in San Francisco on Monday and Tuesday for sets from the band.