REVIEW: STRFKR at Turner Hall Ballroom
With STRFKR coming to Milwaukee on a mid-winter Tuesday night, there was a lot of uncertainty heading into their show at Turner Hall Ballroom. Within a couple moments of walking in the door, however, you could tell that there was no mistake; you were about to see a show unlike any other. It was almost a foregone conclusion that the night was going to get weird. How weird, however, was yet to be determined. And it got weird.
The night kicked off with openers Reptaliens, who definitely set the tone for the evening with their lo-fi indie pop, accented by stage performers of all varieties. Complete with what looked like homemade body suits and masks, including a lizard masked creature in preacher gear brandishing a cross at frontwoman Bambi Browning. It was just as much entertaining as it was nightmare-inducing, which I assure you is a compliment.
After a short break, the house lights dropped again, and with little fanfare, frontman Joshua Hodges walked to center stage, lit only by a projection of the band’s “Jupiter” artwork, and let out a synth drone for what felt like a lifetime. That drone would eventually be the intro to “Hungry Ghost”, once the band joined him onstage, and there was no turning back from that moment. There was really no slowing down, either. The set opener quickly transitioned to “Tape Machine”, and almost all of the set went from one song quickly into another with little down time.
There was barely any banter, except for an early “How are you guys doing?” and later on, a “What’s up Milwaukee?” from the stage. To the band’s credit, there didn’t need to be any pandering to the crowd, which were primed for a mid-week dance party from the start of the show. The momentum carried on through the night, only adding to the spectacle of the show. The band switched instruments, and then things kept getting delightfully weirder.
If you thought we were done with the costumes, we weren’t even close; A confetti-shooting rabbit, complete with technicolor dreamcoat (because obviously?) was joined by up to six people in space suits, a couple of which found some early Valentine’s Day love in the process. I actually uttered the phrase “man, those spacemen are going to town on that bunny” and it felt completely fitting, which says something about the night overall. Much like influencees GGOOLLDD did at Turner Hall months prior, a member of the spaceman entourage mounted an inflatable swan to surf through the crowd, all while the band didn’t miss a beat on stage, turning out tracks from across their lengthy discography. If you can believe it, I’m possibly leaving out details of the show’s theatrics.
STRFKR’s show on Tuesday night felt like, if anything, a best kept secret. Everyone in the crowd was some level of “in the know” as to the explosive performance that the band delivers live. While it wasn’t the biggest crowd the ballroom has seen, it was definitely an enthusiastic one, and both the band, as well as their various onstage characters, replicated that enthusiasm as well. If you get a chance to see STRFKR live, do so, because it will be something you will walk away from knowing that you’ll never forget it.