Though the days of side ponytails, scrunchies, track suits, and neon tutus might seem to be a totally tubular thing of the past, local ‘80s cover band Starfarm wears them every night. As part of the City of East Lansing’s 2017 Summer Concert Series, Starfarm will perform at the Ann Street Plaza (corner of Albert and M.A.C. Avenues) in downtown East Lansing on Friday, Aug. 4 at 7 p.m.
Consisting of Lead vocalist Whitney Spotts, Dana Mirate (drums), Sean Mirate (keyboards), Dan Malnar (guitar), and Ryan Tarrant (bass), Starfarm is no stranger to the Mid-Michigan area. Spotts spoke with ELi about the band’s beginnings, and the appeal of ‘80s music to the masses
Starfarm began with the intention of covering songs from all genres and generations. After watching crowd reaction, the band quickly saw ‘80s songs were what packed the dance floor. Then, out came the tracksuits, and according to Spotts, “the rest is history.”
The band performs its own little history lesson in pop music and outdated fashion trends, night after night. While the songs vary from gig to gig, plenty of iconic ballads, love songs and girl power anthems will forever remain on the set list, including “Footloose,” “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” and “Like a Prayer.”
It is important to feature plenty of female-fronted tracks for Spotts, who exudes confidence on stage, even though she used to have horrible stage fright.
“I am a strong aficionado of female musicians,” Spotts said, “and I was lucky to grow up in the ‘90s when the Riot Grrl scene was happening, so I had a lot of awesome inspiration. There are so many artists like PJ Harvey, Sleater-Kinney, Bjork, Stevie Nicks, Joni Mitchell. Also pop starts like Cyndi Lauper and Lady Gaga and Janet Jackson – every woman in the music scene is fighting her own battle to be seen and heard and taken seriously.”
Even though most of the tunes performed are over 30 years old, there is something about that particular era of music that resonates with people still.
“I think there’s a carefree nature to ‘80s music that people really need right now,” Spotts said. “The decade was politically very heavy, and you can hear that in the music – that overriding tension and fear. Yet the response is still an enthusiastic celebration. Like Prince said, ‘We could all die any day, but before I let that happen, I’ll dance my life away.’ People need that outlet more than ever,” Spotts said.
The residents of greater Lansing have shown their fondness for Starfarm by choosing them repeatedly as “Best Cover Band” in the City Pulse Top of the Town Awards.
“Our Top of the Town streak blows my mind,” Spotts said, “every year I think this will be the year people get bored with us, but somehow people just continue to be supportive, and we are so grateful. At least once during every show, it hits me how lucky I am to be able to do this.”
Starfarm’s concerts often include multiple segments, and last for hours on end. That kind of performance requires plenty of dedication, perseverance, and impressive stamina, along with quirky vocal routines.
“Every show is a marathon,” Spotts said, “because of the vocal endurance needed, my preparation literally starts days in advance. At least two days before a show, I stop eating anything I’m allergic to and start drinking tons of water. I have a set of warm-ups that I do before every show, and I have lots of weird tricks to battle my allergies, including the honey bear you’ll always see on stage with me.”
Spotts has a surprising health condition that can negatively affect her instrument – her voice. “Essentially I have a liver condition that makes me hyper-sensitive to chemicals that my body can’t break down properly, so I react very strongly to perfume, cologne, hairspray, air fresheners, stuff like that,” Spotts said.
“I’ve managed it for a long time, but unfortunately certain scents affect my throat. The right brand of cologne can literally make me lose my voice, which is obviously really problematic as a singer. I had to get more careful after I suffered a vocal hemorrhage a few years ago. Our fans have been super supportive, and shows got markedly easier for me after I publicly made that request. I just want to give everyone the best show I can, and being scent-free helps me do that.”
You can check out Starfarm as part of the City of East Lansing’s 2017 Summer Concert Series, at the Ann Street Plaza (corner of Albert and M.A.C. Avenues) in downtown East Lansing on Friday, Aug. 4 at 7 p.m. Feel free to bring a chair, but leave the heavy perfume and colognes at home!