Local Current Blog

Exploring SXSW: Starcrawler, Lo Moon, and BOYTOY

Lo Moon. (Jay Gabler/MPR)

I’m sure Lo Moon occasionally play shows in surroundings that aren’t pop-up warehouse venues under skies of artificial clouds, but I’ll have to see it to believe it. The L.A. trio couldn’t have had a more perfect setting for last night’s SXSW performance than the Sony-sponsored Trinity Warehouse. Multi-hued lights razored past the band into the warehouse’s foggy depths as the band’s richly intoxicating soundscape rolled along. The group’s stormy dreams earned some of this year’s strongest buzz, for evident reasons.

Unfortunately I only caught the last couple songs of the band’s set, because I spread myself too thinly. I couldn’t resist running to Cheer Up Charlie’s after a late dinner, to see another of this year’s SXSW must-sees: Soccer Mommy. Bedroom pop singer-songwriter Sophie Allison has just been announced as touring support for a leg of Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville anniversary trek, a can’t-miss double bill — particularly for people like me who only ran in the gates in time to hear the last ringing notes of her set, delivered to the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen at that venue’s outdoor stage.

When Lo Moon wrapped up, I retraced my footsteps to post up at Waller Ballroom, where I was curious to catch a Brooklyn band that go by the name of BOYTOY. Yes, their name is as ironic as their vintage duds, but the female foursome’s buzzsaw surf-punk is no joke. Chase Noelle is a monster on the skins, and the way her bandmates traded instruments underlined the group’s musical similarities to veteran Minneapolis noisemakers Kitten Forever.

Even with a surfeit of options in front of me, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to catch a late-night set by Starcrawler. The young rockers had pulverized our Pledge House party — in a good way — and I wondered, okay, if they can do that to what was essentially a living room at lunchtime, what can they do to a nightclub at midnight?

The answer, at Barracuda, was: more of the same, with a larger room to roam for fascinating frontwoman Arrow de Wilde. You almost have to go back and listen to their blistering self-titled debut to appreciate the band’s tight songcraft after seeing them live, because so much of your attention is consumed with watching de Wilde to see what she’ll do next. Tearing onstage through the crowd at set’s opening and then disappearing again before the last loud chords come crashing to a halt, de Wilde writhes and stumbles and grabs at the audience.

Like a rollercoaster ride, a Starcrawler set is not something you should embark upon with any loose accessories. The band started promptly at 11:45 — positioned on the floor in front of the stage — and by the time St. Patrick’s Day had officially arrived, hats had gone flying and drinks had been slapped to the ground. It was one of the night’s toughest shows to get into, and it seemed like everyone who made it (except for me) brought a camera with flash.

Starcrawler look to be one of the breakout bands of this year’s festival, and not just because of the unmistakable figure de Wilde cuts: even after she’d left the stage, the crowd closed in to see guitarist Henri Cash slash away in a classic rock pose, legs splayed and head bowed in concentration. They’ve learned from the best — Iggy Pop is a fan, and Ryan Adams produced their record — but they’re bringing their own inexhaustible energy to their uniquely theatrical brand of post-punk.