Last night at the Turf Club, Starcrawler’s set literally started with a bang as a sudden strum of the electric guitar made everyone jump in their bar stools. That’s all it took to get the party going.
Frontwoman Arrow de Wilde took the mic dressed like a zombified ice skater in a blood-stained, sheer white bodysuit with strands of dirtied cloth hanging from her waist as if it was once a full skirt. She rolled her eyes to the back of her head and writhed in place as she sang/screamed songs from the Los Angeles quartet’s self-titled debut album and their recently released follow-up Devour You.
As de Wilde choked herself to the point of gagging with the cord of her mic during the first half of their set, lead guitarist Henri Cash effortlessly shredded on his guitar, swinging his head and his instrument all over the place while somehow maintaining intense but melodic songs like “I Love L.A.” and “Hollywood Ending” right on track.
The quartet, notorious for their brazen presentation, made sure to keep the audience engaged. Attempting to drag one of the fans onstage was one of many tactics up de Wilde’s bedazzled sleeves. Others included spitting water and snot-rocketing out into the audience, twisting her six-foot-two body around the floor as if in an exorcism, and jerking her body to the beat of her songs with the mic between her lean legs.
The thing is, if you saw her as I did, slouched over in her black hoodie and jeans before the show, you’d think she was an ordinary girl — a student at Macalester College, maybe, with that St. Paul grunge style. In one way, she and the rest of Starcrawler were just ordinary kids who met at a magnet high school in downtown L.A. But in every other way, de Wilde is a one-of-a-kind talent.
For one thing, de Wilde comes from a family with generations of artists that include her photographer mother Autumn de Wilde who took profiles and album cover pictures for people like Beck, Jenny Lewis, and Childish Gambino. De Wilde’s father Aaron Sperske is most famously known as a member of psychedelic country band Beachwood Sparks, playing with other artists like Ariel Pink and Father John Misty.
De Wilde has her own history in the making with Starcrawler, having performed at the 2018 SXSW festival in Texas where they first gained notoriety for their unhinged performances. The band also had the opportunity to contribute to the soundtrack for the Stephen King novel-based movie Pet Sematary with a cover of the Ramones song titled after the film.
I thought I’d be able to compare the band to outrageous rock-and-roll greats like Nirvana and Ozzy Osbourne or Metallica, but Starcrawler are something of their own. While it’s true that de Wilde is an Ozzy fan and takes inspiration from his and other old rockers’ music and personae, it’s impossible to come up with a perfect comparison to the young but mature lead singer.
Only after she takes the fake blood from her lips with her index finger and smears it on the face of a fan staring mesmerized back up at her did she throw herself into the crowd towards the end of the night. Stumbling, still possessed by the sensation of performing, she found her way back on stage to finish the rest of the band’s final song, “Chicken Woman.”
For de Wilde’s final display, she wrapped the mic chord around her head and between her lips, mouth agape and looking like a ghost woman that would crawl out of an abandoned well in a horror movie. But before the song ended, de Wilde stomped down the stairs off the stage towards the staff-only door and collapsed to the ground, squirming and attempting to untangle the mic chord that had weaved itself into her disheveled, dyed hair. Cash followed her down and ripped one last guitar solo while standing on top of the bar.
The band left the way they came in, and with a final strum of the electric guitar, the show ended. It’s almost as if a whole day passed between the time Starcrawler got on stage and their sonic pop-rock openers Poppy Jean Crawford performed. Crawford’s execution, while more smooth and haunting compared to the dark hard rock headliners, did share Starcrawler’s vintage vibe as various ’80s vogue images of Crawford flashed behind the stage as a backdrop.