Across their social media comes a strong message from young band Starcrawler, “We will kill you”. A notice hangs on the wall of the entranceway of bijoux South East venue Omeara, ‘Warning: Tonight there will be a potentially disturbing immersive performance’, now that’s a hell of a promise.
Omeara is a gem of a venue, formed from a defunct railway arch and tucked into the ally, it is like a secret cave comprising of a small stage with a low gradient floor (complete with near invisible hazard marked steps), and a small corner bar selling cans of beer. The walls and ceilings of dark peeling paint and plaster fixtures lit softly by ornamental chandeliers give it a look of romantic decay. Topping and tailing the live music, venue staff will guide you through a side door where you can enter a Tardis-like full bar Omeara Cantina, which leads back to the outdoor area of Flat Iron Square. It is a comfortable and chic hideaway with an eclectic musical line-up.
Joining the US visitors as their opening act are Free Money. With a youthful enthusiasm and brief but tight set, they generate a warm buzz in the crowd. Their single, I Want In is available on general release. For such a young band, they leave a strong impression with a frontman who has a clear and confident vocal range and a likeable and charismatic swagger.
As is typical with small gigs the headline act set themselves up on stage. Guitarist Henri Cash skulks around the stage preparing his amp. In a hat and overcoat, he gives nothing away. Starcrawler have already been tipped in the US as a band to watch. The heat that surrounds them fuelled by their outrageous performance style, their invocation of their influences and their injection of fresh adrenaline into a near exhausted West Coast music scene. A combination of punk/glam/garage band sounds and theatrical, raw performances have propelled them all the way across the Atlantic. This is their first European gig and marks the release date of their debut, eponymous album.
Settled into his seat at the drums, tall and gaunt Austin Smith lays down a thundering beat, as Cash whirls around the stage laying down some scratchy guitar to get the crowd moving. The arrival of the much-anticipated Arrow de Wilde in a corset and straightjacket, like the flick of a switch, sends the audience into overdrive. De Wilde is an arresting figure, with deep socketed eyes and an elongated frame she uses her height and thinness to great effect. She postures her body at hard angles, her form taking on the appearance of an Egon Schiele drawing; at once disturbing and mesmerising.
Outside of her work with the band de Wilde has gained a reputation as a model on social media, her style and artistic sensibility draws from and feeds back into art, fashion and music. Raised by highly creative parents, photographer Autumn de Wilde and drummer Aaron Sperske, they may have incubated a young Arrow, but her bold individuality and electric stage presence is clearly something she owns.
The handful of material they have to choose from with, as yet, unheard songs and one, separate debut single Ants which was powerful enough to get them noticed whilst still in high school, it is a short sharp hit of a gig. Cash and de Wilde seem to take equal status fronting the band while Smith and bassist Tim Franco underpin the sound and keep each song razor sharp. Cash, sweet faced with goofy, cartoonish expressions playing opposite de Wilde’s thousand-yard stare which breaks unexpectedly into outbursts of rage, pain and gruesome facial gurns.
Her vocals waiver between kitschy retro on songs like Pussy Tower to laid back and mellow, reminiscent of Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon on catchy pop tune I Love L.A. to an outright unleashed punk spitting and screaming on Ants.
De Wilde likes to torture and delight the audience whether she is mockingly simulating fellatio with the mic, smearing her face with stage blood, tickling the chin of someone in the front row or shooting the crowd with snot ejected from her nostril. This kind of spontaneity dynamism has been sorely lacking in established bands. These aren’t trite gimmicks, is this the spirit of fun, and though they teeter on the edge of fear, the audience can’t get enough.
After rolling her eyes back in head and back bending, with no warning de Wilde exits off the stage and through the crowd (not to return). Did she hit the streets of London smeared with blood, gnashing her teeth at midweek commuters on a late one? I truly hope so, it might have defibrillated their lives.
Cash, Smith and Franco continue playing inviting eager listeners, now safe from de Wilde’s antics to take to the stage and rock out with them. Cash announces, “We have a record coming out in a couple of hours. You can buy it at the front. Go Ahead and waste your fucking money!” before he joins the crowd creating a swirl of kinetic frenzy. This audience won’t regret buying that album or checking those tour dates. Have Starcrawler succeeded in their promise to kill us? I believe we have all been ended tonight by a fatal Arrow to the heart.
Live review and photography by Sarah Sievers of Starcrawler live @ Omeara Thursday 18th January 2018.