When I wandered into the Main II at South By Southwest 2018, I intended to sneak in the back way of an adjoining club and catch a few songs by Pussy Riot. That mission failed. But I hung around to catch Starcrawler on the recommendation of a friend.
And am I glad I did.
Led by rail-thin, confrontational, blood-spewing singer Arrow deWilde and teenage guitarist Henri Cash, Starcrawler delivered a thrilling 40 minutes that blended Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers punk, a little bit of X and some metal riffing in a pedal-to-the-metal assault that sent me out to catch them two more times before SXSW ended.
Fast forward 18 months and Starcrawler is coming to Nebraska --- and I can’t go. They’re playing Omaha’s Reverb Lounge on Tuesday -- the same night Guns N’ Roses will be at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
When I told deWilde and Cash that I was bummed I wouldn’t get to see them again, she quickly responded: “I’d rather go to that and play.”
Unfortunately that isn’t going to happen. But if you’re not headed to G N’R and love rock ‘n’ roll of the loud, intense variety, head for Omaha to check out Starcrawler, who -- based on “Devour You,” the album it is releasing Friday -- is even better than they were a year ago.
“I think we were on tour for two years and have grown as people and as a band,” said Cash, who was 15 when they recorded their self-titled debut and is now 17.
“We’re young, so a couple months is a long time for us. We’re doing it better, but it’s sort of the same thing. If you go listen to the first record and this record, it sounds like the same bunch only they’ve gotten better.”
DeWilde, who’s now all of 20, said she’s a better singer today than she was when the band made its self-titled debut, in large part because she’s older.
“My voice has evolved,” she said. “When we did the first one, I was 16 or 17. To me, it sounds like a baby voice on that record. I’ll probably think the same thing about this record after the next one.”
Starcrawler was formed in L.A. in 2015, by deWilde, the daughter of a drummer, who’s played with the likes of Father John Misty, and a noted music photographer and music video director, who wanted to make her own band.
“I met (drummer) Austin (Smith) through mutual friends,” deWilde said. “I hit him up on Facebook because he had a picture of him playing drums. We hung out and started jamming while figuring out what to do. I went to school with Henri. I’d seen him around, but didn’t really know him. I was desperately seeking somebody to play guitar. There’s only so much you can do with drums and vocals. It’s pretty abstract. I went up to him and I was pretty direct, I asked him if he played guitar. He said yes and joined up. We were looking for a bass player and I remembered by old friend Tim (Franco), who I knew in ninth or 10 grade. That was it."
You have free articles remaining.
The quartet got together and practiced songs by The Runaways, the all-girl L.A. band where Joan Jett got her start.
Bringing in their influences, deWilde with Runaways singer Cherie Currie and Ozzy Osbourne, Cash with X, AC/DC, Elvis Presley and Sun Records, Smith with Black Sabbath and Art Blakey, and Franco, The Band, they wrote and recorded a single and worked out a stage show before their first gig.
“We really wanted to be good,” Cash said. “We didn’t want to have that learning curve. We figured if we got good we wouldn’t be learning in public.”
Starcrawler wasn’t an instant hit. But it didn’t take long before the quartet was recognized as L.A.’s best bunch of young rockers.
“It was a year, half a year or something,” deWilde said. “We’d take any shows we were offered. We’d be playing two or three times each month. Eventually, we’d see more people coming. There were a few people coming at first, then more and more.
“We’d shopped our single to a lot of labels and none of them responded, including Rough Trade. We just kind of put it out ourselves, found our manager and he again shopped around the next thing we’d done and Rough Trade was interested.”
Rough Trade, the venerable English independent label that, to me, never disappoints, released “Starcrawler,” which put the band on the road to SXSW among other places. Now they’re back out, trying to win over converts to join the likes of Elton John and Garbage’s Shirley Manson, who loves Starcrawler.
So how do the shows go in places like, say Omaha, where Starcrawler is little known.
“It can go really well or really bad,” Cash said. “We played Ohio and I thought it wasn’t going to be that great. Then a bunch of kids showed up and it was really exciting. It just depends on the show and where we’re playing.
“It’s cool when kids come to see us and are really into it. Growing up, there’s not a lot of kids that are into rock music. You’re kind of the oddball if you don’t listen to top 40.
Actually, deWilde said, the “bad shows” can be as much fun as the good ones.
“It’s definitely the most fun when people are into it, dancing and there’s a pit,” she said. “But it’s also fun when people are really disgusted and shocked. I kind of live for that. It may not be much fun for the band, but I love it.”
You’ll love Starcrawler if you make your way to Omaha Tuesday. Just stay clear of the flying “blood.”