Openers have it hard. They have to play for an audience there to listen to someone else, showcasing their music while somehow keeping the listless crowd energized for what’s next. The right opener gets the crowd moving along to its music. The wrong one makes the audience antsy.
Considering that none of the members of Starcrawler were even alive when Beck started his career, the band is an interesting choice as an opener for him and Cage the Elephant on the artists’ The Night Running Tour. But it is one that made complete sense once its lead singer, the enigmatic 20-year-old Arrow de Wilde, grabbed the mic at Shoreline Amphitheatre on Tuesday.
It is wild to think that something as edgy as a punk rock band began at a high school, but that is exactly where Starcrawler got its start: at Los Angeles’ Grand Arts High School. Performing arts high schools have always been incubators for young talent in the entertainment world, from LaGuardia High School’s perennial internet boyfriends Ansel Elgort and Timothée Chalamet to the Houston High School for the Performing and Visual Arts’ goddess Beyoncé. The youth of these performers is often an edge in their projects, and they are marketed to appeal to their fellow teens; but rarely do they enter an industry famous for its middle-aged men, where their youth is more seen as inexperience than as an advantage.
Starcrawler is quickly becoming a veteran in an industry where most established names have had careers as long as de Wilde has been alive. The band has played at hipster favorite South by Southwest in Austin as well as Europe’s Coachella-equivalent Glastonbury Festival in the U.K., and it even provided a cover of the Ramones’ “Pet Sematary” for the end credits of the film’s recent remake this summer.
The band’s early success is impressive to say the least, and it is also completely deserved. Starcrawler’s songs bring about the sort of Joan Jett grunge and Black Sabbath grime long gone in today’s mainstream music. Listening to the group play felt like stumbling upon the next big thing at a dingy bar. As the band members tore through their hit “I Love LA,” it was easy to picture them playing alongside rock legends at the 40 Watt Club or CBGB.
De Wilde is the force to be reckoned with in Starcrawler. With her bloody, ragged dress, she looked as if she had just escaped from a zombie apocalypse and happened to walk onstage. And her performance was no less mesmerizingly macabre. The band won best developing U.S. act at South by Southwest last year, and it is easy to see how. Throughout the set, de Wilde pretended to strangle herself with the mic cord, danced around with exorcism-like choreography and, in one horrifying “is this real or staged” moment, spit up fake blood onto the stage and unsuspecting crowd. Defined by shock and awe, her performance was insane and bewitching — unsettling but impossible to look away from.
Because the band performs with names like Cage the Elephant and Beck, it is easy to write off Starcrawler as just another musical fluffer before the main event. But as the band captured an early crowd’s attention during its hypnotic performance, it defined itself as something completely different from its predecessors — and the audience breathed a sigh of relief that the future of rock is in good hands.
Contact Julie Lim at [email protected].