Starcrawler at the Brick & Mortar, by Ria Burman
Starcrawler (photo: Ria Burman)

My ears are still ringing from Tuesday night’s three-band Sea Witch Productions lineup at Brick and Mortar Music Hall, a riotous and visually impressive rock and roll gig culminating with an immersive set from young LA rockers Starcrawler. Oakland’s Isaac Rother & The Phantoms took a little while to set up because lead guitarist and vocalist Isaac Rother had somehow misplaced his cape. No, seriously. The sound engineer went up to the stage to ask what was going on and the bass player was like, “Oh, he’s just looking for his cape.”

Rother finally found it over by the side of the stage and got started with the show. He was joined by a full band, while vocalist Tatiana Sandate stole the show with her impressive range. Rother recited Elvira, Mistress of the Dark-esque poems to introduce the Phantoms' spooky blues-rock songs with titles like “Haunted House,” “Ghoulish Love,” “Possession,” and “Hocus Pocus,” giving everyone the “Heeby Jeebies.” They also played their own surprising rendition of Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time.” The schtick was entertaining enough to last the duration of the opening set, concluding with the band members introducing each other for a climactic finale.

Uni is a new glam rock project founded by Charlotte Kemp Muhl (of Sean Lennon’s band Ghost of a Saber Toothed Tiger) with guitarist David Strange and lead singer Nico Fuzz. Muhl, a multi-instrumentalist who writes most of the music and riffs for Uni, played bass during the live set. David Strange rocked an impressive 12-string guitar with a deadpan stare, while vocalist Nico Fuzz occasionally played guitar and tambourine. The band’s shimmering, '70s-glam wardrobe was in stark contrast to the Phantoms’ blacks and grays. A shirtless Nico confidently carried his voice through glitzy, progressive psych-rock jams like “What’s The Problem,” “Mushroom Cloud,” and “DDT,” harmonizing with the band. Fuzz even brandished a makeshift flamethrower using a lighter and and aerosol can at one point toward the end of the set.

Starcrawler is headlining a West Coast tour following an impressive stint in Austin for SXSW. The four-piece band even earned the 2018 SXSW Grulke Prize for Developing US Act. Starcrawler’s post-SXSW tour took them through Boise, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Known for their energetic live shows, Starcrawler’s stage presence did not disappoint. Ozzy Osbourne-inspired vocalist Arrow de Wilde made use of the stage to contort her body into spidery poses, often adopting a zombie-like stance and nearly toppling over. This was only during instrumental breaks, though, as she’s a very good actor. She delivered the lead vocals with lucid ferocity on the band’s best singles, such as “Ants” and “I Love LA.”

Arrow de Wilde attended a Catholic all-girls middle school, then one day her dad put on Blizzard of Ozz and her life was changed forever. She started blasting “Crazy Train” in her mom’s car every day on her way to class. Naturally, there was a lot of wild-eyed leering and ghoulish grinning from Arrow during the show, with her mouth occasionally dripping with stage blood that I’m pretty sure she spat in the face of a fan at one point. She leaped into the crowd during the closing song “Chicken Woman,” ending the set by crawling across the bar while guitarist Henri Cash also jumped down into the middle of the pit. Henri likes to play loud and fast, packing rollicking energy behind the band’s songs, some of which are barely two minutes long. Henri, who often contributes backing vocals, took the lead on “Pussy Tower,” an ode to oral sex and easily one of the band’s worst songs. Drummer Austin Smith and bassist Tim Franco kept the time without any antics.

It’s pretty wild that this band has only been around for a year, but Starcrawler’s reputation for visceral live shows and frenetic homage to classic shock-rock holds true. It’s a new generation’s take on the forgotten era of macabre theatrics in punk and metal bands. These kids put on a hell of a show, and most of their studio tracks are pretty solid on their own. Starcrawler’s self-titled debut LP was released in January 2018 via Rough Trade, who also released their "I Love LA" 7-inch.

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