It starts to feel reassuringly ‘old normal’ when favourite overseas bands and artists start announcing dates in the UK. I have missed Starcrawler gigs as much as anyone’s during the pandemic lockdown years and was pleased to see their announcement of a string of dates supporting My Chemical Romance – what I was not expecting at all though was the short notice announcement of a headline show in the tiny, tiny Blue Basement of Jack White’s Third Man Records in the heart of London’s Soho district. I was very pleased to secure a ticket as this basement really is just a small box of a venue (not a criticism, the sound was great and so was the atmosphere) with the audience capped at just 40. I never imagined I’d get another opportunity to experience Starcrawler in such an intimate, close-up venue as at that Norwich Bedford’s Crypt gig but how wrong I was, filled now with anticipation at seeing them in a venue less than half that size.
The doors finally opened about an hour later than stated and it was already hot milling around upstairs in the record shop before we were allowed downstairs shortly after 8pm. There was no messing around down there though and the band were already on the tiny stage as the first of us reached the floor, striking up the opening chords of Goodtime Girl. I was still trying to secure my position and vantage point when I felt someone pushing by to get even closer to the front. Of course it was Arrow!
It was loud and exhilarating. The opening song segued into new single Roadkill and was followed by I Love L.A. and then some greetings from Henri Cash, by which time everyone was boiling in this sweatbox, not that there were any complaints about that, we were just all thrilled to be there and there’s something extra-special – I feel – about going some steps for a loud rock gig. This was also my first time seeing the new line-up, with Seth Carolina taking over drumming duties from Austin Smith and the line up augmented by brother of Henri, Bill Cash on pedal steel and further guitar, and of course bassist Tim Franco completes the line up with Henri and the spellbinding force of nature that is Arrow de Wilde on vocals. The powerful drumming and second guitar fills the sound further and the pedal steel and another dimension. I’m a big fan of this hint of a country tinge to Starcrawler that shows itself from time to time on the less frenetic songs.
The set seemed to be passing at breakneck speed and as I stood there smiling and nodding away I realised just how much this sort of thing was precisely what I have missed so much. A loud and exciting rock and roll act, a tight musical unit with strong songs enjoying themselves and also with the compelling, visual, theatrical and unpredictable aspect. The set featured plenty of old favourites (No More Pennies and Bet My Brains being particular favourites of mine).
Arrow disappeared into the crowd during the final song and Henri was also in the crowd with his guitar and then it was all over. Obviously there were calls for “One more song!” but how could this be followed. It was brilliant and I think I was beaming from ear to ear and had waited two and a half years for the Starcrawler experience again.
A notable presence among the audience was Arrow’s mum esteemed photographer Autumn de Wilde. I’d have loved to have met her and the band to say thanks/hello but even though it was only 9pm we were ushered upstairs by the staff and in truth we probably did all need some of that cooler fresh air. I stepped outside to find it was still light, that doesn’t often happen after a gig and I made my way to Oxford Circus tube station, I’d kind of forgotten it was a Saturday and the West End. It felt like high summer. Everywhere was very lively and the night was just beginning for many, there were also Sunderland fans everywhere in good voice, I guessed they won their Wembley play-off final against Wycombe.
The tube was as rammed as I can ever remember it, just to reinforce the feeling that things are very much back to normal, for the moment at least. The early finish meant I was able to catch an earlier train back than usual and the Saturday night vibe was still very strong and in full flow in the city when I arrived back in Norwich and carefully negotiated Prince of Wales Road towards the city centre for a much needed pint at the pub before the long walk home. I knew I was going to pay for this night with tiredness the following day but it was totally worth it, plus of course I kept thinking of Starcrawler themselves, somewhat envious of their youthful energy, arriving from California, playing this energetic show the following day and Milton Keynes with My Chemical Romance the day after that with barely a day without a gig during the whole tour. They are young and have energy but they are so hard working and deserve all the success and recognition that comes their way, they are keeping the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll alive and exciting, especially live.
I rarely seem to carry my camera around with me these days but I’m glad I did for this one, even if all I had with me was a compact, this band never fail to inspire me. Below are a few photos from some of the recent gigs where I did get a photo.