Crooked Arrow

Male rock stars steal femininity as transgression, Arrow de Wilde steals it back

Nearly a day after the show, I want to be able to tie a pretty-little-bow on what I saw as Arrow de Wilde and her band Starcrawler performed last night at Sessions Music Hall in downtown Eugene.

Right away I’m struck by my inclination to use that phrase “pretty-little-bow” —  a bow, a traditional symbol of femininity: sugar, spice, everything nice.

This is significant because, over the course of a 60-minute set played to a small but appreciative audience (side-eye, Eugene. Where were you?), de Wilde was possessed. By what? The spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, I hope, but also perhaps I might allege booze and cocaine.

As the show went on, she scratched her exposed, dangerously thin, heroin-chic belly, miming every negative role for women in popular culture: the evil old hag, the crack whore, the slutty Lolita. Her physicality also referenced the dark side of feminine behavior, suicide, self-destruction, and self-loathing, her face and pants splattered with fake blood, some strategically dripped as if menstrual fluid had soaked through her pants.

Playing behind her, the band, comprised by guitarist Henri Cash, bassist Tim Franco and drummer Austin Smith, tantrumed their way through a blistering set of Stooges and MC5-revival proto-punk, shock rock, and horror-core, alongside a syringe-full of LA sleaze.

Over the years, male rock stars have transgressed by adopting icons of femininity — crossdressing, for example. De Wilde, in turn, stole a lot of that back, swiping a healthy dose of hyper-inflated testosterone while she was at it. Looping the mic cable through the fly of her pants, she proceeded to jerk the microphone off into the crowd — an act made extra dangerous in our age of trigger warnings and safe spaces.

It was hard to tell if the sound was muddy as the band played tunes off their 2018 self-titled debut, as well as a Ramones cover — an unnamed Starcrawler album is slated to be released later this year on Rough Trade Records. Or it’s just been awhile since Sessions’ sound system had contended with rock music quite this ferocious

Yes, it was all a highly referential performance, for both de Wilde and the band. A young Courtney Love comes to mind but also men like Joey Ramone, Iggy Pop, Ozzy Osbourne, Robert Plant, Roger Daltry, or even a young Vince Neil.

Near the end of the show, de Wilde threw her lanky frame from the stage. She lay still for a moment, before beginning to shake and convulse — an overdose? An epileptic fit? Or just an act?

Whatever It was, it was convincing enough that the warm heart of Eugene reached out in the form of an audience member’s concerned hand on her back, just checking, while also in the crowd, Cash handed off his guitar to an audience member, inviting her on stage to add to the cacophony of the rhythm section in the show’s closing moments.

Soon, de Wilde began to drag herself away through the crowd, her leg limp, an empty husk of a rock star, disappearing into the night.

“Was it all for show?” was the subject on the mind of me and my friend’s as we left the venue. I hope so, or else we saw a disaster of Joplin-esque proportions right here in Eugene.

And so what if it was?

I’d like to tell you de Wilde was making some kind of statement about feminism or the patriarchy. I’m still unpacking that, the heretofore mentioned “bow” I want to tie this up with.

But for now, I’ll say as a fan of old-school, diseased, CBGBs punk rock, I wanted to root her on, loving every minute of a young rock star embracing the lost art of fronting a band, putting the jagged edge of rock ‘n’ roll’s nihilism up against her tender bits.

As a dad, I couldn’t help but find myself thinking, “Bulimia’s not funny, young lady.”

And maybe, after all, that was her point.

Photos by Todd Cooper