Squeezed inside the dimly lit hall of The Subterranean, a frenzy of eyeliner, hair dye, party hats, and pride flags anxiously await their favorite band to hit the stage. Watching the crowd of young fans exchange excitable remarks, the innocent bystander wouldn’t think these kids had just endured an entire tornado warning. Dark skies, pouring rain, and lightning was not going to stop this loyal audience from seeing their favorite band, Crawlers, play their Chicago debut.
Following the burst of attention online and the mass success of their single “Come Over (Again)” on TikTok, the Liverpool-based Crawlers are breaking America with their first headlining tour across the pond. Vocalist Holly Minto, guitarist Amy Woodall, bassist Liv Kettle, and drummer Harry Breen are fresh faces welcomed to the stage but the quartet have rapidly captured the hearts of listeners around the globe––from Gen Z teens to legends like My Chemical Romance (whom the band opened for last month in Warrington). With nearly 700k followers on TikTok, Crawlers have since become the blueprint for artists trying to “beat the algorithm” and build an online community that seamlessly transcends into their intimate live sets. Though coining themselves as a “silly little eyeliner band” via their Instagram page, there’s surely nothing silly about the profound impact this band is making on Gen Z kids in the scene.
The sudden blast of Charli XCX’s “Vroom Vroom” through the speakers perfectly set the tone for the evening as Crawlers descended from the spiral staircase onto the stage. Appropriately clad in a Crash World Tour tee, Holly Minto took their place center stage followed by Woodall, Kettle, and Breen. The crowd was going nuts. There was something refreshing, nostalgic, and almost comforting to witness kids get so stoked about a rock band––I couldn’t help but see part of my 16 year old self in their frenzy.
The setlist is occupied by tracks like “MONROE” and “Statues” hailing off the band’s self-titled EP, in addition to OG-Crawlers songs like “Placebo”. A couple of unreleased surprises like “Feminist Radical” and “I Don’t Want It” are also peppered into the evening. Minto possesses a Billie Eilish-like stage presence that commands everyone’s attention while placing themselves on common ground with their audience. The vocalist was recovering from a recent illness that was effortlessly masked by their belting vocals and consistent exchange in energy with the crowd. There was no sickness or extreme weather warning that could stop Crawlers from putting on the best show they could.
Looking around the room, the captivated look in every fan’s eyes clearly reflected the connection they felt so personally to the band on stage. Speaking with NME, Minto has stated that “If there’s anything we feel we can help [the fans] with through our own experiences, that’s something we want to share. For example, things with my identity, our relationships, growing up working-class.” Not only can Crawlers fans see someone on stage that they feel represented by, but the experiences resonating with so many in one room together has allowed the band to cultivate safe spaces for everyone to be comfortable being themselves and releasing what they’ve been bottling inside. Addressing the reality of mental health and the importance of shared lived experiences, Minto introduces songs from their set like “I Can’t Drive” to an audience of people who understand exactly where they’re coming from. The crowd latches on to every word, screaming every lyric back with all the fervor of someone searching for healing.
Crawlers have become a powerful voice for Gen Z fans who have found solace in their music, putting into words their own experiences and finding a way to process them. One fan took to TikTok to thank Holly for how much they put themselves into their new single, stating that “it has helped so many of us feel better about what we’ve been through and…it has made a lot of us finally feel seen and heard”. The best example of this notion could be seen through the reaction to “Come Over (Again)”, a song that struck a chord with audiences both online and in the flesh. The line “Take her name out of your mouth/ you don’t deserve to mourn” became an epiphany for many trans folks, claiming the song as a queer anthem for the community. The single became a breakthrough for the band online, but the live rendition equally holds up. Minto leans into the crowd, now illuminated by phone lights, belting the chorus inches away from those in the front row. Every fan is yelling the lyrics back, everyone knows the words. Then in a very Lizzo-flute fashion, Minto reminds the room of their multi instrumentalist talents and busts out an impressive trumpet solo. The crowd goes wild, as they should.
A Crawlers show is an intimate experience balanced somewhere between impassioned performance and casual banter between friends. One minute, Minto addresses the incredible vulnerability in the group’s latest single “Fuck Me (I Didn’t Know How To Say)”, touching on the sexual trauma lingering after toxic relationships. The next moment finds us singing an enthusiastic rendition of “Happy Birthday”, as it happened to be Amy Woodall’s 21st birthday. Woodall, wearing fuzzy checkered slippers, confesses they were a style choice made not from intention, but from literally forgetting to put on real shoes. There was plenty of humor and joy to be found in between the darkest of moments lingering beyond the lyrical content of a Crawlers song––such is life.
As young bands are tossed into a tumultuous industry currently pressuring artists to chase success via viral e-clout, Crawlers have somehow figured it out. The band has established a presence that feels tangible and real to an audience of youth who crave a space to grow into their identity, process their trauma, and find a sense of comfort in the midst of it all. Crawlers have proven that a healthy mix of building online communities and establishing intimate live spaces can strengthen artist-to-fan relationships.
This is only the beginning of Crawlers’ career, but the band makes a strong first impression. Despite being first-time touring headliners, the band has mastered the art of engaging the crowd and making the stage their own. Possessing the ability to make a 400-cap venue feel larger than life, it’s only going up from here for this British quartet. “Genreless and genderless”, Crawlers is a band for the next generation of outcasts coming into their own, and doing it together.
Words and photos by Weronika Koleda.