Pink and blue lights shot reflections off every mirrored wall, giving the impression that I had been shrunken and stuffed into a disco ball. A miserably cold disco ball—it was the middle of winter and I had only left my apartment to see out of town friends. Under glittering lights, Cut Worms stepped on stage with an acoustic guitar at his feet, scrolling through an iPod Classic. He hit play and suddenly, swaying old-time jangle guitar played over saloon-style piano. Max Clarke (the man behind the one-man-band) subtly danced, rapidly transforming into a character from a David Lynch dream sequence. When Clarke started singing I felt as if I had stepped back into time and stumbled on Buddy Holly's first show. I discovered a gem that frigid February night and vowed to make sure everyone and their mother (trust me, moms will swoon over this stuff) knew about Cut Worms.
His iPod Classic bit the dust halfway through the beginning karaoke act, allowing the rest of the set to be fully acoustic, pulling timid stragglers into the set. Cut Worms' stage presence is completely entrancing. He has an air of gentle confidence and bizzarity. When Cut Worms opened for Frightened Rabbit at Rough Trade last month, he'd make quick-witted jokes, talking to an applause track piped into the sound system.
Clarke's enigmatic humor can also be found in his lyrics. A backhanded melancholia shadows the song, "Till Tomorrow Goes Away." Lilting vocals tell the story of a heartbroken someone–someone who will "make you pay" for shattering his heart. In my personal favorite, "How It Can Be" he sings, "See the blood on the magazine, see the shine on the record machine." I'm completely inferring, but it sounds like the scene of a passionate and cultured murder.
Cut Worms is completely entrancing–live, recorded, and in theory. There's something stirring behind Max Clarke and I'm achingly curious to see what comes next.