At the intimate Club Dada this past Friday, Cut Worms, the solo project of Brooklyn-based artist Max Clarke, lit up the stage with soft tones and melodies. Before he took the stage, the opener, John Andrews and the Yawns, jammed out. The folk pop New York-based band consists of Hamilton Belk on guitar, Keven LaReau on bass, Noah Bond on drums and John Andrews on keys.
The lights dimmed and the quartet each took a long sip from their beers before they began to play. Their stage presence was mellow and a cozy encapsulation of American folk. My ears and eyes were particularly drawn to “Never Go Away”, a relaxed single that was released just this year.
Once they stepped off stage, the crowd mixed of young indie girls, dawdling couples, and Americana dads murmured their appraisal of the opening set. What shocked me is when John Andrews and the Yawns retook the stage after a thirty-minute hiatus, but this time, Max joined them. A strum, two strums, and they started playing. Turns out, Cut Worms, John Andrews and the Yawns, and several other bands (Quilt, Hand Habits) have a history of strong artistic relationships, showcasing that the members have accrued a diverse style of music. Hamilton switched over to a steel guitar, a country instrument originating from Hawaii that uses a steel bar and plucked strings to produce a unique sound. Thank you to Maizie for taking History of the Guitar and being able to identify one in the wild. I’ve never seen one live before so that was thrilling.
The last time that Cut Worms performed in Dallas was back in 2018 when they opened for King Tuff with SASAMI. Their sound has become more refined and mature since. They blasted off with “Let’s Go Out On The Town” and “Don’t Fade Out” from his newest album, Cut Worms. Noah scrunched his face in concentration throughout the set. Keven danced and swayed rhythmically. But the focus was on Max as he serenaded the venue. The song that got the crowd broiling was the aptly named “Ballad Of The Texas King”. Max switched guitars halfway through the set and started off on the crowd favorite: “Sold My Soul”. When Cut Worms hit the chorus, two couples on the right of the crowd began tangoing in step with the music. A 2-inch bug scurried across the stage. Girls in the back were whooping and barking. It was electrifying.
The lights turned from blue to purple and the energy settled. As the beers grew warmer due to the heat of the venue, Max crooned on with some older songs such as “Don’t Want To Say Good-Bye”. His solemn voice reverberated amongst the captivated crowd with the faint noise of club music from the venue’s neighbors. The band left the stage with a wave and a nod, but immediately chants of “Encore!” proceeded. Ending the night, Max stood alone on center stage and delivered a final ballad. Cut Worms came and delivered and became the Texas King.