After giving Claw Marks a brief listen a couple of hours before going to see them, I wasn’t preparing myself for anything too special. I thought their combination of blistering hardcore and noise-rock was certainly compelling and provided for interesting listening, but I didn’t imagine that I’d do much else other than nod my head and maybe throw myself about in a pit. Essentially, I was expecting business as usual.
It became obvious that I hadn’t been listening thoroughly enough as my expectations were dashed before a single note was played. As the band set up, a member of the crowd – I later found out that he’s a member of Throats, with whom Claw Marks share two members – enters the stage and begins a cheerleader chant. “Give me a C!” he screams, as behind him Claw Mark’s vocalist sits on the stage barefoot and cross-legged, looking more like a monk than a front man. As the chant continues and nears the final letters of the band’s name, and the screamed calls become more incomprehensible, the man throws himself into the crowd without any warning, taking out a good three people in the process.
On that note, Claw Marks kick into their set and I realise that I’ve horribly misjudged this band. Before long broken glass is littering the floor as scores of people have their drinks knocked out of their hands by stage-divers, crowd surfers and people tearing themselves apart as if they were caught in a trance. Musically, Claw Marks alternate between relentless hardcore and droning noise-rock; to the effect that energy levels in both the crowd and the band are consistently high whilst being released in more unorthodox ways.
Claw Mark’s vocalist is caught in a trance from start to finish, behaving completely as if he were in his own world with his own rules. From climbing the ceiling to collapsing onto a floor covered in shards of glass, he feels the effect of the music in a completely animalistic way and in doing so encourages members of the crowd to do the same. The aforementioned stranger from Throats is the most enthusiastic crowd member in doing so, frequently launching himself from the stage in increasingly destructive ways – from frontflipping and taking someone out on his descent to overshooting the pit and slamming his whole body into members of the crowd that are simply watching the show, he shows time and time again that he fully understands what Claw Marks are about.
In this primal, bloodied world that Claw Marks create for the brief time that they are onstage, rules and etiquette don’t apply. The people acting in these strange and dangerous ways both in the band and in the crowd can’t be called malicious in their destructive self-expression as Claw Mark’s live show is a drug that completely clouds your judgement. To fully enjoy this band live is to forget who you are, where you are, and how to behave from the moment that they enter the stage to the moment they leave.
When seeing this band leave everything, apart from your most primal instincts, at the door.
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