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Review: Clown Core, DJ Driver – Bimhuis, 04/03/2023

Watching some of Clown Core‘s somewhat weird music videos a few years back they really came across as a band that would never end up performing live – they’re almost as much a theatrical act as they are a musical act and, frankly, I have no idea how anyone could consistently perform music as crazy as this without recruiting a bunch of extra members. But here we are in Amsterdam’s Bimhuis, an excellent seated venue that seem to usually house jazz and classical concerts, on the final date of Clown Core’s world tour, ready to see how they recreate the insanity live. But before that begins we’re treated to a set from DJ Driver, who is literally the balaclava-clad man from their Van record.

DJ Driver performs a fairly minimal set of ambient/electronic music for a bit over half an hour using a small tape player on his table. He spends a fair chunk of the set handing out business cards to everyone in the audience, which will no doubt be invaluable if I ever end up in LA and need either a lift or a DJ set. The crowd go mad for every sip he takes from his glass of wine, each time receiving a swift “shhh” to shut them down. It’s a surreal start but then maybe that’s fitting considering what’s to come.

As the black drapes are removed we get our first glimpse at Clown Core’s live setup – they’ve taken influence from a previous album and, in the centre of the stage, the band are hidden inside a giant portaloo, with just clown horns and snare playing behind the plastic wall. Eventually the opening note to Flat Earth repeats itself and the front panels of the toilet fall open to reveal the two band members, dressed in white tuxedos, crammed into a small space. They’ve retained the minimal setup, the drum kit consisting of just a tiny bass drum, high hats and snare complete with splash (as well as two keyboards) while the saxophonist also has a keyboard and a clown horn. As the main riff from Flat Earth kicks in the energy in the room is electric, it’s hard not to head bang along to the music, the main synth bassline and kick drum almost going off in their own direction while everything else drives the song on.

It would be pretty much impossible to pigeonhole Clown Core into a particular genre, the set takes in elements of grindcore, jazz, metal and, well, lot of other elements – there’s a track where the keyboards just play fart noises, at one point during Toilet the saxophonist holds a droning note using a prosthetic penis. The visuals and the lighting are perfect for the music too with some excellent CGI created specifically for the event as well a live streamed footage from inside the toilet. There’s a seizure warning before the set starts – it’s there for a reason, it’s a real strobe fest, combined with some incredibly fast cutting videos.

Tracks from the recent EP, One and Two, are both particular highlights in a great set. After finishing the main set with Toilet, with the aforementioned prosthetic penis and anti-calzone lyrics, they then return to the stage for an encore to perform Hell, arguably the track that got them notice online thanks to the absurdity of the video. The thing that most impressed me throughout the set was just how well they were able to recreate both the music and the atmosphere of the original records. The prior probably shouldn’t be that much of a surprise given that two of the records were seemingly recorded live (in a toilet and a van respectively) but they put a surprisingly high amount of effort into the visual elements both with the portaloo with dropping panels and with the projections. It’s a shame that the “world tour” didn’t take in more locations, the European shows only taking place in Paris, Amsterdam and Reykjanesbær, Iceland. I hope they take in more locations and make it across to the UK next time, if there is a next time. Two utterly incredible musicians playing music that’s both enjoyable and simply mind-blowing.

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