Circling the Bands
Over the last several months the Circle Bar has been bringing some absolutely fantastic talent to their performance space. Seeing bands in this environment is like watching the performers from within your own living room. There is a narrow corridor of space between the bar and the front of the “stage” where the audience can stand or sit at the high tables. There is no line of demarcation between the audience and the bands, no barricades, not even a tiny step up into the performance space. For a small group of devoted fans this can lead to truly memorable experiences as the show spills forth into the crowd and the dancing bleeds over into the performance. On busy nights early arrivals can find themselves pressed up against the band as the crowd jostles for space. This year heavies like Saintseneca and Wussy have done late night shows for the small crowds of dedicated fans that persevere till the end. Saintseneca, an emerging stomp and flutter band, put on exactly the sort of show that you expect to see in such a comfortable space. The set list was written in sharpie on a brown bathroom hand towel (scrawled at the last minute on the bar) and there was barely enough space for the band and their stomp box. The crowd was pressed in against the band looming in a semicircle around the band as they passed their instruments to each other through the fascinated fans. You can check out Saintsenaca’s Tiny Desk Concert here.
Another great show in this space was the Philadelphia based ILL DOOTS. This hip hop collective that began in a dorm room has grown into a fully realized artistic project. Seeing this group build their complex sound in the intimate space of the Circle Bar was truly extraordinary. For ILL DOOTS there is a careful balance between the production of the music and the pageantry of its delivery. Even though the crowd was quite small, the group played as though the house was packed. From the MCs' initial huddle and through the carefully choreographed banter, the collective demonstrated their dedication to their sound and their fans. The playful lyrics and the exchanges among the band members really matched the living room style of the performance space and accentuated the rehearsed improvisation of their style. For a sense of ILL DOOTS amazing stage presence check out their World Cafe performance here.
I’m looking forward to seeing more shows in this space soon. If you are interesting in trying out the Circle Bar scene, I recommend the experimental pop band Brown Bread on January 11th or Alt Folk group 10 Cent Cigars on January 19th.