Copyright © 1998. All Rights Reserved.
BY WARREN FOOTZ
The Circus in Flames
Windsor Bar & Grill, June 19-20
High Run Club, June 26-27
Remember a time when you could walk into a record store, knowing there was only one thing you had to know? It would either be in the country jazz or pop section.
It's been a while since life was that simple and now, thanks to Vancouver band The Circus in Flames, we have a whole new genre to contend with: sheet metal country.
"There is a kind of back-porch country and folk influence to the music - in the way it sounds. But maybe not," the leader of the band, Doug Andrew, explained. "It's not like Nashville."
No, not at all. But it'd be hard to say folks who grew up within the 50,000 watts of CFCW country would shy away completely. If anybody, folks from the Prairies, and their kids, will find something pleasantly simple in this acoustic garage band's music - something familiar, yet refreshingly renewed.
But big city punks should also be attracted. It's a little different and that's where the sheet metal reference comes in handy. "No band really wants to stereotype or pigeonhole themselves, so if you just say you're kind of a country/folk thing, sometimes people get a certain idea in their head," Andrew said.
"I thought of sheet metal because it's the sort of thing that does, when you're messing around with it, kind of boom and rattle things. And we tend to have that kind of a sound at times." The Circus in Flames is yet another in a long line of Canadian acts that refuse to conform to a set genre. As with Courage of Lassie or Jimmy George, the material is presented in a mosaic that has starting points similar to many others, but ends up in a whole new territory.
In many ways, this all makes sense. The Circus in Flames rose out of the ashes of Andrew's former bands, Tin God and Shanghai Dog, with those bands' punk rock and D.I.Y. sensibilities all intact. "The punk stuff, in a lot of ways, especially when it first started, I almost thought of it as a progression of folk music, in a sense, because it was kind of just the average person just getting things out."
An upright bass, mandolin, banjos and an accordion aren't the traditional instruments of a punk band, but the scrub band way The Circus In Flames performs makes it part of many traditions, ranging from the punk/pop glory days of Dexy's Midnight Runners to the Woody Guthrie world of folk music's currently resurrected popularity. The acoustic feel, created in the rumpus room or garage, appeals to many ageless levels.
"It's funny because people see the instruments or they hear the instruments, and sometimes say, 'are you guys a Celtic band?' or else they say 'are you a bluegrass band?' We really aren't anything like traditional country or traditional bluegrass or anything like that, but I think it's just the sum of those instruments and that we take a garage band approach to playing."
The Circus In Flames plays four dates in Edmonton in the next couple of weeks, all as part of the Jazz City festival's Club Scene series. June 19-20, they play the Windsor Bar & Grill (11702-87 Ave.) and June 26-27, they play the High Run Club (4962-98 Ave.).
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