SEE Magazine
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The Circus in Flames

Windsor Bar & Grill
Oct. 4

The Windsor Bar & Grill, though unfortunately underfilled Sunday night, seemed the ideal venue for a brilliant show by Vancouver's Circus In Flames. Looking like a cross between the Waterboys and a grubby Dire Straits, or like some Dirty '30's skiffle band that wandered off the docks of their home-town's Lower East Side, the band created a feel not unlike sitting on an old movie set in an ancient New York restaurant or coffeehouse, with the house band set up in a corner on the floor with hardly enough room for themselves and anyone who might want to dance. In a word or two, it was too cool.

Too bad nobody showed up. It'd be safe to say the six musicians could have gone outside and got together a good street hockey game against those collected in the venue.

(Editor's note: Saturday's turnout was much more satisfying; the place was full, with some noted Edmonton music scenesters in the crowd.)

The other problem was, it occasionally appeared more folks wanted to shoot pool and drink than listen to the band doing its thing. It's a credit to Dougie Andrews and his bandmates that they carried on and, perhaps, won over a few new fans in the process.

It's not like the music wasn't engaging. The combination of guitar, banjo, mandolin, squeeze-box, drums and an amazing upright bass player created a wholesome groove and produced one glorious sound that didn't overshadow any individual instrument. The instrumental bit they opened the show with could have gone on forever. Andrews strummed away, looking like a raggedy hobo who might have just stumbled off a boxcar while he conducted the others. Bassist Bernie Addington's flexing of his musical muscle and ingenuity grew as the night progressed, as did the shuffling beat.

At risk of going too far over the top, I'd suggest that, based on this performance and that found on The Circus in Flames' début, self-titled CD, Andrews has a way with language and a way of wrapping his stories around a simple rhythm that should shuffle him off into the Canadian musical songwriting hierarchy. Like a song-from-the-street Murray McLauchlan or a streetwise Gordon Lightfoot, he can thread a tale that sticks to the listener, enlightening that dark spot in the mind. Sunday, he did that with his own numbers as well as a cover of Jimmie Rodgers' Waiting for a Train.

And this isn't just sittin' and listenin' music, either. Indeed, when the band launched into a tune called Helmut, having something to do with dancing on a dead man's grave, a couple of youngsters braved the too-small-for-comfort dance floor for a fling.

It was just a shame not many braved the Sunday night to catch what was happenin' at the bar and grill in Windsor Park. Needless to say, the place to be this upcoming weekend will be the Sidetrack (10333-112 St.), where Dougie and the boys should light up the stage once again, Saturday night.

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