I’m kind of an asshole. See, I have been promising two good friends of mine that I’d come see their band play for about a year and a half. For most of that time, I was living in Baton Rouge and thus had a ready-made excuse for not showing up to a show. I’ve been back in Jackson for a few months now and have missed every show that came up… until last night.
I realize that I may have ruined my credibility as an objective reviewer by revealing that I know some members of the band. You’ll just have to trust that I’ll not overblow my impressions out of sentimentality.
I was blown away. They are easily the best unsigned band in the south that I’ve seen. Grunge-Jazz, I’ll call it, with elements of surf, straight rock, blues, and funk. They excel at time changes and finding a groove that forces your head to nod. An aside– I’m perhaps the least comfortable show goer in HISTORY. I’ll be the guy with his hands in his pockets leaning against a wall trying not to be noticed (which inevitably leads to being noticed). If I move, it is to light a cigarette or scratch myself. Last night was different… clownishly so. I was sitting in a booth (back firmly against a wall) and NODDING. Somebody restrain him!!!!!
I’ve been devoting a lot of listening hours to honing my jazz appreciation. I dig Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, and Charles Mingus. Free jazz I can’t hack, so Coltrane’s Love Supreme is out. Most jazz-rock outfits err on one side or the other in my opinion– Steely Dan has some great moments, but their rock doesn’t rock hard enough for me most of the time. Medeski, Martin, and Wood (while not jazz-rock per se) errs on the side of jam band nanciness. Candiria, the NY hardcore group that tried to integrate jazz into their sound, drowned the jazz under three-ton riffs and screams.
Circus of the Seed sounds nothing like any of those bands. Think Bleach era Nirvana, Neil Young, Louis Armstrong, and Dr. John, with a heavy dose of blues. And whimsy. They didn’t put on a very tight show. The lead singer/trumpet player would sit in the crowd for looooong stretches of the set, listening, then get back up to blow a five minute trumpet solo while the guitarist sat on his amp, smoking. There were long pauses between songs, mini-arguments over what song to play next, and a half-hour intermission.
But that music. I wish that I had an mp3… I’ll rip one or two when I get a CD. The lead singer sounded like a higher-pitched Dr. John singing Muddy Waters over a late 80s Nirvana jam session in which they decided to play blues covers. In other words, impossible to imagine. The lyrics were good and straightforward (something of a rarity nowadays) and the breakdowns and solos were top notch. They even ended the set by kicking over the drum set and throwing a snare. GREAT show!
The moral: if you are in Jackson for whatever reason and see that Circus of the Seed is playing, go see them. I’ll be the dude nodding like a madman along the wall.