It is a wonder there is any electricity left to share in the Whittier neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota after the thrilling display of high energy local indie rock showmanship at the Icehouse, lead by headliner Circus of the West on Sunday night. Although Ed Caldie and company are largely to blame for the eventual extreme pulses of energy escaping the crowded rectangular stage, the offerings of emerging artists The Broken Beaks warmed up the cool evening while tables were filling in just after sunset.
Ed has accused the youthful Beaks of being “absurdly talented,” and he’s right. Their set of songs included “Goes Away” and a pending Spotify release called “Bold.” This calculating and practiced trio show no signs of trepidation or lack of musicianship.
As the floorspace continued to shrink by numbers of fans standing along the outside walls, on the stairs, and in front of the main corridor coming into the Icehouse, it was humbling to watch this magic transpire—the fluid choreography of the Icehouse wait staff filling drinks, tag-teaming to place entrees at correct tables, and the one-man sound tech handling all things music production. The pleasant aroma of American cuisine in the air surely helped the festive atmosphere.
Once on stage and set, Circus of the West wasted no time in delivering their high octane “Boxes” right out of the chute, followed with renditions of “Looking In” and “Some Connections.” With three members of the band practicing law Monday through Friday, one might begin to suspect that their real talent lies in music collaboration.
A Night for Others to Shine, Too
Joining them onstage for a foot-stomping good time were the very special guests, Laurels String Quartet, who contributed to several of the performances, as well as local songstress and professor, Dr. Andrea Q. Langford, who largely accompanied Caldie with harmonies. Langford had no problem keeping up with the rest of the Circus.
A remarkable surprise came later when a little “church” came to the Icehouse. Langford was given the stage, along with a trio of female backup singers, and two members of Circus. The supremely talented ladies growled out the song “Work for Me,” a gospel release from Langford’s CD, “Open the Door.” Her demeanor was pleasant and inviting, and well received.
But most importantly, the Circus of the West members had stellar tight and harmonious deliveries of their original songs of hope and yes, loss. As Ed put it once, ‘this next one is sad, but at least it’s upbeat.’ Even before the band took the stage, you could sense the excitement in drummer David Hoffman. During pre-show preparations he even made sure the waitstaff was aware of the reserved seating for guests of the show.
And those guitarists! Ben Court was magnificent out-front, taking ownership of his two-square yards of stage real estate. And who could blame their in-house songwriter, Joel Leviton for wanting to keep his guitar in tune?
Ed bashed him kindly a time or two over his perpetual perfectionism. And Circus of the West would be amiss without bass player Jason Kapel, who also plays a mean keyboard when called upon.
Helping Others Means a Great Deal
The passionate vocals of Ed Caldie really rocked the house. The man knows how to put his body and soul into his performance. He admits that if you’re in the front row, ‘you’re in the splash zone,’ susceptible to his perspiring ambitions. The band’s commitment to helping others also came through in a heavy offering, “Resurrection,” a song about child abuse that is pointed at and questions the notion of confession. Before they played it, Caldie gave the group from Z.A.P. a few moments on stage to talk about the Zero Abuse Project, a movement to help end child abuse.
As the show closed, Circus of the West covered the Beatles infamous tune “A Little Help from My Friends” as an acknowledgment that they wouldn’t be where they are without their fans. And more fans are coming.
The ticket price for Sunday night’s high energy show was quite the bargain for this prized ensemble of Twin-City talent.