Circulus At Rye Community Centre

The Neale East Review

“Hold on, I’ll just stamp your hand, then you can go outside and take as much drugs as you like”

So quipped the old gentleman in the Mad Hatter headgear (complete with 10/6 price label) as he took our tickets on the way into venue. It was a tongue-in-cheek comment but it gave us a forewarning that we were entering an English psychedelic wonderland that had for one night been transported into the ancient town of Rye. I’d always imagined the very picturesque and quaint town would be a bastion of Little Englander conservative sentiment: something in between The Kinks’ “Village Green Preservation Society” and the village in Hot Fuzz. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Instead Circulus seemed to have a drawn a crowd that showed the weird and wonderfulness of the area: men who might have been the twins of Lord Bath of Longleat, witchy looking women, a bloke in full 18th century vampire costume (frock coat, ruffled shirt etc.), bearded bikers, ordinary young trendy lads and lasses about town, and a number of friendly foreign au pairs filled with the sort of goodnatured joi de vivre that comes from dancing to Circulus and drinking the wares from a well-stocked bar set up school fete style on a couple of tables at the back of the hall.

The opening act set the tone nicely with a rather good cover of “Willow’s Song” from the soundtrack to The Wicker Man, and while the next act was a fire-based performance thankfully they didn’t extend the theme as far as incinerating a dour Presbyterian Scottish policeman for our edification. Instead we had impressively writhing and sinuous fire-dancing to the sounds of the Mediaeval Baebes’ “The Snake”. Here (for Calum) is “Twinkel the Faerie Fire Dancer” doing her thing:

Of course, what we really came for was the medieval psychedelic prog of Circulus, and they didn’t disappoint. The line-up has changed again since I last saw them, they’ve a new female vocalist (whose name I missed) and that wasn’t all that was new: the set-list had a lot of tracks from their up and coming album to be released this autumn. A particular highlight amongst the new tracks for me was “Within You Is The Sun”, which deviates from their traditionally English psychedelic roots and brings some blissful West Coast jangle into their sound. New tracks aside we had a good selection of older album cuts like “My Body Is Made OF Sunlight”, “Miri It Is”, and “Song Of Our Despair” mixed with non-album live favourites like the Elizabethan underworld ballad “Packington’s Pound” or the Jacobean Spaghetti Western-sounding epic “Tristam’s Lament”. This time around they really went all-out to get the audience dancing and they thoroughly succeeded, and the motley crowd were going nuts, whipped up into a frenzy and (for one night) jigging away like demented mushroom pixie folk.

For the gearheads out there Michael was playing his usual Epiphone Sorrento through a Fender Vibrolux. I didn’t get a look at his pedals but there was a wah, fuzz, a looper, delay, and possibly a phaser? His sound varied from big echoing Spaghetti Western meets Greensleeves twang though fuzzed psych-wah freakouts, to e-bowed spacey goodness.

Speaking to Michael and Will afterwards I found out they’ll be touring in support of their new album in the autumn, and if all goes as planned all the venues will be castles!

Miri it was…

Rye’s Own July 2008

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