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Show Review: Circulatory System at the 40 Watt

June 6, 2010

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but tonight’s show was pretty awesome. I’ve seen a lot of great shows in my short time in Athens, but this one was probably the best.

Both openers — Yaal H’ush and Hot & Cold — were heavy ’70s throwbacks, and the light show provided throughout the evening by local artists Eye Gate only added to the trippiness. Of course, when it comes to psychedelia, it’s hard to top Circulatory System.

I’ve seen Circulatory System several times now, and never has the band featured the same lineup. Tonight, it took stage as an eight-piece: Will Hart, John Fernandes, Heather McIntosh, Pete Erchick, Chase Prince, Derek Almstead, Bill Doss and Julian Koster.

The first five just got back to Athens this week after playing a couple shows in Barcelona. The other three stayed home. Koster in particular hasn’t played a rock show since the Music Tapes tour last year by his estimation, and he doesn’t think he’s ever played with Circulatory System, though he has played with the Olivia Tremor Control, and tonight’s lineup was just an Eric Harris short of an OTC reunion.

As you can probably guess, the set was sloppy at times, but it’s hard to even tell which broken instruments and walls of feedback were unintentional. At any rate, for every misstep, there were at least as many moments of pure sonic triumph. Most of the Elephant 6 stuff is erratic by nature, and when you get eight people on stage, it’s usually going to be a bit loose anyway, especially when one of those eight people is Will Hart. But none of those eight has ever aspired to be a virtuoso (save for maybe Heather McIntosh, who would be the closest anyway), and it’s the deliberate imprecision that’s so engaging.

Take for example Julian Koster, who spent the set in his pan-instrumental laboratory on stage right. Over the course of the night, Koster played kazoo, bells, drums (sometimes with a kazoo, sometimes with a bell and, once, upside down), banjo (usually with a bow), saw, guitar. Sometimes he played more than one at the same time, and he always looked like he was having a fun time.

This is usually the biggest takeaway I have from Elephant 6 shows: though the quality may vary, even among shows by the same band, everyone always looks like they’re having fun. Turns out it’s contagious.

N.B.: As I mentioned a while ago (and as the above picture should demonstrate incontrovertibly), I no longer have a camera that’s in working order, but local photographer Mike White was snapping pictures throughout the night, and I’ll be sure to link to them when they turn up online.

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