ROCK AND ROLL SUMMER CIRCUS @ THE ECHOPLEX

August 20th, 2009 |

Friday night’s Rock and Roll Summer Circus at the Echoplex was the Henry Clay People’s one local summer gig for 2009.  The show had a circus and mustache theme, and they were giving out compilation discs for everyone who dressed up in circus gear or wore hair on their lips. Every time I wear a mustache, strangers tell me I look like a porn star. Then they get offended when I refuse to shake their hand, so I chose the less confrontational path. I missed the opener, Marvelous Toy, which is a shame because they are great live, but with four side stages within the club and on the smoker’s patio, I was in for sensory overload. One of the best parts of the Circus was the success of the side stages, with some of Henry Clay People’s favorite bands playing stripped down acoustic sets between main stage acts. By the end of the night, side stages were appearing out of thin air. I think I saw Eli Monolator (the night’s emcee) start playing songs on a bench in the smoker’s patio, but I was sharing a joint with a blogger and a singer from one of my fave local bands, and blogger weed is a lot stronger than mine, so I may have imagined that.

Flying Tourbillon Orchestra is looking and sounding better every time I see them. I finally got to see Fol Chen, and I really enjoyed their Prince-tinged take on ‘80s Brit synth-pop. They’re kind of a Los Angeles version of bands that I would find in import copies of Melody Maker in high school. Their song, “Cable TV,” has been stuck in my head for a couple weeks now. Lead singer, the mysterious Samuel Bing, was not really as mysterious as expected, but he is definitely one of the more engaging front-people that I’ve seen in a while, looking like he was having fun to the brink of lunacy. At one point he walked off stage and joined the crowd, allowing the backup vocalist to take lead.

After Fol Chen finished its set on the main stage, I took a lap around the side stages catching a song by The Damselles and one by Les Blanks. It was kind of hard to figure out who was who, because they were all covered with fake facial hair. I went back to the smoker’s patio and the same blogger and singer were sitting in the same spot smoking another joint, so I joined in and we talked about the new Flaming Lips CD and Woodstock’s 45th anniversary. Blogger weed is too strong for me to handle in public settings. I was now officially anti-social stoned, drunk, and ready to watch my favorite local band, the Henry Clay People. They opened in grand style with Claire from The Afternoons soloing the opening to Bowie’s “Life On Mars,” who was then joined by most of the other bands getting wasted side-stage during HCP. I lost track of how long they played, but it was well over an hour. They got most of my favorite originals in, like “Living In Debt” and “Working Part Time,” which is probably the best song to come out of the east-side scene ever. They also broke out polished versions of newer songs like “Switch Kids” and “Taste the Taste of the Tasteless,” which hopefully bodes well for a new CD soon. As is HCP tradition, they closed with intent to blow the tent off the circus, and dozens of local musicians joined the stage. Highlights include Maria of The Damselles getting the raucous, drunken Echoplex crowd to drop on the floor during their cover of “Proud Mary,” “Bang a Gong,” and “All the Young Dudes.” Hopefully, next summer the Circus will return as a three-ring!

Scott Schultz