Circle Takes the Square / Junius - live in Portland (Cover Artwork)

Circle Takes the Square / Junius

live in Portland (2006)

live show

The current nationwide Circle Takes the Square tour is one for the fans of the latest release, As the Roots Undo. The band is promising to play the entire record at every stop, including the often-requested nine-minute "Kill the Switch." It's also the first tour since a pretty hefty lineup change, replacing their original drummer and adding a second guitarist.

For this show, there was an opening local band that sounded like an awkward mix of the Killers and...well, I don't really listen to the radio, but it was pretty poppy, all things considered. The lead singer was...dynamic would probably be a good adjective. He was very into what he was singing, but whenever he wasn't singing, he wasn't facing the crowd. It was like the band had the biggest stage fright and all played with their backs to the crowd. Pretty lame.

Junius was up next, with a sound I have trouble placing. The lead singer sounded like a throaty Dave Bazaan (of Pedro the Lion fame), with sort of the echoing vocal qualities of Gavin Rossdale. However, right when the band ventured into pop sensibilities, they would switch it up with pretty heavy and aggressive guitars, which (perhaps due to the blue lights turning on and off under their amps) always seemed somewhat ambient and distant at the same time. They were incredibly tight and their music was pretty well-received. If I had to make band comparisons, I might say a less hardcore verson of I Would Set Myself on Fire for You. Highly recommended.

I've seen Circle Takes the Square probably more than any other band, simply by default; I attended the same college they did for four years, so for the past couple years I've had the pleasure of seeing them in every bar or living room in Savannah. I've only seen them twice outside of Savannah, at Macrock in 2005 and 2004, both of which times the response was incredible. This time around, things were a bit different.

First, I'll start with the negatives: The loss of their original drummer really hurt their stage presence. He brought a lot to the kit; aside from incredible talent, he was absolutely ferocious live. The new drummer is talented and was able to play all the songs equally well, but he lacked the energy of the original drummer. That, and he was set pretty far back on the stage, which made him distant from the crowd (an unfortunate consequence of the setting, which was the same venue I saw Lagwagon in, so it was quite large). Another negative was, well, it was freezing cold and Kathy was really sick, so she didn't have her usual vigor. And finally, well, half the crowd was too hip to really move or get into the music (you know, not wanting to mess up their hair), and so there was only a small group of about 30 really rocking out.

Now, these might sound like big distractions, and for repeat-viewers, they might be noticable. But for the kids there who had never seen the band before, it was like they were having a religious experience.

While Circle's performance might not have matched the crowd interaction or intensity as prior times, the have achieved an apex as far as technical prowess is concerned. As a four-piece now, the second guitar really allows for Drew to concentrate on getting all the words and necessary guitar parts in. The new drummer, while not as lively, does hit every beat. Their sound has never been as massive or musically perfect, taking where As the Roots Undo starts and, yes, adding to it. There were plenty of "Oh my fucking God" comments during the musical interludes, where it seems the guitars were dueling to the death with their sounds.

As far as the set itself is concerned, there were a couple surprises. One is that the introduction of "A Crater to Cough In" featured the entire three-minute introduction to the song, something I've always seen them skip over. "Kill the Switch" was, by far, the highlight, and it's rumored this will be the only tour they play it on. Even with the relatively small crowd of about 100, they played with all the energy they could muster (they mentioned the bands on tour have been quite sick the past couple weeks), and got quite the response. I had originally thought the set was going to be the record front-to-back, but it didn't really matter. It was absolutely amazing to hear, no matter what order it was played in.

If you're a fan of As the Roots Undo, I'd say get to this tour. You'll hear the entire record, and the band has never sounded so good live. My nitpicky comments were only those of someone who has seen them before, especially with better crowds. I've got some photos of the show (link at right) that sort of give an idea of how they are.