Circles Around The Sun

Ages 18 and up
Thursday, March 14
Doors: 7pm
$22
Circles Around The Sun
with Mikaela Davis and Southern Star

Thursday, March 14, 2024 

Thunderbird Music Hall
4053 Butler Street, Pittsburgh, PA

Doors @ 7pm
Show @ 8pm

AGE RESTRICTION: 18+ or Accompanied by Legal Guardian

www.circlesaroundthesun.com
Los Angeles-based instrumental supergroup Circles Around the Sun is a contemporary instrumental rock band, initially formed with the purpose of creating music for “Fare Thee Well”, a series of reunion concerts played by the surviving members of the Grateful Dead. Those shows celebrated the band’s 50th anniversary and served as their official send-off, while Circles Around the Sun was designed to reflect the Dead’s overall spacy and groove-laden feel. After the tour, the group released a self-titled album from the Fare Thee Well gigs, supporting the record with their own road trip. The response was so positive that they continued on with a follow-up project, Let It Wander, in 2018.  This record was less influenced by the Dead and more free-form, delivering on the roots influence of jazz-funk, soul, and fusion. The band underwent a fundamental transition in 2019. After completing the Meets Joe Russo EP and a third album, their guitarist Neal Casal committed suicide on August 26, 2019. He left his bandmates a note asking for them to continue in his absence– to continue recording, touring, and playing together. The band decided to carry on with a rotating cast of guitarists, landing on John Lee Shannon as the permanent replacement.

In this metamorphosis, Circles Around the Sun spans both heartbreak and hope. Doors close; windows open; new directions extend themselves in mysterious ways. But sometimes you know it’s real from the first beat. It just clicks. It’s just how Neal would want it. It’s Circles Around The Sun.

www.mikaeladavis.com
Davis earned her degree in harp performance at the Crane School of Music, and has molded her classical music training to create an original and genre-bending catalog that weaves together 60s pop-soaked melodies, psychedelia and driving folk rock. She met her bandmates at pivotal moments in her life—drummer Alex Coté in childhood, guitarist Cian McCarthy and bassist Shane McCarthy in college, and steel guitarist Kurt Johnson in her early twenties. It’s the band’s collective step into adulthood that has informed much of And Southern Star’s thematic landscape.

*$1 from every ticket will be donated to the Neal Cassal Foundation

Ticket Tier Info:
General Admission Tickets – Standing Room Only

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Few albums have the creation myth of Interludes For The Dead by Neal Casal's Circles Around The Sun. The 10 instrumental jams that encompass the release were commissioned by Justin Kreutzmann, the filmmaker son of Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann, to accompany the biographical visuals he was compiling to be shown during set break at the "Fare Thee Well" concerts the living members of the Dead played in the summer of 2015. As guitarist in the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, and a sometime participant in Dead bassist Phil Lesh's Phil & Friends jam sessions, Casal was a natural for the project; he, in turn, brought on Brotherhood keyboardist Adam MacDougall, bassist Dan Horne and drummer Mark Levy. At the shows, their music was a smash sensation: deeply familiar to the reunited Deadheads in how it tonally, rhythmically and melodically mimicked the Dead's songs, yet possessing its own weirdo majesty. Some pieces were explicit in their reverence, while others applied the Dead's freewheeling modus operandi and took their own course. At more than 20 minutes, "Kasey's Bones" is most certainly one of the latter. From the opening electric-piano-plus-guitar squall/lurch, there's a Bitches Brew vibe to the proceedings. If most of the track's first 10 or so minutes clip along at a shuffling pace Deadheads will recognize (and haters will cite as primary evidence), the latter half is a unique explosion. It begins around the 10th minute, when MacDougall's switch to a spacey-sounding Juno synth serves as a prompt, and then they're off. MacDougall is on a clavinet creating stabbing funk patterns, while Casal weaves lines around him, the pair mimicking the early-'70s interplay between Jerry Garcia and his non-Dead keyboard partners, Merl Saunders and Howard Wales. Soon, though, Casal hits a turbo-charge of pure lead-guitar shredding, and the rhythm section supports him with equally intense playing that crackles continually for three or four minutes with zero let-up. When it comes out the other side, everyone takes a breath: Levy keeps a steady pocket with Horne on dubby support, while MacDougall and Casal drift slowly toward an ambient space before devolving into an electronic-music black hole. If you know the Dead's trajectory, it's a perfect distillation of the group's fusion-filled 1973-74 jams. If you don't, it's a wonderfully evocative soundtrack for posterity, as it was for five thrilling summer nights.
“This record is kind of about writing a record,” Mikaela Davis says. The 26-year-old is home in her native Rochester, New York, reflecting on Delivery, her highly anticipated full-length album, as well as the hard journey the classically trained, defiantly original harpist had to travel to become the writer, performer, and band leader she was meant to be. “A lot of these songs came from feeling stuck and also like people were pulling me in a bunch of different directions,” Mikaela says. “I wanted to say, ‘Just wait for me. I’ll figure it out.’” Mikaela’s plea for patience––a little bit sweet, a little bit angry and raw––fed a fierce 10-song collection. A joyride that pulls from folk rock, 70s and 80s pop experimentation, and muscly funk, Delivery manages to be both daring and comfortable, full of not just risks, but hooks. Produced by Grammy winner John Congleton (St. Vincent, Angel Olsen, David Byrne, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah), Delivery is a triumphant next chapter. “John tries to find that moment instead of the perfect take,” Mikaela says. “That made it all sound really special.” Childhood friend Alex Coté (drums, percussion) and Shane McCarthy (bass) play on the record – already close from years of touring. Recently, Mikaela’s ensemble became a family affair with the addition of Shane’s older brother Cian McCarthy on guitar. Mikaela’s unconventional path to working singer-songwriter began before high school, growing up in Rochester. With plans to join a symphony, she studied the harp in college, but halfway through, she decided the traditional harpist’s path wasn’t for her. She longed to perform her own compositions rather than pieces written by others in an orchestral setting. Her break with convention was cemented when she embarked on her first tour the summer of her junior year, singing her own pop-savvy songs. Following graduation, Mikaela moved to Brooklyn, following in the footsteps of indie artists who’ve come before her. But in the city, she could never quite find her footing. She kept busy, toured, and recorded an album that would eventually be shelved. Feeling confused and alone, she retreated back to Rochester, unsure of her next move. Then, the last place Mikaela wanted to be saved her. Rochester’s artistic community embraced her, and encouraged by bandmates including Alex Coté and the group Joywave, she hit her stride. Rochester became Mikaela’s sanctuary. Delivery benefits from it all. “Now, these songs kind of wonder what I should be doing––it’s me trying to get myself back to why I started writing in the first place,” Mikaela says. “Writing made me feel better and safe when the world around me was falling apart.” If a sad smile made a sound, it’d be like the lilting piano that kicks off the album’s title track, which is also the project’s opener. The initially pared-down instrumentation gradually swells as the lyrics move from self-doubt and disillusionment to grateful acknowledgement of steadfast love. “I was starting to feel like I was going down this rabbit hole of, ‘Well, I just need to be successful! I need to write a song labels are going to like!’” Mikaela says. “Then, I wrote ‘Delivery’ for myself. That felt good.” “Get Gone” vamps in next. “I’d been listening to a lot of Joni Mitchell when I wrote ‘Get Gone,’” Mikaela says. “I went into the studio thinking it’d sound one way, but John said, ‘I’m thinking real funky, dirty––70s porn!’ That’s how my band heard it too. I was like, really?” Mikaela laughs, proud of both the creative process and the gritty gem it produced. On harp or piano, Mikaela wrote or cowrote all of the album’s tracks save one, the beautifully forlorn “Emily,” penned by Alex. Bewitching harp kicks off the track, which pulses with empathy and grace, and features moody background vocals from The Staves. “A Letter I’ll Never Send” is innocent and starry eyed before morphing into buzzy chaos, tracing the arc of a doomed relationship. “It started as fun and no big deal, then it turned into a disaster––and that’s how the song ends,” Mikaela says. “I always wanted to make amends, but I’m wondering, is it worth it?” “Little Bird” is another song that both ponders and undergoes transformation: its delicate beginning builds into full-bodied swagger. Haunting “Pure Divine Love” soars on psychedelic strings and vocals, again with background harmonies from The Staves. Danceable “Other Lover” puts what Mikaela can make her harp do on brilliant display––funk has never sounded so angelic and swampy all at once. With its dreamy staccato, “Do You Wanna be Mine” also reimagines what a harp can do, while singalong “In My Groove” captures the challenges, confusion, and freedom that comes with finding your own way. Mikaela’s favorite track, “All I Do is Disappear,” explores the struggle to be seen for who you truly are instead of what others want you to be: “But how can I make myself clear / when all I do is disappear?” Mikaela sings. While most of the songs began as personal mediations and even acts of defiance, Delivery’s messages of resilience and embracing what makes you unique lands universally with the listener. “I hope people can relate these songs to their own lives and that they can help them in some way,” Mikaela says. “Just let my songs resonate with you somehow. That would make me so happy.”