Circus leaves town
Halloween night party is ‘last show ever’ for a great Chico band
Wearing his inner cowboy on the outside for the holiday, guitarist/ vocalist Gary Dutra corralled the crowd at the Chico Women’s Club into one great stampede of Halloween revelry for the mutual-love fest of the “last show ever” of legendary Chico jam band Electric Circus.
The scene at a Circus show often is like entering a zone where anything is permissible. Combine that typically ethereal scene with this Halloween night’s waning full moon and the fact that legions of law enforcement officers, not ghosts and goblins, had descended upon Chico, and one has the makings of an evening that will live on in memory—a real circus!
The Circus show actually provided a safe haven to let one’s freak flag fly. And while the rest of the town was under a police siege, the freaks safely out of range at Third and Pine streets ranged from the cross-dressing Snake (Swamp Zen, Brutilicus Maximus), a living “Yes on Measure D” sign (Gina Tropea Henson) and a pack of Red Riding Hoods led by the head Red, local actress Samantha Perry.
The Circus nonetheless stole the show with endless creativity, high energy and guitarist nonpareil Saul Henson connecting the crowd to the cosmos with his ponderous note-filled meanderings. For the alleged final show, the Circus brought us through a 10-year history of material, with most of the songs off their album Magic Mountain, peaking near the end of the set with “Love Ranch,” the song written about the band’s infamous Forest Avenue home.
Bassist Chris Henderson, looking like the love child of Bob Marley and Martha Stewart, was resolute in giving the fans one more chance to feel his four-stringed mastery and neck-jutting presence as he locked in with drummer Michael Waltz, who kept the backbeat alive with lightning-quick flourishes and a steady 4/4. And the spirit of past Circus members Asher, D’Antony, Breed and others floated above the dancing crowd like ghoulish spirits.
This was the final take on a band whose great career has been a blessing for our fair city. For over a decade, Electric Circus was the definitive jam band in a town known for such bands, playing more than a thousand shows, usually for charitable causes. With keyboardist Don Scott heading to NYC and other members soon to leave Chico, the band decided it was time to pull up the tent stakes for good and call it a day.
Historically, many in the local media have pigeonholed Circus as just a great bar band, yet as one of the only groups to come out of this town to commandeer the vibe of the 10,000-strong crowd of the High Sierra Music Festival, the band has the musical potential to make it on a much larger stage that will never be fully realized. (That is, until the next last show ever comes along.)
The night was a fitting farewell for the illustrious quartet, as parents and community leaders cheered for an encore, coaxing the Circus back for one last monster jam.