The Rum Circus

The Rum Circus got my attention with their unusual name that hints of dark edginess. I’m expecting something unpredictable and a little bit different to make the hairs on my neck rise.

As we swelter with heat and expectation, the crowd bristles with sing-a-long fans. Yet the expectant electricity is quickly diffused as the awkward-looking four piece fail to command any stage presence. The shy bassist in particular looks as though she’d appreciate the ground swallowing her up.

Following a swift introduction, they launch into a rapidly executed set that finishes before our beer’s got warm. In their haste, the first couple of tracks are out of time due to some over-zealous drumming and strumming.

Melodic wailing is the order of the day as the girls harmonize over the simple chord progressions. Switching from guitar to keys, lead singer Chesca Grover adds a touch of gothic drama to the tracks.

‘The House of Hearts’ has a low-fi vibe with slow, muted drums and a plodding tempo. Other than Grover the band members look distinctly unenthused, and one suspects she may be the real talent in the group.

‘Gabriel’ features a dramatic keyboard introduction before melting away once again into a slightly bland but inoffensive cascade of pleasant nothingness. It’s broken dramatically by a spate of passionate, up-tempo head banging that desperately urges you to feel the lackluster passion.

‘America’ draws heavily on the favoured keyboards, overlaying the other instruments with empiric confidence. The ambitious tempo changes littering this song work when it’s fast, but the drummer struggles in the slower sections to keep time. It’s syncopation gone wild, lending a slightly hysterical tone to the lyrics; ‘he won’t even notice you when you call his name to praise him’.

‘Crash’ is the final song and oddball of the set – a brief, loud track dominated by fast, frantic percussion as if the drummer’s finally exploded with pent up frustration. Grover’s vocals struggle to keep pace and warble over this punky number.

Just 30 minutes after they started, The Rum Circus almost trip over themselves to exit the stage, before quickly returning for a heavily choreographed encore. This seems to be where we get our money’s worth, as they launch into determined, rocky track, ‘Yellow Boat’. Unfortunately, they seem to have befallen the fate of the deaf sound man and Grover’s vocals may as well be in Russian. The muffled lyrics sound amateur, spoiling an otherwise promising track that finally got my toe tapping.

The Rum Circus cannot be faulted on their musicianship, and when they get it right, sound tight and polished. It’s the passion and flair that’s missing; so far all they’ve mastered is the art of being unmemorable.

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Sarah B

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