HALO CIRCUS AND PELHAM AT SHANK HALL IN MILWAUKEE, WI ON 03/29/18
One of the cool things about Bloodrock giving me a weekly YouTube (The H-Bomb’s Underground Bunker) show is that I’m basically tasked with having an open mind and listening to everything under the fucking sun.
It was because of this that I found myself scouring YouTube, as I regularly do, going from one link to the next, and I happened to come across Halo Circus‘ song “Narcissist“(see below). Now, I don’t normally get sticky-eared with a song like this but i just stared, jaw on the floor.
So I did a bit of homework. That’s my job. Turns out that the singer, Alison Iraheta, was a finalist on American Idol, and had a pretty good run of her own stuff even before that. There’s also Matthew Hager backing her up, who is a- *ahem*- MULTI PLATINUM SELLING RECORD PRODUCER, who has worked with artists like Duran Duran, Timbaland, and (a guilty pleasure of mine) Mandy Moore‘s “I Wanna Be With You“. So it was clear that both of these guys work their butts off.
I also noticed that they’d be going on tour, so I made BRM beg them to let me into the show.
I wasn’t disapointed in either groups performance. I was a little let down by the audience who (I’ll agree that on a Thursday it’s tough) was a little thin, and quiet.
The opener was a local guy from Madison, called Pelham. I was intrigued by his show because he did sort of a Reggie Watts/ Tash Sultana thing, where he sang, and played a bunch of different instruments using an array of looping stomp boxes and effects processors. You don’t see a lot of that, so I thought it was cool. The best part was he was GOOD at it! didn’t miss a beat, and given how much he was going at once, he was thrilling me.
I was in the middle of an interview while he started, but everyone in the room shut the hell up when he played an amazing rendition of Snow Patrol‘s “Chasing Cars”. Couldn’t even see the guy but we could all hear his voice just belting out the hurt. Really cool.
Shortly afterward, Halo Circus entered a red-lit stage, started their set(which was written on a paper towel) and kicked right into “Oh, Money“, which, as openers go, went really nicely. If you listen to them, you hear SOME upbeat stuff, but it’s not prevalent, so “Oh, Money” was a nice touch. When they played “Narcissist” a few songs later, Alison broke out a dinky little Pyle megaphone (I actually OWN one haha) and belted right through it. Watching them do it live as opposed to the music video(which might have made slightly off the law) was a lot of fun!
One thing I love about these guys is they diversity of their music. Alison is Salvadoran, and lets that show through her music. Many of her lyrical deliveries have sort of David Granadino (a huge star down there) feel to it, and a lot of her songs contain Spanish lyrics which, even if you’re not familiar with the language(I am), you can still get into it. She also has a very classic sounding voice, which comes out very sultry and throaty, and if you’re not prepared, you’ll swoon on her voice alone.
One of the songs they played was called “Verdad“, which, really sort of tears into your heart, and she sings it like she’s singing her last words. Loved it. I think if the audience had been the kind to get into it more, it would’ve been a much more tearful environment. They didn’t let that affect the set though, I guess many of the attendees were friends of theirs, so it was cool.
I didn’t have their first EP Bunny, but I did know “Guns in our Hands” pretty well and it was one of the better songs they played that night.
By the end of the set, Alison had set how much they love Milwaukee several times and made sure everyone knew they were now family. They ended with “Off the World“(another one I knew) and then quickly made their way to merch table, where Alison hugged EVERYONE in the room and talked to them as long as they would.
I left with a huge smile. As musicians go, they have some serious class. To be on that tier and then suddenly just decide to go underground, to me, says a lot more about what kind of people they are, than how many albums they’re selling.
You can watch the music video for “Narcissist” here. Their album Robots And Wranglers is out now.
Written by Hobbes Caltous for Bloodrock Media on March 31 2018.