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Circulus – The Museum Of Garden History, 29th June 2007

Lookee! Circulus playing at the Museum of Garden History – how could we possibly refuse such a promising sounding event? We roll up at the Museum (in an old church next to Lambeth Palace - nice), but the doors aren’t open yet (a hastily scrawled note on the door tells us they’ll open at 7pm “or soon after”), so we take a seat on a grave-stone (goths!!), joining the small gathering of odd souls lurking expectantly in the church-yard. There’s a rare old collection of people here: middle-aged folky-folk, a gaggle of hair-styled hip kids (looking v. unsure of proceedings), yer normal gig-going johnnies, and ladies of a certain age who look like they’re probably ‘friends of the museum’ (not a euphemism) intrigued by the idea of a spot of medieval folk music being played under the ancient ecclesiastical beams.

Eventually, we all troop inside the museum/church to pay the scary stuff-and-nonsense upholstered lady on the door. The museum’s exhibits have been pushed to the sides of the room to make way for the audience, and a makeshift bar in the corner flogs us beers. Clutching bottles, we drift around peering into glass cases at old seed packets, toy gardens and the prize items; a can of ‘Slug Death’ powder and a ‘Vegetable Lamb’ (one of only two in the country, apparently). The Vegetable Lamb is amazing, seek it out.

Lo and Amy May

Circulus are amazing; a sight to behold in their enviably natty 1970 meets 1470 get-up. A vast stained glass window behind them slowly fades to black as night draws in (hmm, some kind of metaphor, mayhap?) As the band have recently had to endure the mud at Glastonbury and its medieval-hat-destroying properties, all for the sake of a rudely short festival set, they make up for it by playing for ages tonight, taking in pretty much the entirety of their two albums.

In his big old hat, golden-tipped stack-heeled boots and erm, seventies/medieval jerkin-thing, you’d think Michael Tyack would be the star of the show. Especially as he’s so downright gleeful in the way he wrangles his guitar; revelling in Ritchie Blackmore-style audience-stabbing guitar-neck attacks and doing that mental tippy-toe scurrying across the stage so beloved of rock behemoths, all with a cheery grin ‘neath a quirky moustache. However, there’s also the striking Lo Polidoro; Pre-Raphaelite of hair, pointy of sleeve, dazzling of voice. Lo twines her vocals around Michael’s English psych phrasing and takes the lead on the eerie, crystalline ‘Wherever She Goes’. Tonight, Circulus are minus the Moogy twiddling of their full line-up, but they do have Amy May, aka Paris Motel, on violin adding screaming virtuoso flourishes, fiery-er than any axe-licks. Crumhorn Rock!
Will Summers (or ‘Little Willy’ as Michael keeps addressing him), resplendent in a CAPE, adds the icing on the medieval-folk-prog psychedelic cake – an assortment of woodwind instruments. The greatest of these has got to be the bass crumhorn which makes Will look like he’s blowing down the end of a walking stick, but makes a mighty cranky buzzing noise, like a giant killer duck with an oboe. So thrilling is this noise that the audience claps happily when it makes an appearance. (Michael: “Thank you for applauding the bass crumhorn”).
Tyack's Night The woodwind leads the way on the marvellous Circulus ‘village dance’ ‘Bouree’, using an array of piping, tootling and parping on this traditional tune, which is somewhat reminiscent of the ‘Blue Peter’ theme (Mike Oldfield version, obv.). It’s insanely jaunty, you’d have to be a terrible, desiccated old sod not to want to caper about to this in a ribbon-waving country-dancing stylee. Then there’s the wiggy wiggins of a wig out that is ‘Orpheus’ which takes perky recorder (it’s probably not a recorder, but you get the gist) twinkling and squishes it cheerfully into a full-on head-banging hurdy-gurdy whirlwind of funky trance droning.
And so it goes, Circulus make a magical sound that is sometimes joyful, sometimes sorrowful, but always celebratory in its own addled way. The audience has a high old time, wibbling about to the likes of the luscious ‘Song Of Our Despair’ (“remember the showers bring up the flowers”) ‘Dragon’s Dance’ and ‘My Body Is Made of Sunlight’ and cackling at Michael’s attempts to fill this ex-house of God with the joys of love, peace and paganism (‘Power To The Pixies’). It’s impossible to resist. “Reality’s a fantasy and we live in reality”.
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