I, unfortunately, do not know much about telling good music from bad, but my feet do. When I looked down during Half Circles’ concert in Common Grounds last Thursday and saw them tapping along with the songs, I knew that I had come to see a very skilled and entertaining group.
Half Circles is a relatively young indie folk/alternative/rock group comprised of Dan Baker, Andrew Jenner, Danny Yoder, and siblings Jon and Amanda Styer.
The actual time that they have been together ranges from one and a half to three years, depending on which of the members you talk to.
The music itself combined rich bass lines, invigorating drumming, trippy guitar solos and understated vocals into a style that is both familiar and refreshing.
The songs were well written, and the chord progression spot on, and while I could not make out most of the lyrics, I have a feeling they were probably profound.
Amanda Styer managed to incorporate a number of unusual instruments, including a xylophone, a flute, and, my favorite, the melodica, in a way that added a lot to the songs without feeling tacked on.
One thing that stuck out in my mind was the tee shirt that Yoder (the drummer) was wearing. It had a strange logo on it, the word “Bazan” with a cloud and a lightning bolt. I have seen drummers do this before; they wear some article of clothing with a cryptic symbol on the front, cleverly designed to fool us mainstreamers into thinking them “in the loop” and therefore much cooler than we are. For all I know, it could be a brand of mouthwash or nail polish remover. And you know what? It would still be cool. Because coolness, as we all know, flows out of musicians like the water from the rock that Moses struck with his staff.
The band performed a few songs from their still limited repertoire, including “Serpentine,” “In the Wind,” and “Siren Song.”
The name of the band comes from the dynamic between Baker, who writes mostly ballads, and Jon Styer, who adds a more personal touch.
Baker also mentioned that the group draws inspiration from bands such as The Decemberists, My Morning Jacket, and Fleet Foxes, and that they produce all of their own artwork as well.
Only one thing really dragged the whole performance down, and that was the continuation of technical problems throughout the night. Significant feedback plagued most of the songs, but the band played through the difficulties like champs, which was as a testament to their patience and humility.
The night was quite a success for the group’s public debut. I have a feeling that we will see plenty more of them in the years to come.