Brent Thompson and His Wandering Circus
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Brent Thompson and His Wandering Circus

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Debra Dylan: Got to get it in your soul BRENT THOMPSON & HIS WANDERING CIRCUS.

Brent Thompson & His Wandering Circus is awe inspiring. This eclectic, multi-dimensional, harmonic, melodic, sometimes angelic, and downright soulful band of 15 of some of the area’s most talented musicians, led by charismatic ringleader Brent Thompson, will be bringing their unique and exciting sideshow to the Preservation Pub on Thursday, December 21st, beginning at 10:00 p.m. Please do not be put-off by their clown makeup. Even if you suffer from coulrophobia, the clowning is, thankfully, kept to a minimum, is never precious, and at times adds to the joyous and poignant moments. And what moments! If you can imagine a vintage VW bus being driven by Bob Dylan and loaded with Jerry Lee Lewis, Mama Cass, John Lennon, Lenny Kravitz, Chris Robinson, and various jazz legends, then you are starting to get an idea of what this circus is about. Based on the two performances I have seen, their shows have kicked off with the band’s wonderful Mardi-Gras style entrance with the clowns playing sousaphone, whistles, maracas and hand percussion, while leading into Thompson’s original instrumental “Tennessee Redbone.” Pianist Ben Maney shines throughout the show, and punctuates this song with flairs of Thelonious Monk and Charlie Mingus, while Jamie Warren gleefully responds on trombone and Kirk Fleta wails on harmonica. The full band is also together for the beautiful and mysterious “Head of Mine” and the raucous and soulful “Guilty Hat.” This is where Thompson earns the right to wear his big afro wig. Between his passionate vocals and the growing momentum of the changes in this song, plus Maney and Fleta having out-of-body experiences, and the backup vocalists getting funky, it is all but impossible to remain seated. One sign that this band is something special is the reaction of their audience. At first, the crowd is talkative and socializing, but it isn’t long before the room gets quiet and people are closely listening. It is also not unusual to see spontaneous eruptions of excitement from audience members. The music is that powerful, arresting and interesting. The emotion provoked by “Guilty Hat” is followed up by a dreamy and orchestral original entitled “Go Where You Want to Be.” Here, Maney switches to organ, which adds a nice variety and cinematic quality to this song. Thompson said the title to this song came to him “like a freight train and he had to write his feelings down and explain them. I have said this to many friends who feel stuck in certain places in their lives.” Thompson refers to his delightful and gently Dixieland fused “I Get High,” as “the almighty love song. With so many vices to chose from, the feeling of being with someone you love trumps them all.” When I saw the band perform this song at World Grotto, the audience was enrapt, but a lone cowboy leapt up and danced a slow and sexy soft-shoe. (You gotta love that.) The backup vocals on “I Get High” are stunning, as they are “On The Road to London.” This beautiful and mournful song is graced with Kellye Thompson’s vocals backing brother Brent, with Alexia Pantanizopoulas on cello. Another first-rate quality about the Circus is that not all of the performers participate in every song. The variety of instrumentation is well organized and executed, thus not overwhelming or tiring the listener. “The Easy Life,” a bluesy number with lovely piano and soft trombone, concludes the Thompson original tunes. Brent says he wrote this song while thinking about moving back to East Tennessee and all of the things he missed here. “This song is about friends, appreciation of your place in life; put your arms around each other and breathe.” The only cover songs I have heard the band play are Dirk Powell’s “Waterbound” and Elvis Costello’s “What’s So Funny (about Peace, Love & Understanding). Stellar guitarist Mike Seal’s arrangement and performance on “Waterbound” is exquisite with Vince Ilagan on bass and John Nipper on drums providing consistent and tasteful accompaniment withSeal on this number and throughout the entire show. Thompson takes over the keys on Costello’s “What’s So Funny…” and delivers an emotional and gospel infused performance that reaches an exciting and moving climax. When this merry band of clowns exits in the same joyous vein they entered into our world, we feel better off for having experienced their show. Thompson anticipates the Circus’s CD will be available in spring 2007. Current Circus personnel: Brent Thompson, Ringmaster Lead Vocals Guitar, Piano Christa DeCicco Vocals Kirk Fleta Harmonica Vocals Brian Herrin Vocals Vince Ilagan Upright bass Electric bass Seth Hopper Violin Mandolin Trumpet Ben Maney Keys Vocals John Nipper Drum kit Alexia Pantanizopoulas Cello Vocals Mike Seal Guitar Alex Thompson Vocals Kellye Thompson Vocals Jamie Warren Trombone Sousaphone Jon Whitlock Vocals Hand percussion -


BT & HWC has appeared on the Live Streaming Broadcast "The Blue Plate Special" on October 5, 2006, and October 31, 2006 on Knoxville's WDVX 89.9 Americana station. This is a one hour live broadcast at noon. An LP is set for release in March 2007.



The Circus draws on the improvisational strengths of each of it's characters. The influences come from theater and musical caravans of gypsys and rougue musicians. The show itself is designed to fluctuate emotions in the audience while being both a visual and audible experience. Brent Thompson composes and arranges most of songs loosely allowing an everchanging improvisation by the Circus' core players, John Nipper, Ben Maney, Vince Ilagan, and Mike Seal, and Seth Hopper.