The Pipe Circus
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The Pipe Circus


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The best kept secret in music


"Wisconsin State Journal"

Play that funky music, Pipe Circus
By Natasha Kassulke

From a meat freezer in Palmyra where they used to rehearse to a stage at Art Fair on the Square, the Pipe Circus has come a long way and worked hard to get there.

Even in the afternoon heat during an Art Fair show on Sunday, the group was high-energy. Lead singer-guitarist Patrick Peterson's vocals were as intense as the appearance of his blue eyes and shaved head.

From the State Street corner stage, the Pipe Circus delivered mostly original blues, funk, reggae and jazz until the band left fans crying out for one more song. Keeping to the schedule, though, the six-piece fusion funk band couldn't comply, but did spend some time after the show shaking hands and meeting fans.

Over the past several years, the Pipe Circus has developed a diverse and loyal following as evidenced by concert attendance that ranges from several hundred to several thousand, and 60 to 130 daily hits to its Web site. The band's bassist, Jason Duane Petitt, doubles as the group's Web master.

Petitt and Peterson are joined by drummer Eric Hutchinson, percussionist-singer-keyboardist Michael McKelvey, trumpeter-singer Michael McPherson and saxophonist Mike Stocklin.

In concert, the Whitewater-based band lives up to its name. The Pipe Circus is a carousel of funky music to get the body spinning. The group draws on influences from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Sly and the Family Stone and Victor Wooten (of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones).

During an interview after the Art Fair appearance, the band explained that while each group member holds down a day job, their music is much more than a part-time occupation.

"It's our passion," Peterson says in his best Marlon Brando voice. He's saving his vocal chords for the stage. The Pipe Circus played five shows last week.

Name a festival, and they are either playing it or plan to. Recent shows have included a biker festival at the Club Raven in Edgerton, Zoofari in Milwaukee, Bastille Days in Milwaukee, Beloit Riverfest and Bristol Progress Days.

Highlights have included Farmapalooza in Black River Falls and the band's recent Summerfest show, which drew 5,000 fans – a good crowd for a daytime slot.

This weekend the band will play at Racine's Salmon-A-Roma. On Sept. 14 the group will perform at Robstock in Whitewater along with seven other bands on two stages.

"It's the fans that make the shows fun," Hutchinson says. Pipe Circus fans are fondly called Circus Freaks.

"Last night (at the Bristol Festival) we played in front of a bunch of AC/DC fans but ended up pulling in some funk fans," Peterson says.

Petitt explains that the reason they play so many festivals is to build the band coffers during the summer to support touring, but also to build their fan base.

When they aren't playing, members of the Pipe Circus are likely to be found supporting some other local band. They cite the Blue Olives, Wookie Foot, Phat Phunktion and bands like John Brown's Body as some of their favorites.

"What we look for in a band is music that is original, tight, convicted and very passionate," McKelvey says. "You can tell that they put everything into their music."

Along the way, Peterson says the group has become like brothers. They tease one another, have nicknames, whack each other with whiffle ball bats, have inside jokes about Twinkies and travel in the band van together.

If you do a good job on stage, you'll be rewarded with applause. Make a mistake, and the punishment is severe – you clean the van.

While traveling, they listen to music that reflects their diverse musical interests: Pantera, Rage Against the Machine, Deftones, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Victor Wooten, Tenacious D, Beck, Cake and more.

The group is made up mostly of self-taught musicians. Each member has been playing since he was a boy. The band was born in 1997, and the name came up during what Peterson, an original member of the group, describes as a "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" moment.

"It means everything but nothing," Peterson says.

The horns are the most recent addition, having been added about 2 1/2 years ago. Most members came to the group by accident. They sat in with the group for kicks, and the next thing they knew, they were full-fledged Pipe Circus members.

The Pipe Circus was especially supportive during McKelvey's recent family tragedy.

McKelvey (known as McGavin to most fans) was injured when the vehicle he was riding in was hit by a truck in Waukesha County on June 25. McKelvey's stepfather, John Scigliano, was killed in the accident. His uncle and band crew member, Tad Zaricor, was seriously injured, and Andy Walters, the group's former lighting technician, received minor injuries.

A fund has been set up at the Fort Credit Union (Whitewater Branch) to help the family with medical and living costs following the accident.

"The band paid a month's rent for me," McKelvey says. "They've really been helping me out."

The band's other news is that its new CD, "Soul Graffiti," is due out later this month. As a promotion, fans are invited to register online ( for a chance to spend a day with the band at Noah's Ark water park in Wisconsin Dells.

Recorded at Sleepless Nights Studios in Madison, "Soul Graffiti" follows the Pipe Circus' "Finer Things" release in 2000 and the band's self-titled home-recorded CD in 1998.

"Soul Graffiti" contains all but one original song. A Sly and the Family Stone cover song is included and dedicated to fans. The emphasis is on "soul" because that's the way it feels to the group.

"The CD is a little bit funkier than what we've done before because we know what we are doing now," Peterson says. "We've got moments on the CD when we freestyle. We were able to play around a little bit and be ourselves. Each personality in the band shines through in the music."

They are also comedians and motivators. The member with the least amount of sleep is the giddiest.

While the entire group is involved in songwriting, Peterson historically has been the lead songwriter. He's written more than 250 songs and has been a finalist in several songwriting contests, including the finals of the 1999 and 2002 Unisong International Song Writing Competition. His recent honor was for his song "Promises," which will be on the new CD.

Andrea Hubbert, the group's publicist, wants to target a college crowd and radio with the new CD. The group wants people to walk away from their shows impressed enough to buy a CD and other merchandise that ranges from T-shirts to lip balm.

"We want fans to be included as much as they possibly can in the show," Peterson says. "We're goofballs, but we also want people to recognize that we can play."

From Rhythm, Thursday 7/18/02
©2002 Madison Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.

- Natasha Kassulke


Under The Big Cap, 1997
The Pipe Circus, 1998 Self Titled Cd
The Finer Things, 2000
Soul Graffiti, May 2002


Feeling a bit camera shy


The Pipe Circus is a five-piece fusion funk band with rhythm indicative of the Red Hot Chili Peppers crossed with Sublime and Sly and the Family Stone. In other words, fans are treated to a high-energy show each and every time they attend a live performance. A unique sound, energetic stage presence and intense showmanship are just a few of the tools The Pipe Circus uses to create a truly memorable experience for their audience.

Together since 1997, the Whitewater-based band has independently released three CDs, received airplay on several college and mainstream radio stations within their demographic, and performed at many of the best known festivals and venues throughout the Midwest.

Despite their many individual influences, the group as a whole feels their sound is developed through their longstanding admiration for industry pioneers such as Santana, Bob Marley, The Doobie Brothers, Lenny Kravitz and, of course, The Beatles. So it’s not unusual that their current release, “The Finer Things,” blends elements of blues, reggae, and hip hop around a solid rock foundation.

The Pipe Circus prides itself on continually experimenting with its music, especially during live performances. For them it is the joy of seeing their fans relating to their unabashed ability to have a good time that makes it all worthwhile.