2011 in New Orleans was a great year not just for music fans but for music venues of every size and stripe. Small room additions like the Howlin’ Wolf Den managed to give a much-needed platform for upstart local and under-the-radar touring bands in the Warehouse District while fledgling Bywater venue Siberia experienced a massive daily swell of patronage from NOLA’s underground crowds that bled over into the nearby Hi-Ho and AllWays Lounges, reestablishing St. Claude Avenue as something of an artistic melting pot. Even larger venues like One Eyed Jacks and Republic saw the kinds of eye-popping band bills and audience numbers that arguably lifted them up to the same echelon as the well-established Tipitina’s.
Yet if you ask any genuine lover of the concertgoing lifestyle, he or she will not hesitate to qualify 2011’s successes and high points by mentioning that the Circle Bar was gone the entire time. Having closed right at the turn of the new year for renovations that were only supposed to take approximately six to eight weeks, delays and brain drain quickly pushed Circle Bar’s reopening date into indefinite “TBA” territory, at which time “Open the Circle Bar” became something of a tongue-in-cheek rallying cry for the local underground.
However, much to the relief of a music community that knows all too well how quickly a little treasure like Circle Bar can fall into oblivion, after an entire year and a few high-profile false starts the venue – prized for its willingness to book literally any band of any caliber from any genre – is seriously, finally, thankfully opening it’s doors again on Friday, January 20 with performances by Micah McKee’s Little Maker project, the venerable Rik Slave & the Phantoms, Clockwork Elvis and O.L.D. The revelry continues on Saturday with Guitar Lightnin’ and Steve Eck & the Midnight Still. Expect some long-overdue revamps of the bar’s stage set up, now larger and unhindered by what used to be the bathroom hallway wall, and a slightly relocated bar area – changes that will only serve to enhance the Circle Bar’s ability to accommodate both bands and patrons.