During it’s yearlong absence, the New Orleans music scene did pretty well for itself without Circle Bar around. Shows that probably should have (and technically would have) gone down at Circle Bar found a variety of alternative homes to varying but mostly admirable levels of success. The Blue Nile Balcony Room, AllWays Lounge, Howlin’ Wolf Den, Hi-Ho Lounge, The Saint and many others picked up huge amounts of slack; so much so that for certain strenuous stretches of the year, when the live calendar was diversely and magnificently packed to the gills, the Circle Bar certainly wasn’t forgotten but wasn’t necessarily missed, either.
But man. Now Circle Bar’s back, it’s hard to imagine what life was like without her. In the two weeks since mercifully reopening, the venerable rock club has picked up right where it left off as the go-to room to find every brilliant shade of the New Orleans live music panorama. And while talk about the utility of the subtle but welcome improvements has dominated recent discourse – the higher ceilings and slightly more wide-open floor plan have probably improved the concert-going experience, but who among us can really say for sure? – Circle Bar’s most noteworthy achievement of the past 12 months has simply been wasting no time in restoring a weekend schedule that cuts no corners in featuring the most overlooked and/or exciting and/or impressive bands our fine city has to offer.
For the recently un-re-initiated, Thursday night’s showcase may be the perfect excuse to check out the new digs: Native America has grown from Sun Hotel drummer Ross Farbe’s found sound side project to a surging space pop trio, churning out a prolific stream of bouncy, fitful tunes and accompanying them with exquisitely precise and energetic performances. They are joined by Chicagoan Shawn Rosenblatt’s full-power one-man psych-pop orchestra Netherfriends, and local jam/folk band Pals, who went on a late-2011 tear following their showstopping supporting slot for Washed Out at One Eyed Jacks in October. It’s an exciting bill that would be a sure shot regardless of its venue but seems custom made for Circle Bar, which even after the facelift has maintained the same dark and funky intimacy New Orleans’ showgoing populace had grown to adore.
Check out our New Orleans Music Calendar for a full slate of constantly updated live picks