About Solar Circus
A Doorway to Love, Wisdom, and Magic by Cris Janoff As published in jambands.com, October 2000 I’ve wanted to write this piece for many years now. Since I first saw the band, Solar Circus, in 1995, up until the last Solar show that I saw in 1997, they filled my life with so many beautiful, magical, and colorful experiences – a glorious tapestry of thoughts, feelings, and images woven throughout the fabric of my heart and soul. To be able to put my feelings about Solar Circus down onto paper, and then onto the canvas of cyber space, is like finding a great big treasure chest overflowing with diamonds, but only better. I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot, or in Jerry Garcia’s words, like the cosmic slot machine has “come up triple bars . . . [and is] pouring out all the dollars, all the golden yummies.” I was thinking about how I discovered Solar, and the answer is – I have no idea. It just happened. A simple, karmic twist of fate. You don’t just know about Solar Circus, like you know about the Rolling Stones, for example. You have to be lucky enough to stumble upon them, or to be led to them by somebody who Knows, who has tuned into their wavelength and has drank deeply from the ..golden chalice filled with light.” There were several different incarnations of Solar Circus, but the Solar Circus that I’ve come to know and love, that I experienced from ..95 to ..97, featured Mark Diomede on lead guitar and vocals, Tom Donovan on rhythm guitar and vocals, Kevin Kopack on bass and vocals, Jason Crosby on keyboards and vocals, and Charles Mitchell on drums and vocals. A very potent combination of unique sonic ingredients that melded into a magical, musical wellspring that poured out the sweetest nectar imaginable. Solar Circus.. music is in the spirit of the Grateful Dead, in the sense that they explored, improvisationally, a vast amount of musical terrain. In the words of the liner notes from their album Step Right Up, ..Solar Circus music embraces rock and roll, country, swing, funk, reggae, and world music, as well as transient sub-conscious impulses (Space)… All of these different musical styles were joined together to create a unique genre of music that Solar Circus termed ..Cosmic Dance Music… But, their music must be experienced, must be felt, if you are to truly know what ..Cosmic Dance Music.. is. Words are incapable of describing what it feels like when it..s pulsing through your mind, body, and spirit. You..ll have to seek out live tapes and their albums to feel the glory of a peak Solar jam, to ride the cosmic roller coaster far over the rainbow. There were so many precious feelings, so many transcendent journeys to vast, inner lands, so many colorful and majestic sights and sounds that I saw and felt when I rode the magic carpet that appeared at the best Solar shows. How remarkable it was to blaze a trail through sunshine filled skies, on top of and through a glorious rainbow shining its Lovelight in all directions, down into bright green valleys, where cool, clear streams flowed, and pure, sweet air cleansed you to the marrow. And the ecstatic, wisdom filled rush of flying down the open road of the soul, of “ridin’ free and easy like the wind.” That..s what I experienced when I would close my eyes and ride the golden musical waves that would pour out of their speakers. When the magic had come to life, and was touching us all, it was something special, something sacred. There is something organic and earthy, as well as heavenly about Solar Circus’ music. It speaks to me in ways that are hard to convey, as do the lyrics, which are full of symbols and metaphors that connect me more deeply to myself, to other people, to nature, and to the universe as a whole. In the song “Hidden Colors,.. which Tom Donovan wrote, he urges us to return to simplicity and to honor being alive. That’s what Solar Circus taught me – to look for the hidden colors in life, to seek out the beauty, which is actually everywhere and in everything. There’s so much more to life than what lies on the surface of it. To live only on the surface, is to live in the confines of the ego. And to live in the confines of the ego is to see only a small sliver of what’s there to be seen. But, as Mark Diomede sings in the song “Let It Go”: “prison walls are paper thin, hear freedom call at the drop of a pin.” Solar Circus showed me that I have the key to my prison cell and can escape from living a narrow, egoistic life. Once we escape from the prison cell of the ego, we are able to see how deep and expansive life really is. We yearn to be free, to dance, to fly like a bird through a clear blue sky. Although I only saw Solar Circus for two years, I had very profound experiences during that time. The band was and still is a very important part of my life. I was very sad when they broke up in 1997. I remember commenting to Tom Donovan that I thought Solar Circus was like the Grateful Dead, in the sense that they would never break up. But things change, that is one constant in the universe – the shedding of the old skin to take on the new one. Although Solar Circus.. door is closed and locked, the key is safely tucked away if the band members decide that they want to open it again. They’ve actually played three reunion shows since they disbanded. But Solar Circus is so much more than just a group of musicians. It’s an indestructible spirit that will live on whether the band plays or not; a glorious wavelength that they tapped, that all of us can tap into. I feel its presence everywhere – in the trees, in a mountain, in a river, in another human being, in my heart, in my soul, in everything and everybody. The Solar Circus truly is everywhere and is as vital and alive as ever. I’m so grateful for all of the Solar Circus shows I’ve seen, for all of the people I’ve seen them with, for all of the beautiful feelings I’ve felt, and for the times I’ve made it to the top of the mountain, where I could see the universe in all of its beautiful glory. I’d like to end with a poem I wrote about my Solar Circus experiences called, “When the Solar Circus Came to Town”: How truly great it was when the Solar Circus came to our towns. A chance to dance through the stars with the Cosmic Clowns. How glorious it was to zoom through the gates of Heaven. Or to roll the dice, they always came up seven. And how special it was when we made it to the top of the mountain. Where we all drank from the sacred fountain. But, as the Merry Prankster’s say, “Nothing lasts forever.” But these memories we will always treasure. Afterword I highly recommend checking out all of the CD’s that Solar Circus has released. In chronological order, they are: Juggling Suns (1989) – Solar’s first release. Solar Circus.. lead guitarist, Mark Diomede, has a band named after the title of this album. Twilight Dance (1992) – A great live album featuring pedal steel guitar player Buddy Cage. Step Right Up (1992) – A gem of a studio album with Cage playing on some tracks. A Historical Retrospective (1993) – Contains studio and live recordings. A cosmic Dark Star>The Other One> El Paso>The Other One>Dark Star from the Arrowhead Acid Test in 1990! Daybreak (1995) – A very tight, passionate studio album. Beautiful. Solar Circus Live (1996) – Another taste of Solar Circus live. A golden album with some sweet jams. Solar Circus’ website is still up and running. It details a reunion show that they played in the summer of 1999 and sells the aforementioned albums, as well as other merchandise. In addition, there are links to the band members.. current projects. The domain name is: www.SolarCircus.com.
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