Circle A Celebrates 15 Years

Riverwest’s retro-cutting edge club marks a milestone

Oct. 26, 2016
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Fifteen years as a music club can feel like eternity as bands and trends come and go and echo across time; maybe the original crowd doesn’t come around as much anymore and maybe new generations take the fore.

This weekend, Circle A (932 E. Chambers St.) marks 15 with a half dozen bands and DJ spinning each night. The celebration begins Friday, Oct. 28 with Bleed, the first band co-owner Warwick Seay wrote about for the Shepherd Express back in the ‘90s. Seay gave up music journalism to open the A with partner Jennifer Mueller in a building that had served as a corner tap for much of its existence since the late 19th century.

“I’ve always been into music. I felt that I spent enough time in music clubs that I wanted to see it from the other side of the bar,” Seay says. “We fell in love with the building. It’s small for a music club but we decided to do it anyway.”

So small that bands play not just for the door but near the door. “We didn’t let the size deter us,” Seay continues, admitting: “It’s a constraint. It’s not feasible for hugely popular bands to play here.”

But Circle A has been packed to capacity. For an appearance by Memphis-based Americana songwriter Greg Cartwright, Warwick and Mueller pulled out all the tables and stools. “People were standing on the bar—there was a line of people going down the street that I had to turn away,” Seay recalls. 

The small is good dictum has worked for Circle A, providing a homey bohemian backdrop for beginners, experimental musicians, hyper-local acts and touring bands in need of a quick stop between Chicago and Madison. The musical spectrum of the performers has been wide, yet it all fits into a retro-cutting edge vibe. “The Circle A isn’t for everyone and we don’t try to be,” says Mueller. “If we tried to please the whole population, we’d be exhausted.”

Circle A’s 15th anniversary weekend calendar includes bands such as Bleed, Vortis, Scrimshaw, Brain-Bats, Derek Pritzl & Friends and Andy Positive & The Blue Riders along with DJs Fazio, Paul Host, Lars and WarLock. For more information, visit www.circle-a-cafe.org

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