shirk circus.

Bright spot:  Shirk Circus.

Shirk Circus were a band from New Jersey that had released two incredible power pop albums on the Bar/None label.

They were a hard-edged band that played wonderfully melodic and hard-edged pop, with a vocalist that sounded remarkably like Elvis Costello, if Elvis were from New Jersey.

Their first record, Words To Say, was an absolutely magnificent recording that contained virtually no overdubs.  In fact, as I heard the story, almost the entire CD was recorded in one take, from start to finish.  “Magnificent,” to me, didn’t even begin to describe how tremendous the songs were, how singable and memorable, how emotional, and how powerful.  The CD was hook after hook after hook, delivered in such an honest and raw sort of way, it was probably – no, definitely – my favorite CD from any New Jersey artist.

Including that guy from down the shore that everyone likes.

Their second CD, March, was recorded the complete opposite way.  Lots of polish, lots of overdubs, lots of time and money spent in the studio, getting it just right.  They did it that way deliberately, and the result was equally great (although with history behind me, I like Words To Say a whole lot better).

Over the course of those two albums, Shirk Circus had become one of my favorite bands, and one that I would hype whenever I got on my “listen to music from New Jersey” rampages, which I did frequently.

At some point, Josh Silverman, the band’s singer and guitarist, ran into one of my raving, rambling message board posts, and sent me a private email, thanking me for the compliments.

After a few back-and-forth emails where we name-dropped a lengthy list of friends that we had in common, we began exploring the idea of perhaps working together.

The band was signed to Bar/None, and that prevented anything substantial from happening between us.  First, I’m sure they were under contract for another album (although in hindsight, I don’t know that for sure at all).  Second, I’d never have suggested that they even consider leaving Bar/None for Dromedary – that would just be silly.

But Josh did let me know that Shirk Circus had the label’s okay to do seven-inches with whatever label they wanted, and even suggested that Bar/None might be interested in helping promote a seven-inch on Dromedary.

Having been burned by that type of arrangement once before, I shied away from it, and suggested that perhaps we start with the Baker’s Dozen series.  And Josh thought that was a great idea.

Before I even got a chance to work out the details of that in my mind, he told me that the band had one recorded track left over from the March sessions, that they had kept aside for possible compilation or seven-inch contributions.  And because I was such a big fan of the band, without even hearing it, I said “I’ll take it.”

Sandy and I listened to those two Shirk Circus CDs constantly. In fact, in one of those hokey little not-so-newlywed goofball things, we’d taken to occasionally, out of the blue, quoting a Shirk Circus lyric to each other:  “If there were more people in the world like you, it would be so nice.”

I’d come home and dinner would be ready, and the house would smell great, and I’d look at Sandy and say “If there were more people in the world like you, it would be so nice.”

It would snow, and I’d brush the snow off Sandy’s car before leaving for work, and a half hour later she’d call and say “If there were more people in the world like you, it would be so nice.”

They were in heavy, heavy rotation in our CD player. We had bought a 60-CD changer, so that we could turn on the stereo and let it play for hours, without having to go down into the basement and change the CDs every 80 minutes. I would fill the changer with CDs, and change out 50 of them every week or so (I’d put them on shuffle, and tell people “It’s 60 of my favorite CDs, playing all day long – it’s like the world’s greatest radio station.”). The first ten CDs in the player never changed – the three Dromedary CDs, The Posies’ Frosting on the Beater, Sebadoh’s Bakesale, the Spinanes’ Manos, Teenage Fanclub’s Thirteen, The Clash’s London Calling and the two Shirk Circus CDs.

We really liked Shirk Circus.

I eventually decided that it would be Shirk Circus to back Footstone as the first single in the Baker’s Dozen series.  I realized that this completely messed up my plans, but this was Shirk Circus, and they were fantastic, and I was going to get to put out one of their songs.  And what a great job they could do with Footstone’s “I Will Not Allow” when it came time for them to cover them for the CD!

It was going to be a great kickoff to the series, regardless of what the song sounded like: a growing band on a much bigger label, backed with the flagship band of Dromedary Records.

I couldn’t wait to hear it, and a few days later, a package came from Josh.

And inside the package was a DAT.

What the fuck? I remember thinking.  Who sends a DAT?  We don’t even have an agreement yet.  He’s so trusting, he’s just sending us the master recording?  AND I DON’T HAVE A DAT PLAYER!

I did not have a DAT player.

I do now.  I bought it when I started this blog, so that I could play you music from the 1994 Footstone show at CBGB.  The one where I can’t find the DAT.  I still can’t find it, so unfortunately, you can’t hear it.

But I do have the Shirk Circus DAT.

In 1996, I simply asked Mark to bring a portable DAT player with him when he came over for beers.  He did, and we listened together.

The song was wonderful.  Just a beautiful, moving, well-recorded, emotional pop song.  I made a cassette tape of it, and I listened to it over and over, until the cassette deck in my car ate it.  And since I didn’t have a DAT player, fifteen years went by before I got to hear it again.

I am not in touch with anyone from Shirk Circus; my whole relationship with them lasted about three weeks and was conducted entirely by email.  They sent me a DAT of this song, “In Time,” to release on Dromedary Records.

And it was the last song that I ever received from any band for release on Dromedary.

It obviously never came out on Dromedary, because Baker’s Dozen never happened.  Neither did the Shorefest.  Neither did Footstone’s Schmeckle City Rubdown CD, or Jenifer Convertible’s Wanna Drag?

Dromedary died a month after I received this DAT from Josh.  You’re going to read all about it, assuming you continue to follow along, in just three more blog entries.

But this entry is a special one, because to my knowledge, it’s the only place where you can hear “In Time” by Shirk Circus.  And if the guys ever stumble across this blog entry, I’m sorry I never put it out, I hope you don’t mind me posting it here, and thank you for sending me the DAT back in 1996.

Here it is:

~ by Al on November 14, 2009.

7 Responses to “shirk circus.”

  1. Josh is still playing these days. He is in a band called The Dark Brothers, who have more of a country feel. His playing is still excellent. Thay have 2 cds, I think.
    Seeing Ff and Shirk Circus at the pipeline that first time was one of my all time favorite musical experiences.

    We were never as close to Shirk Circus as were were to Ff. I think Bob left SC to join Ff, and then left Ff to have a nervous breakdown. Ff rips SC on Their first cd, “Lady Shoe”

    One quick story… In the late 90s, Footstone and Bob Fields were playing together at Connections in Clifton. Footstone was supposed to go on first, followed by Bob Fields, followed by other bands. But when we got there, they asked if Josh could play a couple of songs acoustic first. We were like, “sure”. After about an hour of songs, I started to get angry and drunk. So by the time we hit the stage, I was fuming and said some crap onstage. I don’t remember what I said, but it wasn’t nice.

    After Bob Fields’ set, we took off. (something we never did. We always stuck around to see the other bands no matter how crappy they were) We went to some strip club down the road while Dave, Bishop and myself had in our Billy-Bob teeth.

    That saved the night.

  2. Your first mistake was playing at Connections.

    I thought I remembered that story. As for me, I liked Shirk Circus as much as I liked any indie band out there. Although I was much more a fan of their stripped-down first album than I was of the second.

    Andy Peters has some nice stories on the Dromedary Facebook page, in this entry (each entry here gets copied over to our FB page and there are comments in both places from different people). Andy also posted a link to some old Loose music that’s available online, which is definitely worth the year you’ve spent reading this thing.

  3. Thanks for the kind words. THose were the days, huh? There is a 3rd Shirk album that we finished last year (we started it in ’97-long story) but I havne’t ‘shopped’ it around or anything and I don’t want to put it out myself. I think your DAT of ‘In Time’ is the only ‘clean’ copy in existence. Mine is all messed up. Could you burn it on CD for me?

  4. Wow! Hi, Josh! I’m so glad you found this entry.

    I can do you one better than burning it on CD for you – I can actually return your DAT. I will reach out to you privately.

  5. Shirk Circus was one of the bands that sent us a CD for review in Science Geek – I can’t remember if we ever reviewed them (sorry if we didn’t, Josh). And I can’t remember which CD it was, either, but it lived in my car for a few years – until my trunk flooded, and then it morphed into the car itself and stayed there for another few years. Great CD, though. Sorry I destroyed it inadvertently.

  6. I think this is truly Josh’s best song, all things considered. I remastered the original DAT for an albumful of his songs I had planned to release under the name THE END OF SUMMER in 1999, but unfortunately I ran out of money and just never really had the proper chutzpah to do it properly. It looks like you and Josh have already been in touch, but I wanted to chime in and say that, indeed, when I think of Josh and his music, this is the song that I hear in my head. He’ll always be one of my favorite songwriters and musical mentors.

    • thanks Myke. A lot of times you were really the only one who kept me going, giving me the confidence neccesary when it seemed there were a lot of factors working against us.

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