REVIEW: Melbourne Festival Presents BABYLON CIRCUS

Dance music explosion

By Narelle Wood

Babylon Circus was a little late in kicking off thanks to Melbourne’s stormy weather, but when it did the elements were just as wild inside the venue as they were out.

Babylon Circus

It’s hard to classify the genre of Babylon Circus; they are French Ska (think big band meets punk) with rock, French, gypsy, Israeli, Reggae, Dixie Jazz and slightly heavier punk, influences. The band itself is a 10-piece ensemble that includes all your regular instruments with a piano accordionist, and some brass and woodwind thrown in. For the most part the music is upbeat and extremely boppy, the constant vigorous bounce by the fans in the audience was a testament to that.

The first three or four songs were fantastic and all of the solos showcased the immense musical talent within the band. Unfortunately the beginning was also marred by some sound issues, which did make it hard to hear all the different instruments at times. Most of the songs were sung in a combination of French and English, and as my French is non-existent and the sound was very large, I found it difficult to work out what they were singing about.

As result of not being able to work out the songs, and also due to so much going on on stage, I found that by about half way through the set, things for me started to sound very much the same – though it was clear from the still bounding audience I was probably in the minority. The only other thing that I struggled with was the lighting; it was really cool and matched the high energy on stage, the problem was there was a lot for such a small space and I was still seeing lights in front of my eyes after I left the venue.

While some of Babylon Circus’s music probably won’t make my play list, there were some pieces that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was also really refreshing to hear a group that so cleverly mixed together a whole range of musical influences to produce a unique perspective on the Ska genre: I would have liked more of that.

Despite my reservations towards some of their music, I couldn’t help but tap my foot and get caught up in the enthusiasm and energy of both the band and the crowd. Babylon Circus knows how to have a good time on stage and that is completely infectious. Their run at the 2015 Melbourne Festival was one night only, but if you like the sound of a melting pot of musical genres that makes you want to dance, be sure to catch them next time they’re in town.