Circles Around The Sun at the Cornerstone, by Carolyn McCoy
Circles Around The Sun (photo: Carolyn McCoy)

Words by Carolyn McCoy

The language of music is profound and universal. It speaks to our souls on a level that, for the most part, we don’t fully understand. We know when we go to hear music we love we will somehow be transformed by the music as it comes through the speakers. I know that to be true, because as I stood in front of the stage at the recent Circles Around The Sun show at Cornerstone in Berkeley, the music hit my heart and pierced my internal being. I felt my body reverberate with the notes and chords coming out of the instruments before me, and because of that, I smiled, I laughed and I danced.

Circles Around The Sun is an instrumental jam band that was born from the legacy of Grateful Dead music. The band, consisting of guitar wizard Neal Casal, keyboard maven Adam MacDougall, bassist Dan Horne, and drummer Mark Levy create such a magical experience for the listener that it can be thought of as medicine. The band has a deep connection and cohesion and they play off each other in a way that suggests they are all on the same cosmic wavelength. Casal’s guitar rifts waft in and out of the chaotic madness that MacDougall offers with his multiple keyboards, while the backbeat is held together with Levy’s drumming and Horne’s baselines as they create the cauldron for which the music is mingled and stirred.

The band’s songs and jams, often spanning a length of 10 minutes or more, ebbed and flowed like waves of chaotic sound. Opening with the funky meditation of “Ginger Says,” the band was off and running while the crowd kicked into gear with a hard boogie from the first notes. The ground they covered included many songs from their second album, Let It Wander, including “On My Mind,” “One For Chuck,” and “Ticket to Helix,” among other epic moments. They ended the show with “Gilbert’s Groove” while the crowd went wild with ecstatic joy.

The music of Circles Around The Sun feeds us, satisfies us, and nourishes our souls, and we can only be satiated and grateful from such an epic meal of sound.