Shifty Bits Circus (Chris Giles)

Shifty Bits Circus Hits The Road, Promises Snakes

The Shifty Bits Circus is taking their show on the road. This year they’ve announced that the Fredericton-based music festival will be doubling up for a second run in Montreal.

Organized by the Shifty Bits Cult, the annual circus (this being their fifth) turns Fredericton’s Capital Complex into a multi-storied theme park, fills streets and back alleys with musicians, sideshows, and a blend of both, and has been known to chew up and spit out the occasional journalist.

“We were trying to decide between not doing the circus and doing it even better. So we decided to do it better,” says Penelope Stevens, organizer/musician/cult priestess. By ‘better’, Steven means ‘doing it more’, but also ‘more better’. Last year’s Circus, with a Dante’s Inferno theme, brought in an eclectically eccentric collection of bands, many of which hailed from Montreal. This year they plan to strengthen that connection by bringing in more bands from Montreal, and then head over to their home turf in the week after the events in Fredericton.

It’s not the first time the cult have looked at organizing a multi-city event. Last summer there had been talk of touring through other Maritime cities, but ultimately the choice was made to branch out further to incorporate a more widespread artistic community, and avoid redundancies created by proximity. “Being completely candid, we didn’t find that Halifax or Saint John, had the infrastructure that could support the Circus. Saint John probably could have happened, but it’ s so close to Fredericton it kind of defeats the purpose. Montreal, we’ve found, has a really strong community of like-minded artists that are interested in developing their artists in a coordinated way. We’ve been fortunate to connect up with a lot of great people there that have similar ideas about art and community.”

“I think Saint John’s scene is slowly melding into [Fredericton’s], and vice versa. Things that happen here benefit Saint John, and vice versa. We didn’t need to spend a bunch of time, and energy, and money bringing something to a place that can already access it in Fredericton. Montreal is a whole different deal, and by connecting with them in an intentional, collaborative way, we open up a whole realm of possibilities for future cooperation. We’re bringing in a ton of Montreal bands this year, many who have never been to the East Coast. And we’re bringing a bunch of bands to Montreal – many who have never played there before. It’s a big opportunity for both groups.”

Guaranteed to be bizarre in any case, this year the Circus has incorporated the idea of the dual-city festival into their theme. “It’s a loose mystic theme, focusing on the necessary vagrancy and hobo-esque culture of travelling musicians. The more you tour, the more you realize that a pocket full of sage and some tarot cards are just as useful on the road as a hairbrush.”

Stevens doesn’t offer much description of how the cult will be pulling off the theme, but cryptically hints that the key to it is “lots of snakes.”

The Circus will also offer several non-music events, but have yet to announce the exact details. The Circus takes place August 4th-6th in Fredericton, and 12th-14th in Montreal.

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