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Bread and Circus

John Axtell on stage 2007 Bread and Circus is an indie American rock band formed by singer/songwriter John Axtell with a rotating cast of musicians both live and in the studio. Originally formed in Tucson Arizona, now based in Los Angeles, Bread and Circus  plies a unique hybrid of musical styles, with songs that run the gamut from raucous up-tempo stomps and gritty rockers, to heady down-tempo desert blues jams and lo-fi meanderings. The band’s name references a satire by the Roman poet Juvenal, where a democratic populace willingly gives up it’s political rights in favor of bread and circuses. The band was formed in 2005 by John Axtell (vocals, guitar). Axtell, who formerly played with various bands including Medicine Hat, Sun Zoom Spark, and Daddy Mac and the Drunk Tank, along with former Dharma Bum Sam Donaldson (drums), began recording material as a duo. What started out as causal late night recording sessions, soon developed into a large, diverse collection of material that showcased Axtell’s story-driven narrative lyrics. In early 2006, Bread and Circus invited former Sun Zoom Spark/Black Sun Ensemble instrumentalist Eric Johnson and Los Federales bass player, Joe Yearego to join to both help complete a studio project already in the works and assist in developing a live set of the material. By the beginning of 2007, the CD “Spare Me Over” was released on SlowBurn Records to positive reviews and featured the band, as well as several other Tucson illuminaries on the recording. The group began to play out often and was a featured artist on local radio and at a variety of music events around Tucson. In late 2008, Bread and Circus re-entered the studio to begin work on their follow-up to “Spare Me Over,” however personal circumstances led to Donaldson leaving the group to be replaced with former Sun Zoom Spark drummer, J Ratcliff. Having already started the recording process, the band chose to re-record some of the material with Ratcliff. The band continued to play out and work on their new recording, when guitarist Eric Johnson left the group in late 2008 for personal reasons. During the hiatus,  Greyhound Soul bassist, Duane Hollis joined the band. The trio of Axtell, Hollis and Ratcliff again tried to pick up the mantle of the new recording project and recorded several songs during this period. In summer 2009, Johnson rejoined the band to find that the new incarnation of Bread and Circus was a leaner, tighter ensemble than when he left months earlier. Ratcliff left the group in early 2010 to move to DC. He was replaced with former Illuminarios drummer, Jim Howell. “Bread and Circus plays rough-hewn country-rock on their debut CD, which has shades of Neil Young when he’s in his most down’n’dirty mood, or a bit of cowpunk on some of the brisker tunes, and perhaps a bit of the early-‘70s Rolling Stones . . . on the whole, however, it’s country-Americana-tinged roots rock with a slightly weary and cynical feel, though it’s not laid back, with some grunge and flame to the electric guitars.” -Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide. “Bread and Circus Spare Me Over is a laidback collection of fun, sloppy rockers in the well-worn tradition of other super groups like Golden Smog and Danny & Dusty. In fact, fans of Wilco, Dream Syndicate, and fellow Arizona desert dwellers, Green On Red should certainly jump right in to this cool oasis of goodtime groovers. This is definitely a major entry in the always fun ‘Saloon Rock’ style of good time rock and roll. -Jeff Penczak, Terrascope U.K. “Bread and Circus Spare Me Over is one of those albums that sounds timeless: It infuses traditional countrified desert rock with elements of folk, rockabilly, blues and psychedelia, with the shadows of Bob Dylan and Neil Young hovering over it in equal measure.” -Stephen Siegel, Tucson Weekly

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