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2013 Jam Fest Winners: Circus

Identity Crisis takes first place and a new name
William Harries Graham, 12:47pm, Mon. Jan. 28, 2013
photo by Allison Elaine
Welcome to the Circus
Ladies and gentlemen, may I please introduce to you the winner of this year’s Jam Fest. While they won as Identity Crisis at Antone’s on Jan. 20, Circus had a genuine identity crisis, adding a new lead singer three weeks before they won the annual event and changing their name.

The local quartet consists of its most recent addition, Ariel Herrera, 16; bassist Ryan West, 13; drummer Maxwell Mercer, 13; and guitarist Nate West, 16 in March. Despite sharing the same surname, Ryan and Nate aren’t related.

Mercer and the Wests met last summer at the Austin School of Music’s Rock Camp USA and became regulars at Maria’s Taco Xpress Proper Nang Night.

“I was standing by the side of the stage at Antone’s after they announced the second and third place winners,” Mercer recalls. “I was thinking to myself there was no way we were going to win, but then they announced our name. We were freaking out!

“I thought our bassist nearly fainted.”

“To win felt really amazing,” exclaims Nate West. “I was excited beyond belief. Circus is special to me because of the amazingly talented people. Everyone’s so nice, so we’re more than a band. We’ve become great friends.

“Since we’re so close and trust each other, we mesh and collaborate perfectly.”

New frontwoman Ariel Herrera puts an even finer point on it.

“It was an incredible feeling to win Jam Fest because we’ve really only been a band for three weeks. It was wonderful to be able to perform that well. Believe it or not, I’m just now overcoming stage fright. Now I’ve opened up.

“I started off at the School of Rock, then I went to the Austin School of Music, where they were so encouraging.”

Herrera previously played in the Vintage Daisies with her best friend Payton Keller, who now plays in Gypsy with Devin North. Besides singing with Circus, Ariel enjoys sports, church, songwriting, and driving.

“When I sing it’s like a different world,” she offers. “Singing’s my natural high. When I get on stage, all my worries go away. I’m at peace and everything feels perfect.

“One of our new songs I wrote is about a girl that committed suicide. I did research on that to be able to really express those feelings. The singer’s job is to bring the emotion that others can’t.”

Still deciding between medicine or music as a life choice, Herrera got into the Texas auditions for The Voice last summer. Out of the 7,000 people who auditioned, she made the first cut of 250 people. Of that elimination round, she says, “They told me that I was too young but made me promise to come back.”

Now she’s helped her new band win Jam Fest. Circus comes to town loud and proud – roaring out of the gates!

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