Punk rock reunion: Circus Tents & The Force celebrate the life and music of Chad Cox in Nevada City

When the legendary skate punk band Circus Tents lead singer heard of the unexpected death of bass player Chad Cox in 2014, he vowed he would get the remaining band members back together to hold a concert in celebration of the life of his longtime friend and bandmate. And while it took a few years to pull everyone together, Matt Wedgley has kept that promise.

The one-time event is happening tomorrow night at the Miners Foundry, featuring the remaining original members of “Circus Tents” and of “The Force,” a hard-core punk band Cox played in following the break- up of Circus Tents in 1995.

The Grass Valley based band Circus Tents played skate punk rock for about five years in the early to mid-1990s before the band broke up and members went on to do other things. Those members included drummer John Sortland, who moved on to play with the indie rock band, The Shins.

Wedgley and Cox soon formed, “The Force” adding Mark Novak on guitar and Hunter Burgan on bass, but things got complicated when Burgan began working with the internationally successful AFI.

“We tried to make it work but the reality was AFI was really starting to tour a lot back then so it all kind of fell apart,” Wedgley said.

Burgan went on to work with Canadian indie pop duo Tegan and Sara and several other bands and continues to work as a touring musician. He will be making a rare appearance in Nevada County to pay tribute to his forme4r bandmate.

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“It’s an honor to be playing Chad’s bass lines in Circus Tents,” Burgan said. “Chad was a good friend and his unique style was a big influence on my early bass playing. We’ve been practicing the songs for a couple of months now and it feels like we’ve gone back in time.

“Revisiting the music, we played in the ’90s has been so awesome. Every day at band practice we tell stories about growing up and starting bands in Grass Valley, often centered around Chad. It’s been a chance to reconnect with a younger version of ourselves. I imagine Chad would be stoked to know he brought us together.”

The early beginnings of punk

Skate punk was originally derived from the hard-core punk music of the late 1980s and became more popular when included in skating boarding videos, solidifying a connection between punk rock music and skateboarding.

In later years, skate punk became a bit more main stream with bands like Blink-182 and Green Day making their way into pop culture.

Wedgley says if there is one message he could get across to those who don’t know the music, it would be that the punk rock music of today is not the scary and sometimes shocking punk music that came out in the late 1970s.

In fact, he says, skate punk offers a positive message, is outgoing and light hearted.

“It’s about having fun and it’s about community,” Wedgley said.

Circus Tents members are Matt Wedgley on vocals, Jon Sortland on drums, Hunter Burgan standing in to play bass for the late Chad Cox, Jeff Jones, and Scott Pickering both on guitar.

The band will be reuniting for the first time since 1995 along with hardcore band The Force whose last live performance was in 2008. Those band members are Wedgley on vocals, Burgan on bass, Mark Novak on guitar and Jon Sortland filling in for Cox on drums.

Reuniting lost friends

Sortland has been enjoying the time back with his mates.

“Chad and I spent hours upon hours learning from each other and switching instruments in his parents’ garage after Tents practices,” he said. “Now I find myself talking to him as I play his parts in preparation for this show.

“I sort of chuckle to myself when it feels like I’m really digging in and hitting it his way and I notice the song really solidify with the band then I give a fill my own twist and almost sense him saying, ‘Oh see how it is,’ and we both laugh.  If the audience feels anything like what I’m experiencing, then this show will be a total success.”

As the organizer of this tribute to his friend and former band mate, Wedgley is encouraging everyone to come out for a night of great, high energy music.

“I am so grateful to be able to bring this music to a live audience after all these years,” he said. “We’ve been having a blast just hanging out together again playing these songs and sharing memories of Chad.

“His spirit is so alive with each and every one of us when we’re together playing music. I can’t wait to see all of our friends and family and sing some of our old punk rock songs in his honor.”

Wedgeley adds, “Join us to honor a truly special friend, artist and musician who is dearly missed.”

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at holliesallwrite@gmail.com.


WHAT: Wedge Records & Friends present Circus Tents & The Force: A celebration of life and music in honor of Chad Cox 

WHEN: 7-10:30 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Miners Foundry, 325 Spring St., Nevada City 

TICKETS: All ages show. Tickets are $15 in advance. Tickets available at Clock Tower Records in Grass Valley, Cherry Records in Auburn, and The Audio Nerd in Rocklin

INFO: More information is available at wedgerecords.com

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