The McDonald"s at 10th Street and Bosart is in its usual state of chaos for a Saturday night, especially so when the Emerson is filled with bodies. An employee behind the counter acts as a stern sentry, eyeing the activity of youth in the parking lot. Near the front of the eatery, a sweaty, five-member group known as Corporate Circus sits for a post-performance talk. The Warsaw-based band made the three-hour-plus drive to hit the Emerson"s stage as part of the marathon All-Day Punk Fest.
Ryan Bettinger of Corporate Circus. Photo by St. Mykal
"This is actually something new for us," says Ryan Bettinger, the band"s vocalist, on the subject of the Punk Fest and playing the Emerson. "We"ve played the Emerson many times but they usually book us with heavy metal bands. So it was like heavy metal, heavy metal, us, heavy metal Ö This is the first time that we"ve been anywhere close to music that"s closer to what we do." Corporate Circus employs a post-hardcore approach to a power punk sound. With only the group"s drummer, Jeremy Isaacs, and guitarist Corbin Arnett standing on the legal side of the drinking age, the rest of the band have yet to lose the air of Midwest youth that makes them no different than the average, all-ages showgoer. Corporate Circus began eight years ago when Bettinger and bassist Josh Bloom conceived the band, then called Dunce, while still in middle school. Add in Jon Shoes on rhythm guitar along with Arnett and Isaacs, and the lineup has remained stable for the past few years. "We started the band even before we had instruments!" Bettinger remarks. "We played covers just to get a feel for the live shows and Ö started writing originals. We were really into alternative, but we got a bass player about midway through who was into punk. Because, I"m not going to lie, I wasn"t really into punk music all that much Ö He introduced me to a lot of stuff." Mid-"90s punk rock draws to mind the pop-punk trio of Green Day, of which Bettinger remains reverent. "That was my inspiration Ö Green Day was the first "punk" band that I ever cared for." A longtime dedication to their music and perseverance in self-promotion over the years have provided them some attention. Corporate Circus tracks have found their way into the hands of DJs, label representatives and promoters. They gained a slot in the Midwest Music Summit, high-profile exposure for a set at the Vans Warped Tour and independent compilation inclusion from several regional labels. Even mainstream radio play in Fort Wayne has come in the form of "Fools Paradise," a cut taken from their release There"s No Place Like Home. The driving, power-hooked, three-minute burner spent six weeks as the most requested song during the Alternative 9@9 segment at Fort Wayne"s modern rock station, WXTW 102.3. In addition, the track is slated for release on the upcoming X 102.3"s Essentials Vol. 5. Beating out national artists on an "X" station request show in the Midwest is something to chalk up as an accomplishment. Support from the radio station for local music has been a big plus for Corporate Circus. "[Matt Jericho, WXTW DJ] hooks us up with every opportunity that comes his way. He"s been a lot of help," Bettinger says. Jericho may even be working to get the band the hookup at local sporting events. "I brought up the idea that I always wanted to do the national anthem," Bettinger continues. "I don"t think he could work that out. And he"s like, "Well, maybe you guys could just play the event."" Corporate Circus made the cut for the Midwest Music Summit, playing a Saturday night slot during one of the downtown showcases. For them, the summit was a positive experience. "We got our song listened to by DreamWorks," Bettinger says. "We got a CD to a guy named Anthony Bland. He"s a director of A&R for American Music Recordings. He basically said he"s been listening to the CD a lot - that he really likes it." Apparently, Bland did not have any openings for CC"s style of music, but requested new material from the band once they had it available. Taken at face value, such communications seem promising, but the group takes it in stride with a wait-and-see attitude. A new EP, currently titled The Four Steps of Breaking Up (planned to include five or six tracks), due out by December, may then prove to be a pivotal release. It would be a reward well worth its due, as more than one member of the band gave up the last few weeks of a senior year in high school for an opportunity to tour the East Coast. "Maybe some day down the road, we might actually make it in the music biz and I can tell the kids of America that I didn"t graduate high school - look where I"m at," Bettinger says. "We"ll bring the whole world down." Corporate Circus will be in Indianapolis once again at the Emerson Theater on Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m., supporting Kansas" power alt-pop regulars Ultimate Fakebook.