Not just a ‘side’ show

Live local music and performance art at Sideshow 8

By Gary Spencer
photo: Tim Pritchard & the Boxcar Suite perform at Sideshow 8 on May 10; photo credit: Jennifer Clarke

While there is little doubt that local visual art is the backbone of the yearly Sideshow event presented by the Dayton Circus Creative Collective coinciding with Urban Nights’ weekend in downtown Dayton, gradually, over the past eight years of Sideshow’s existence, the DCCC has begun to put greater emphasis on giving local musicians a place to shine at their annual soiree. According to Sideshow organizer and current Dayton Circus Creative Collective Chairman Jeff Opt, the music element fits right in with the vision and mission of creativity that Sideshow is all about.

According to Sideshow’s original organizer Laurana Wong, The Sideshow hopes to expose the burgeoning underground art scene and interconnect it with the more established art community.” Opt continued. “Music is art, just like painting, just like photography, just like dance. Music is creativity, and as such, deserves to be celebrated with all art. Dayton is blessed to have such an amazing and diverse music scene. It was part of the first Sideshow (and) has been an important part of every Sideshow since.”

The incorporation of live, local-based music at Sideshow has been somewhat of a trial and error process in incorporating it optimally alongside the visual art over the near decade-long existence of the event. Part of those growing pains were finally alleviated by finding a large enough venue with a spacious layout that allowed for both the music and visual art element to intermingle, yet have its own breathing room. That venue turned out to be what is now known as the Yellow Cab Building on East Fourth Street in downtown Dayton, just a block away from the Oregon District, and has since become both the home for Sideshow and headquarters for the Dayton Circus Creative Collective. The first Sideshow event at the Yellow Cab Building took place in May 2011 and is also notable in the evolution of Sideshow as being the first Sideshow event to feature not one, but two stages, solely devoted to live local music. Even prior to this momentous achievement in Sideshow’s vibrant history, the DCCC had its eye on the Yellow Cab Building for some time.

“The DCCC first started looking at the Yellow Cab building almost five years ago,” said Opt. “It came to our attention as we were building Garden Station across the street. It was sitting empty at the time and eventually became overgrown. This prompted us to contact the realtor, and then owner, and we were able to agree on terms that allowed us to use the building and benefited the owner. It is an ideal location for us because it is a very adaptable and flexible space with plenty of room and able to accommodate multiple uses. It has a large parking lot, which is a great place to put the music stages along with food trucks and the beer trailer.”

With Sideshow 8 on the horizon, this year’s event will mark the third one to take place at the Dayton Circus Creative Collective’s home turf at the Yellow Cab Building. This coming weekend, Sideshow 8 will feature roughly two dozen musical artists performing live over the course of both Friday and Saturday, including a stirring array of musical styles from both local music veterans and other musicians in their debut performances live. Some of the better-known homegrown musical artists playing live at Sideshow 8 include Jasper the Colossal, Tombstone Tremblers, Todd the Fox and Smug Brothers.

“This year we are featuring more than 20 bands and performers over two nights, ranging from solo acoustic acts, DJ crews and rappers, roots rock bands, punk rock – really something for everyone,” said Opt. “The defining qualities are everyone is local and everyone is talented. Everyone gets an approximately 40 minute set to play, so if you don’t care for the band that is currently playing, walk inside and look at art and come back in a half an hour – the next band will be completely different.”

On a similar note, Sideshow events are no stranger to live performance art and dance, and this year’s event will be no different, featuring original pieces by Maggie Ottoson, Rebecca Rine-Stone and Jason Baldwin debuting new works exclusively for Sideshow 8 and Urban Nights. While this feature might play a smaller role in what Sideshow is all about, Opt chooses not to diminish how special the performance art element can be in their yearly event.

“We have had performance art in every Sideshow,” Vasconcelos said.  “It can incorporate music, dance, spoken word, comedy, tears, laughter, destruction … it really depends upon what the artist wants to express. It is something you must experience to understand.”

In the end, Opt believes the live performance brings an entertainment aspect to each Sideshow including this one, showing just how multifaceted Sideshow really is.

“All types of art are represented at the Sideshow,” concluded Vasconcelos. “Anything is possible. In previous years we have had painting, photography, sculpture, mixed media, fire dancers, belly dancers, spoken word, fashion shows, interactive installation art, dance, digital, hip hop dance crews, plant-based living installation art, live sculpting, graffiti art, etc. – anything that you can imagine. We have also had every type of musical genre represented at the Sideshow. This year will have many unique pieces as well, including, but not limited to, chain mail, a surrealist game, interactive musical artwork, felt work, book reading; though many thing are still under wraps, so you will have to come experience it for yourself!”

Sideshow 8 takes place on Friday, May 10 and Saturday, May 11 from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. each night at the Yellow Cab Building, 700 E. Fourth St. Admission is free. For more information, visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at

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