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Allison Iraheta and Halo Circus Show Quality Has a Bold Shape with New Album, ‘East Lansing’

With Iraheta It’s All About the Voice


I thought a long time before I nominated Allison Iraheta for the LA Music Critics Award for Best Rock Singer of 2016.

Allison and her band Halo Circus are like no other band in rock music today, so there is no precedent I could point to for my fellow writers.  Her superbly controlled voice moves effortlessly from an anthemic howl of anguish to throaty introspective gentleness, but never quite registers in the tones and colors of familiar female rock or pop singers.  It has a curl — a shape that is beyond the geometry of what we expect from women fronting bands.   On stage she goes into an interior world that does not engage the audience like we expect bands to do, but rather converts them into rapt observers in her inner dimension.

Allison and Matt – Photo courtesy of Allison Iraheta

There were no precedents, no one to compare her to. But, despite all of this, my fellow writers agreed with me and voted for her.

It was this preconception of Allison and Halo Circus as unprecedented and incomparable that was in my mind when I put on my earphones and launched a preview copy Halo Circus’s new album, East Lansing, due out May 5.

When I put the headphones down, I asked myself “what just happened?”  Many of the songs were familiar to me from the Bunny album – “Nothing at All,”  “All I have” and “Band-Aid,” the band’s  #1 Popdust song last year.  But this was a different side of Allison and Halo Circus, one I had never heard before despite the many times I have seen them live. This album has the pain, the power, the presence you expect from Halo Circus, but it holds you close like nothing you have ever experienced before in music.

East Lansing is all about Allison’s voice. The music is stripped down, the arrangements are stepped back, the environment is Brian Stead’s acoustic guitar.  The horns are subtle, almost secretive unless you listen close for them. And the drumming is restrained, relying on soft mallets and brushes rather than the nuclear-powered (and often broken) sticks that Veronica Bellino and Matteo Eyia brought to the band in many of its recordings and live shows.  But most striking is the intimacy – Allison is no longer in her 4th dimension, she is present, vulnerable, there in front of you, singing to you in ways that are even more thrilling than the anthems.

Perhaps the intimacy comes from the fact that the album was not recorded in their usual SoCal studios, but while they were on the road in the 30-city crowd-sourced tour they recently completed.  Produced by Allison’s husband, band bassist and platinum producer Matt Hager, East Lansing was recorded live at the Troubadour Recording Studios in Lansing Michigan (the album cover photo  is not the recording studio).

Allison doesn’t give anyone the cold shoulder – Photo courtesy of Allison Iraheta

Perhaps it comes from the other evolution that has been surfacing in Allison and the band, her recognition of her inner Latina.  Born of Salvadoran immigrants, she cut her singing teeth at the local Latino electronics store and later on in a Telemundo singing contest.  All of that seemed to go away as she rose to the finals on American Idol, but returned last year with “Yo Me Voy” on the Bunny Album and in her stage and video appearances with an “Immigrant” banner across her chest.

Where ever it comes from, Allison’s vulnerability and intimacy in East Lansing adds to, rather than mutes, the power of the songs.  The hooks, flourishes, emotional hypodermic-shots the band is known for are now delivered with equal potency by her voice. “Nothing at All”  cuts as deep as ever, but with her voice wielding a scalpel, not a knife, carving “I want what I want” from your flesh. The soft, almost Spanish guitar in “Band-Aid” pulls you so close that when she belts “We want a revolution,” it engulfs you like a thunderstorm, instead of a pile-driver The throbbing drums of the live performances and earlier recordings are replaced by the authority of her voice while the snare drum brushes create a soft texture that she sails over.

Allison Iraheta has beautiy inside and out – Photo by Patrick O’Heffernan

The band’s cover of Neil Young’s  “The Needle and the Damage Done” works in a way that I have not heard other bands accomplish.  Again the acoustic guitar creates a spare environment that carefully cups Allison’s vocal curl. It is her voice, as much as Neil Young’s compelling lyrics, that covey the anguish, the loss, the melancholy and the horrors observed.

Allison’s front and center vocals makes East Lansing an understated nuclear reactor of music. Her fire on the album burns as hot as the anthems that she ignites on stage, but they simmer with the white heat of a slow burning star and the poignancy of a dangerous embrace.  East Lansing will accelerate the band’s momentum:  they have completed the first crowd-sourced tour in the US with RoadNation, released the  debut album Bunny,  posted numerous videos including “Band-Aid”,  seen a remix of “Band-Aid” by John Taylor of Duran Duran,  and announced a new 2017 tour,  and are releasing East Lansing May 5. .If you can see them live on the new tour, don’t miss what is always an unforgettable experience;  in any case, get the album – it will hold you close.

Patrick O’Heffernan.  Host, Music FridayLive!, Co-Host MúsicaFusionLA

Halo Circus,

East Lansing,  available NOW on the band’s website

Allison Iraheta and Halo Circus Drop Album ‘Bunny’ With Rockin Release Party at Sphere Studios in LA

Halo Circus record release party at Sphere Studios - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Halo Circus record release party at Sphere Studios – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Allison Iraheta and Halo Circus are going strong. Halo Circus has a great new album ‘Bunny’ and as front woman Iraheta has proven she has pushed far beyond her American Idol fame and into new territory.

The former ‘Idol’ favorite, has taken an alternative turn, and her constituency blends together faithful from her dynamite TV appearances with fans of her new music and band.


The new album is a mix of melancholy and rock with a range of style in between. At her record release party at Sphere Studios in North Hollywood, she gave a good crowd a sampling of the release and pulled out all the stops. Several lucky fans were winners, getting to check out the party and rub elbows with Allison’s pals and musical colleagues.

Allison Iraheta and her Team

Halo Circus is Allison Iraheta, Matthew Hager, Veronica Bellino and Brian Stead; lyric booklet designed by Patty Palazzo of Punk Masters; photographs by Nick Egan; album produced by Matthew Hager; mixed by Craig Bauer and mastered by Eric Boulanger.

Check out more Allison Iraheta stories at

For more information check out the Halo Circus Facebook page and the Halo Circus web page.[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”56″ gal_title=”Allison Iraheta Bunny and Halo Circus”]





‘Say It Loud!’ at The Troubadour: Halo Circus Headlines A Night of Unity, Humor and Great Music


Allison Iraheta Brings Friends and a Mission to Troubadour Crowd

By DONNA BALANCIA – The ‘Say It Loud!’ concert at The Troubadour was a diverse mix of musicians that brought a sense of unity among a lucky audience Monday night.

RELATED UPDATE: Allison Releases new album Bunny

Featuring Allison Iraheta and Halo Circus, K.C. Porter and co, Project N-Fidelikah, David Garza, and Victory Mori, the evening was a collection of the experimental and the traditional, in an inclusive environment at The Troubadour.

“It was an amazing show with a lot of different sounds and styles,” said one concert-goer. “I never expected to see Latino, metal, ska, funk and violin all in one night.  Maybe that’s what true Rock n Roll is all about.”

Allison-Iraheta4-SAY-IT-wtmkAcross the board, ‘Say It Loud!’ was a winning evening with more than one person commenting on the satisfaction the musicians felt in assembling the diverse styles.

Allison Iraheta, perhaps best known for her finalist finish on American Idol a few years back, showed a wild side, singing empassioned tunes and showing her cool alternative side.  The pink-haired Latina who grew up in East L.A. is a terrific talent with a warm personality to boot.

Allison's performance: Funky, passionate to innocent - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Allison’s performance: Funky, passionate to innocent – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Halo Circus set List

He Promises The Moon
Nothing At All
All I Have
Guns In Our Hands
Yo Me Voy
Do You Believe In Shame
Out Of Love
Can’t Take You Away From Me
Band Aid


Iraheta’s band is comprised of Matthew Hager on Bass, Veronica Bellino on drums and guitarist Brian Stead.  The musicians each have a rich history and combine for big sound.  With several videos under their belt and new releases on the way, the band will likely break out far beyond a loyal LA following. Expect more from this group.

A War reunion with JB Eckl and Pancho Tomaselli - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

A War reunion with JB Eckl and Pancho Tomaselli – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

UPDATE: See Halo Circus Record Release Party

The evening launched with overwhelming guitar work of Victory Mori and was followed by renowned producer K.C. Porter who got the audience up and dancing.

Project N-Fidelikah proved to be a wild ride with George Lynch (Dokken), Chris Moore on drums, Pancho Tomaselli (War) and Angelo Moore (Fishbone).   It was a surprisingly cohesive unit and we look forward to more offerings from this unique band.

The emcee for the evening was Sharlotte Gibson, a singer who has performed with everyone from Whitney Houston to Nine Inch Nails.  She did a nice job keeping the evening moving along at a brisk pace.

David Garza wrapped the evening in a notable trio with Hager and Bellino.


[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”29″ gal_title=”Allison Iraheta and Halo Circus”]

Halo Circus featuring Allison Iraheta to Headline ‘Say It Loud’ Concert at Troubadour on Dec. 14

SayItLoudNEWLoRezThe Halo Circus Debut Album is Expected to be Released in 2016

Halo Circus, powered by “American Idol” Season 8 fan favorite Allison Iraheta, will headline the Troubadour on Monday, Dec. 14.

The show called “Say it Loud! A Night of Cultural Disruption,” is expected to spotlight multicultural music influenced by Iraheta’s childhood growing up in South Central.

Halo Circus is comprised of singer Iraheta, bassist-producer Matthew Hager (Duran Duran, Scott Weiland, Simply Red), drummer Veronica Bellino (Jeff Beck, DMC of Run DMC) and guitarist Brian Stead.

Halo Circus has played with Heart, Adam Lambert, Emmylou Harris, Orianthi and others.

See related story on ‘Bunny’ record release updated June 25

Tickets to Halo Circus at Troubadour Available Now

Halo Circus is a bilingual alternative rock band with powerhouse vocals.  The group is releasing a new album in 2016.

“It’s a bilingual concept album about life seen through the eyes of a girl who was raised by El Salvadorian immigrants,” said Iraheta. “She achieved the impossible to become a witness to a world that she didn’t know existed (from) where she grew up.”

The record was produced by Hager and mixed by Craig Bauer (Kanye West, Ed Sheeran, Smashing Pumpkins).


“Say It Loud!”  kicks off at 7 p.m.  Bands on the bill include:

— Project N-Fidelikah (featuring Angelo Moore of Fishbone, George Lynch, members of WAR)

— David Garza (famed storyteller and Austin favorite)

— Heliotriope (featuring members of Ozomatli, WAR)

— KC Porter’s Cruzanderos (featuring multi Grammy-award winning producer-songwriter Porter)

Sentimental Show at The Troubadour

Iraheta, whose claim to fame has been “American Idol,” says she feels a bit sentimental to play at The Troubadour.

“Halo Circus played our very first show three years ago at the Troubadour, so it’s a dream come true to have our own night there now,” she said. “In our search to fill out the bill with artists that inspire us, we were humbled by the level of talent that wanted to be included. We discovered that there are geniuses living among us.”

Iraheta said she has noticed a trend in the industry to return to cause-based songwriting.

“Artists are desperate for a return to meaningful lyrics and songs with purpose,” she said. “We’re excited to be a part of ‘Say It Loud!'”

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