The Grand Slambovians Celebrate at the Barge

Elyse Cianfarano

A fully-packed Barge Canal Coffee Co. welcomed Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams last Saturday night for their annual intimate birthday concert for longtime Barge night manager, Susan Pasachnik. The pseudo-psychedelic-folk-rock band is a Hamilton favorite known for being very lively, drawing in passers-by from the cold throughout the show.

The band, which also goes by “The Grand Slambovians,” wowed the crowd with their powerful and outrageous presence. Lead singer and guitarist Joziah Longo entered sporting a straw top hat over chin-length dark hair, paired with an eclectic outfit. As the music began, so did a choreographed psychedelic lightshow. The Grand Slambovians in their title track came to drown the senses. The song featured the sounds of an accordion played by Tink Lloyd and trance-inducing mandolin solos played by Sharkey McEwen. Although The Grand Slambovians may seem like an odd presence in sleepy Hamilton, the local audience members mouthed the words to every song and some even sported the band’s t-shirts.

The band followed up with songs “Sunday in the Rain” and a sing-along, “A Very Unusual Head,” which got all 60 audience members in the Barge carrying a tune. At one point, Longo took a poll to see who of the audience had never seen the band before; only a minority raised their hands. Between tracks, Longo told stories of the band’s long and meandering path through the music business, through name changes and labels all the way to their new compilation album, “A Box of Everything,” to be released April 1.

Throughout their career, audience members often didn’t know what to make of The Grand Slambovians. While introducing their song “Very Happy Now,” which they paired in a medley with The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated,” the band recalled their first trip to the U.K., where they were mistakenly placed in a classic rock festival.

In the U.S., The Grand Slambovians gained popularity by posing as a folk band and “invading” the folk concert circuit. The band clearly has folk influences, but the fantastical elements place them closer to the realm of “Alice in Wonderland” than traditional folk. According to their Web site, the band identifies as having “pioneered the alt-folk/Americana genre,” a unique crossover that can appeal to a variety of tastes.

In their involvement in the folk circuit, the band has played several times at the Strawberry Festival, a philanthropic festival in Beacon, NY founded by the late Pete Seeger. During the introduction to the song “Suzanne,” written for Pete Seeger’s wife, Toshi, Joziah recalled a discussion he and Seeger shared.

“He had a very profound mind, and I think that always came through in his music,” said Longo of Seeger, who died in late January of this year.

Although The Grand Slambovians are more accustomed to larger-scale venues and bigger crowds, they seemed to enjoy doing this show at the Barge every year because of its intimacy and subsequent ability to closely interact with the crowd. Despite the modest reputation of Hamilton and the typically low-key atmosphere of the Barge, The Grand Slambovians’ performance shows that even in the middle of nowhere, the Colgate and Hamilton community is connected to some pretty monumental people.