On the night of Saturday, March 2, the Barge Canal Coffee Co. was packed with Colgate students and Hamilton residents anxiously awaiting the arrival of Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams. This band, which also goes by the name of “The Grand Slambovians,” was warmly welcomed back to the Barge for a special birthday celebration in honor of longtime night manager, Susan Pasachnik.
Pasachnik met the band a few years ago when they came to Hamilton to play a concert in the town square and has been one of their biggest fans ever since. She has developed a close relationship with them, travels hundreds of miles to see them in concert and is known to enthusiastically throw herself behind the merchandise table to help sell CDs and promote the band whenever she gets the chance. Pasachnik isn’t the only fan that loves to support them as they tour. Hamiltonian Tom Stout has seen the band in concert over 170 times in the past six years.
“They make me high. They make me happy,” Stout said freely in discussing his love of The Grand Slambovians. After seeing them perform, it is hard for anyone to doubt Stout’s assessment of the drug-like quality of their sound. The concert was loud enough to wake all of Hamilton and was accompanied by a light show that left the audience believing they had fallen down the rabbit hole and into an alternate reality. It was nothing short of a psychedelic experience.
Their first set included a song about a man with a very unusual head as well as a track titled “Picture,” which the band performed in response to a special request from Pasachnik. Another song, named “Tink” after band member Tink Lloyd, was described as a love song to the Tinkerbell spirit in all of us. Lloyd herself sported a fuzzy hat she found while on tour overseas; this has become her trademark and a symbol of the band’s eclectic nature. Between songs the lead singer, Joziah Longo, told stories about past gigs and conversed with the audience as if everyone in the room was a personal friend. His humorous and relaxed nature was contagious throughout the crowded audience and made the event friendly and intimate.
Longo’s voice is reminiscent of Tom Petty’s, with a growling quality that boomed through the loudspeakers and mesmerized the room. Listening to each song was like falling deeper and deeper into a trance. “The Grand Slambovians” transported the audience into an enchanting world of sound with catchy melodies and long instrumental riffs to make you long for the days of true rock n’ roll. With an unusual mix of rock and folk, they are like nothing you’ve ever heard before, possessing a fiery sound that is raw and untamable. While they cite Pink Floyd and The Beatles as musical influences, one look at Sharkey McEwen playing the slide mandolin will convince you that their music is truly unique.
The second set featured many songs including “Good Thief,” “I’m Very Happy Now” and the very popular “Pushin’ Up Daisies,” a song which Longo considers a “Slambovian waltz.” They ended the set with an energetic track called “Alice in Space,” which was inspired by the annual Mummer’s Day Parade in Philadelphia. Longo expressed his hopes that the song would chase away adulthood and allow the inner child to shine through.
“It was the perfect birthday celebration,” said Pasachnik as people dispersed after the conclusion of the concert. She loved the band’s energy and was gratified by the warm reception they received from the audience. Pasachnik has made it her goal to keep live music thriving in Hamilton, and the packed concert provided overwhelming evidence of her success. She introduced me to the band members so I was finally able to ask about the origin of the band’s strange name.
“It just popped into my head,” explained Longo. “Slambovian” is the singer’s personal twist on the word “slammin'” and over time the term has come to mean a fantastical place that can only be described as a “Circus of Dreams.” While it may seem odd, the name is a perfect fit for the quirky band members and their extraordinary sound.