On Stage: Slambovian shows love for Bowie

Also: Cold Collective makes Philly debut

By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times

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The Slambovian Circus of Dreams, an alt-folk/Americana band, might seem an odd choice to be covering the works of David Bowie, but it makes sense when you think about it, the band members say.

In the months after David Bowie’s death earlier this year, there have been “David Bowie Tribute Shows” at venues all around the country — but not Philadelphia.

Holy Holy, a group featuring the last remaining live members of Bowie’s band from “The Man Who Sold the World” era did play the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville late last year and the Tower Theater in Upper Darby earlier this year but the city has yet to have a Bowie tribute featuring a national band (or musicians from established bands).

This will change on June 4 with a show at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, philly.worldcafelive.com) featuring the Slambovian Circus of Dreams.

At first glance, this might seem a bit strange.

The Slambovian Circus of Dreams, a band hailed as a “pioneer of the alt-folk/Americana genre,” appears to be an odd choice to be performing the music of England’s genre-stretching rock chameleon.

But, things are not always how they appear.

The Slambovian Circus of Dreams, which has been making music since 1998, features founding members Joziah Longo (singer, songwriter, guitarist, leader of the band), his wife, Tink Lloyd (accordion, cello, flute , ukulele, Theremin, keyboards) and  Sharkey McEwen (guitar,  mandolin, backing vocals).

“We were in a group called The Ancestors in New York,” said Longo, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from his home along the Hudson River north of New York City. “Eddie Kramer, who was the Stones’ engineer and producer, did an album with us.

“That brought everybody around to see us play. We were doing really well. One time, we played Carnegie Hall and CBGBs the same night. We were ahead of the curve and then we disappeared — on purpose. We went to the hinterlands and hid out in the folk scene.

“We were playing folk music that was different with things like an electric slide mandolin. It was ‘Floydian’ (Pink Floyd-influenced) folk. The folkies really took to it. We found our niche.”

They found a niche and they found a new name — Gandalf Murphy and The Slambovian Circus of Dreams.

“It was just a name I made up,” said Longo, a Philly native who went to St. John Neumann High in South Philadelphia. “Eventually, we cut off the Gandalf part. It made it easier to fit the name on marquees.”

So, why is it not odd that these freaky folkies are playing a show devoted to Bowie’s music?

In some of the Slambovians’ songs, Longo’s voice resembles Bowie’s voice — and so do many of his vocal phrasings. In addition, the Slambos and the Thin White Duke have a history together.

“When we first got together in the Village, we were an eclectic alt-rock band,” said Longo. “We were hanging out with Bowie and the Tin Machine. Our band had that trippy Tin Machine vibe.”

Tink said, “When David died, it caught everyone by surprise. We did a hometown show with our Bowie Tribute set and the experience we had with our fans was a really deep experience. We all felt a sense of loss. We go back with David to the days at the Hammerstein in New York.”

The Slambovians’ vibe and Bowie’s vibe will merge on June 4 in a show that is billed — “The Slambovian Circus of Dreams Presents The Slambovians Who Fell To Earth.”

“We have a lot of shows coming up but the only Bowie show is in Philly,” said Longo. “Tink was very close to David since the Tin Machine era. He was special. His music meant a lot to a wide range of people. It’s amazing how big his influence was. This special concert makes us do a focused Bowie show. It’s all about the spirit.

“We had to do special rehearsals just for this one show. But, I think we tip our hats to him all the time. In the show at the World Café, we will play some of our stuff that was influenced by Bowie and we’ll do some of David’s stuff.”

Video link for The Slambovian Circus of Dreams — https://youtu.be/-kgjptPgbrc?list=PL75DBFA098BA31B9D.

The show at the World Café Live will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $

Other upcoming shows at the World Café Live are Nada Surf with Bird Of Youth and  Big Thief on June 2, An Intimate Evening With Good Old War (Acoustic) with Empty Houses on June 3, Kris Allen and Sean O’Connell on June 6 and Eighth Blackbird on June 8.

The schedule of concerts now through Saturday includes shows in a variety of genres including a concert tonight by one of rock music’s most interesting and influential bass players.

Stu Hamm 2016 tour poster med resOn June 2, Havana (105 South Main Street, New Hope, 215-862-9897, havanascalendar.com) will host bassist extraordinaire Stu Hamm.

Through his trailblazing work as a solo artist and his work as the bassist for guitar aces Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, Hamm established himself as one of the most influential electric bassists in the world of rock and funk.

Expanding on the non-traditional use of the electric bass that was introduced in the 1970s by Jaco Pastorius (a native of Norristown) and Stanley Clarke (a Philly native), Hamm helped to reshape the contemporary concept of the bass guitar as an unaccompanied instrument with the utilization of polyphonic, two-handed tapping, slapping and popping techniques, chords, and harmonics.

“I come from a musical family,” said Hamm, during a phone interview Monday afternoon from his home in Los Angeles. “My father was a conductor and a musicologist and my mother was an opera singer. My father was friends with John Cage. I was always exposed to a variety of music. I played a lot of instruments.

“I went to Champaign Central High School which was known for its bands. I played in the marching band and the stage band. The first time I saw a rock band live, I thought the bass looked really cool.”

Soon, Hamm had begun a love affair with the bass.

“I started with upright bass in the school’s big band. I was listening to a lot of rock. I loved the Beatles because of Paul’s melodic bass. John Entwistle’s bass solo in The Who’s ‘My Generation’ was the first time I heard bass played like that.

“I started listening to Stanley Clarke when I was 16. Then, when I was a freshman at Berklee (College of Music in Boston) I saw Weather Report in concert with Jaco playing bass. Philadelphia has a tradition of great bass players.”

Hamm has performed and recorded with Steve Vai, Frank Gambale, Joe Satriani and a long list of other top guitarists. Recordings with Satriani and other rock/fusion artists, along with the release of his own solo recordings elevated Hamm to his own plateau in the hierarchy of bass guitarists.

As one of today’s leading bassists, Hamm has released six critically-acclaimed studio recordings. On “Radio Free Albemuth” (1988), “Kings Of Sleep” (1989), “The Urge” (1991), and “Outbound” (2000), Hamm showcased his unique style of playing the bass as a lead instrument both within a solo environment and various ensemble formats on a genre-spanning spectrum of repertoire that merged rock, jazz, fusion, classical, country, and urban sounds.

“My favorite influences are Jaco, Jeff Beck, Paul McCartney , Marcus Miller and Bubby Lewis, who is the only bassist to win Guitar Player magazine’s readers’ award for both best rock bassist and best jazz bassist in the same year, just embarked on his “Solo Bass Songs and Stories Tour 2016.”

Touring in support of his newest solo album “The Book of Lies,” Hamm is out on the road with new music, including his petite suite for solo bass, and a host of stories and anecdotes for musicians and non-musicians alike.

“A lot of times with bass players, your job is to not stand out,” said Hamm. “There’s a time when you just have to shop wood and do the job. I love playing solo bass. It’s a real challenge — and it’s fun.

“People often ask — what can a solo bass show be? There is a lot of variety to the music I play on bass. I play songs and I talk about what I’ve done. It’s an evening of music and stories from my 43 years of playing bass with some of our generation’s greatest musicians. It’s really entertaining.”

Video link for Stu Hamm — https://youtu.be/cjvouAsOzaQ.

The show at Havana will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $20.

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Cold Collective

Also on June 2, Cold Collective will be making its Philadelphia debut with a show at

Underground Arts (1200 Callowhill Street, Philadelphia, http://undergroundarts.org).

Cold Collective is the latest project from Tim Landers, who was formerly a band member of Transit, Misser, and Off and On.)

“I started working on this project about six months after I left Transit,” said Landers, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from his home in Stoneham, Massachusetts. “I had been writing songs for this project for awhile. I wasn’t sure what it would be or what I’d call it.

“It’s a project I had always wanted to do but couldn’t do because I was in a band. I always wanted to start a rock band and sing in it myself. I recorded the album about a year ago. It’s definitely heavier and darker than what I’ve done previously.”

Cold Collective’s debut full-length, “Bachelorette Party,” came out on May 13 on Rise Records.

“I demo’ed all the stuff at my home studio,” said Landers, who handles lead guitar and vocals. “When I recorded the album, I had Paul (DeBenedictos) on drums. I did everything else myself. The demos were all full band demos. I put the band together after the album.

“Every song is different. I predominantly write on guitar but I wrote a few of the songs on bass. Usually, a song starts with the melody and then I build on that. I put the songs together as I went along. It was definitely hard to sequence them.

“After I left the old band and left a really long relationship, I was dealing with big changes in my life. Writing is like a venting process for me. When the album was completed, it felt very cathartic.”

Cold Collective is now a working band featuring guitarist Gus Pesce, bassist Darren Sullo, DeBenedictos and Landers.

“They are all old friends from the (Boston) area,” said Landers. “On this tour, we’re just playing songs from the album. We have a lot of new material written but we’re not performing any of the songs live right now.”

Video link for Cold Collective — https://youtu.be/kq0eg3JZaJg.

The all-ages show at Underground Arts, which starts at 7 p.m., also features Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties, Allison Weiss, Can’t Swim and Empty Houses. Tickets are $16.

Mrs. Magician

Mrs. Magician

One of the more interesting concerts on the schedule for June 3 is Mrs. Magician at Boot and Saddle (1131 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-639-4528, www.bootandsaddlephilly.com).

On May 20, Mrs Magician released its sophomore album “Bermuda.” The band’s debut album “Strange Heaven” was released in 2012.

According to the band’s Facebook page, “’Bermuda’ is the latest effort by San Diego’s dismal-pop outfit Mrs. Magician and their second full-length release on Swami Records.”

The first video from the new album is “Eyes All Over Town,” a spoof of slasher/horror films served up with a full dose of guitar-driven rock.

Mrs Magician is a quartet featuring guitarist/singer Jacob Turnbloom, guitarist Tommy Garcia, drummer Cory Steir, and bassist Jordan Clark.

“Tommy and I have been playing together since 2010,” said Turnbloom, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon while traveling through Alabama on the way to a tour stop in North Carolina.

“We did our first seven-inch a couple years later. We started writing songs for the new album two years ago but some are quite older. We started working on it a little over a year ago and began diving into each song.

“We did some pre-production. Our guitar player also produces other bands. And, our producer John Reis came in and helped. When we started recording the album, we did guitar, bass and drums live and then added other things. In this band, we practice a lot before going into the studio to sound as close to live as possible.

“The drums were done in one day. Actually, everything was done pretty fast because we had limited time in the studio. The roots of the songs are so basic. We just hammered it out and then did go back in and add some vocals and interludes.

“Then, I did take some time after the fact to do more tinkering. I was trying to make it as poppy as possible. That’s why there are so many short songs. Our influences are the Go-Go’s, Cheap Trick, Richard Hell, Television and the Undertones — good pop music.”

The songs take on even more of that pop energy when performed live.

“I think we always speed songs up when we play them love,” said Turnbloom.”The songs get louder and more energetic. It’s a natural thing because we all came from heavier bands. Still, the new album is a pop record — a pop record that has interesting quirks to it.”

Video link for Mrs. Magician — https://youtu.be/F2jxsBawjKc.

The show at Boot and Saddle, which also features Le Yikes Surf Club and Sad Actor, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $8.

Other upcoming shows at Boot & Saddle are Residuels and Louie Louie “Dual Record Release” and Weekender on June 3, Rosetta, Hadean and Starkweather on June 4, King Woman, Wax Idols and Planning For Burial on June 7 and Possessed by Paul James and TJ Smith And The Wild North on June 8.

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Vinnie Caruana

Another concert worth checking out on June 3 will be the show by Vinnie Caruana at Ortlieb’s (847 North Third Street, Philadelphia, 267- 324-3348, www.ticketfly.com)

Caruana was the vocalist for a pair of New York bands — punk band The Movielife and indie/post-hardcore band I Am the Avalanche. The most recent disc from either was “Wolverines” by I Am the Avalanche in 2014.

“I got done the touring cycle of ‘Wolverines’ and knew that there would be no more touring with that band,” said Caluana, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from his home in Brooklyn.

“I decided to do my own album right away. The first day of 2015 was when I started working on my debut solo album ‘Survivor’s Guilt.’  I was writing it but I didn’t want it stripped down. It became more a full band sounding album.

“Now, I’m touring with a band and playing those songs. I’m not always going to tour with a band. It’s up to me to have the music speak for itself. With music, I don’t think there are rules for it. Getting out there is all I can do and I have to do my best.”

Caluana put his best efforts into “Survivor’s Guilt.” The album was released in North America on Equal Vision Records on May 27.

“I did all my demos — just me and acoustic guitar,” said Caluana. “I showed them to Equal Vision because I wanted a record deal. I did two full-band demos and that’s what got me signed.

“Once I was done recording the album, I wasn’t done. I called the producer and went back in to change some of the lyrics and maybe add a new melody. I had a month from when we finished mixing until the deadline.

“Writing for myself did feel different after writing for bands for so many years. I figured I would get as intensely personal as I could. I didn’t know what I was going to write about. It just happened. I spent a lot more time on the music than I did on the lyrics.

“After it was all done and ready for release, I listened to it again and saw that it’s kind of sad. But, it’s not all darkness and gloom. There’s happiness and brightness there too. I like when there are peaks and troughs on a record.”

Video link for Vinnie Caruana — https://youtu.be/F5I79u31Cgw.

The show at Ortlieb’s will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15.

steep canyon rangersOver the last decade-and-a-half, the Steep Canyon Rangers have become one of America’s best young bluegrass bands. On June 4, they will bring their American roots sound to the area for a show at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com).

The North Carolina-based group includes Woody Platt (guitar, lead vocals), Graham Sharp (banjo, lead and harmony vocals), Mike Guggino (mandolin, harmony vocals), Charles R. Humphrey III (bass), Nicky Sanders (fiddle) and Mike Ashworth (cajon drums).

The Grammy award-winning band’s highly-anticipated album, “RADIO,” is now streaming in full exclusively at Paste Magazine. The album will be released August 28 on Rounder Records and is now available for pre-order via iTunes. The disc, which was produced by Jerry Douglas, is already receiving critical acclaim.

Additionally, the International Bluegrass Music Association has nominated Steep Canyon Rangers for Recorded Event of the Year for their performance of “Test of Time” with Edie Brickell, produced by Carl Jackson. It marked the band’s eighth IBMA nomination.

“We’ve been writing songs for years leading up to this release,” said Guggino, during a phone interview last week. “The primary songwriters are Graham and Charles. They write a lot of songs when we’re on the road and then we work on them while we’re on tour.

“I swear, as soon as we put out a record, they start writing new songs. There’s always a lot of material to work with — a lot of tunes. Some songs we’ll play live for awhile before we record them. We definitely arrange all the songs as a band.”

“RADIO,” the band’s ninth studio album, was recorded with Douglas at Asheville, NC’s Echo Mountain Recording Studio. The album features 12 all-original bluegrass/Americana tracks — most of which were written by Sharp with Humphrey, Platt and Guggino composing the rest in varying degrees.

 “We’ve been together for 16 years,” said Guggino. “We were all friends in college at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. We were a typical bar band and then we stayed together and kept it going.

“We all fell in love with bluegrass during our college years. We bought (bluegrass) instruments and started to learn to play them. We all graduated in 2001 and nobody had a plan other than playing music. So, we moved to a house in Asheville (N.C.).”

Living in western Carolina allowed the Steep Canyon Rangers to hone their skills as bluegrass musicians.

“We were so green at first,” said Guggino. “We signed with Rebel Records in the mid-2000s and that got our music out to the bluegrass audience. We played bluegrass festivals for many years — and still do a few each year.

“More of the festivals we play now are Americana or folk. We played the Philadelphia Folk Festival for the first time this year. When we’re on tour, we play performing arts centers as well as club venues.

“The cool thing about bluegrass is that it appeals to a wide variety of audiences and age groups. On any given weekend, we might play Friday night at a rock club and then the next night for a retirement age audience.

“Our music appeals to a big range of listeners. It’s acoustic so it doesn’t scare away older listeners. And, the younger audiences like the energy. It’s fast-paced music that gets people dancing.”

The Steep Canyon Rangers have found their niche but it took years of refining their sound.

“Our music has evolved greatly,” said Guggino. “At first, we came at it in a very non-traditional way. Later, we studied traditional bluegrass — artists such as Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs. As years go on, we’ve gotten away from the traditional sound. Our previous album, ‘Tell The Ones I Love,’ was the first one with drums.”

Released in September 2013, “Tell The Ones I Love” was their third album for Rounder Records. The same record label also released “Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Edie Brickell LIVE”.

Steve Martin played banjo along with the Steep Canyon Rangers in 2009 on a broadcast of  “A Prairie Home Companion,” and continued playing with the band on selected dates, including  the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in San Francisco and Carnegie Hall in New York. He also travelled with the band to England for a performance on the radio show “Later with Jools Holland.”

“Steve Martin had a great effect on our success,” said Guggino. “He put our music out there. We got to play big venues and perform on TV shows. We played a lot with Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. Steve is a funny comedian but he’s also a serious banjo player.”

Video link for Steep Canyon Rangers — https://youtu.be/h5fxHzKTmPM.

The show in Ardmore, which also features Marc Silver & Friends, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22 in advance and $27 day of show.

Other upcoming shows at the Ardmore Music Hall are The New Mastersounds and Kung Fu on June 2, Mason Porter (EP release show), Frog Holler, Chris Grunwald and The Slow Response on June 3, and Beru Revue: Miracle of Spring, Ben Arnold, The Fractals, and Two Brothers on June 5,

Vinyl Artifacts

Vinyl Artifacts

The Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present Gas House Gorillas on June 3, Vinyl Artifacts with Olivia Swenson on June 4 and Open Mic with guest host Kenny Thompson on June 5.

Valley Forge Casino (1160 First Avenue, King of Prussia, 610-354-8118, www.vfcasino.com) will host New Orleans music legend Dr. John and the Nite Trippers on June 3 in its The Venue room.

dr. john at vf casinoThe Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Ben Arnold & Band with Cliff Hillis on June 2,

The Ragbirds on June 3 and Mama’s Black Sheep on June 4.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will have an “Open Bluegrass Jam” on June 2 followed by Chestnut Grove on June 3 and 4.

Doc Watson’s Public House (150 North Pottstown Pike, Exton, 610-524-2424, docwatsonspublichouse.com) will have Halos and Horns on June 3 and Shot in the Dark on June 4.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Bela Fleck and the Flecktones on June 3 and Irish Vythen on June 4.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will have “Ladies Of Laughter featuring Chris Rich and Robin Fox” on June 4 and Bryan Sutton Band (of Hot Rize) & Della Mae on June 5.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) will present Hotel California on June 3,

World Café Live at the Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 302- 994-1400, www.queen.worldcafelive.com) will present Maxence Cyrin on June 2, MoonTree with Joe Lee, Woosah Gang, and Max Gallo on June 3, Jim Florentine on June 4, Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy: Remembering Keith and The Music of Emerson Lake & Palmer on June 6, and Jordan Smith on June 8.

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