On Stage: Slambovian Circus of Dreams enjoys Philly NYE tradition

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Slambovian Circus of Dreams

The Mummers Parade is a great Philadelphia tradition.

It dates back more than a century, has its roots in South Philadelphia and is always held on January 1.

There is another Mummers tradition in Philadelphia.

It dates back more than a decade, has its roots in South Philadelphia and is always held on December 30.

Some bands have a tradition of performing a New Year’s Eve show each year at the same venue. The Slambovian Circus of Dreams has a similar yet very different tradition.

Each year, the band treats area fans to a New Year’s Eve Eve show at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com).

The Slambovian Circus of Dreams, which has been making music since 1998, features a trio of 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) along with Bob Torsello (bass) and Felipe Torres (drums).

Longo is a Philly native who went to St. John Neumann High which back then was called Bishop Neumann High. Both the school and Longo’s childhood home are located in South Philadelphia – a hotbed for Mummers activity.

“We couldn’t do our annual show on New Year’s Eve,” said Lloyd, during a phone interview last week from upstate New York where she and Longo reside.

“The show at the World Café live has become an annual reunion for Joziah’s family and friends. They’re part of Mummers groups so they spend New Year’s Eve getting ready for the Mummers Parade the next day. Our New Year’s Eve Eve show extends the holiday.

“Joziah is the son of Italian and Swedish immigrants. His grandfather sold fruit on the streets. His parents met at Gloria Dei Old Swede’s Church in South Philly on New Year’s Day when his father was wearing clown make-up for the parade.

“Joziah always had costumes from back then. He’s a real ‘Two Streeter.’”

Because of the large number of Mummers clubhouses there, South 2nd Street (Two Street) often serves as a party location after the parade, with the center of activity being South 2nd Street and Mifflin Street. Local residents and others in the area for the parade crowd the local bars, clubhouses and sidewalks, sometimes joining in the unofficial parade.

With the parade they spent months preparing for finished, the Mummers let loose and celebrate. This multi-block party continues well into the night or early morning — with some Mummers not sleeping for twenty-four hours straight.

“New Year’s is always a good time to cleanse the palate for things to come,” said Lloyd. “And we try to use it as an encapsulation of the previous year.

“Our New Year’s Eve Eve show is always a big tradition for Joziah. His childhood babysitter comes to the show. His family comes to the show. His friends from kindergarten come to the show. They all come to the show to connect with everybody.

Just as the Mummers Parade features dancers with decorated umbrellas and parasols, so does the Slambovian Circus of Dreams annual show on the year’s penultimate night. The concert features a Mummers medley with banjos and unique renditions of songs such as “Oh, Dem Golden Slippers.”

“The parasols combine the Mummers tradition with that of New Orleans and its Second Line,” said Lloyd. “The umbrellas celebrate rebirth.

“We play the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival every summer. Our audiences there use umbrellas with lights — ‘Immortal Jellyfish.’ They live in the Hudson Valley and many of them come down to Philly for the New Year’s Eve Eve show. Our fans want to be part of the show. They want to show their respect and their love for the band.”

The band always approaches its New Year’s Eve Eve show in Philly as something special.

According to Longo, “I’m a South Philly boy and all my South Philly people bring umbrellas and dance like jellyfish. Coming back to Philly means a lot to me because it’s the place where I was born. It’s a great way to end the year. We’re all trying to find our best self.

“New Year’s is an analysis of what we want to be – where are we going to go this year. Let’s unravel everything we know and get back to feeling for each other. Let’s get in a room and escape what other people call reality – even though it’s not real reality. Real reality is love, unity and friendship.

“Philly is our hometown. It’s like we come back and bring it to the elders. Being in Philly at this time of year just feels right.”

The next time the Slambovians play a show in the area will most likely be early next year when the band tours in support of its yet-to-be-released album.

“The album is all recorded and half of it is mixed,” said Lloyd. “We’re looking for a spring release for next year.”

The Slambovian Circus of Dreams, which is coming off another successful tour of the U.K., has its roots in another New York band.

“We were in a group called The Ancestors in New York,” said Longo. “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’ 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. “Eventually, we cut off the Gandalf part. It made it easier to fit the name on marquees.”

Video link for the Slambovian Circus of Dreams – https://youtu.be/-kgjptPgbrc.

The show at the World Café Live will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $24 in advance and $27 night of show.

If you’re a fan of blues-influenced rock and you’re looking for a way to spend New Year’s Eve, the Theatre of the Living Arts (334 South Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1011,http://www.lnphilly.com) could be a very good option.

The Record Company

On the final night of the year, the TLA is hosting a concert by The Record Company – a band from Southern California featuring Chris Vos (guitar, lead vocals, harmonica), Alex Stiff (bass, guitar, vocals) and Marc Cazorla (drums, piano, vocals).

The rock/roots trio has already been hailed by LA Weekly for “making bluesy music that would sound more at home in a sweaty, backwoods Mississippi juke joint,” while Time Out Los Angeles has described their sound as “reminiscent of some of the best acts of the ’50s and ’60s—like if John Lee Hooker and the Stooges had a well-behaved love child.”

The trio started in late 2011, hanging up old microphones and recording live in the bass player’s living room in Los Feliz, California. The Record Company have since played concert halls across North America.

The three musicians’ first full-length album “Give It Back to You” was released on Concord Records on February 12, 2016. The album was written, recorded, and mixed by the band in the same living room in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles where The Record Company formed and did their first recordings.

“I moved from Wisconsin to L.A. in 2010 with my wife,” said Vos, during a recent phone interview from his home in Los Angeles. “I started playing around town – and looking for people to play with.

“Alex had heard some of my music and then came across my ad on Craig’s List. I had never put ads up before and he usually never read ads. But he saw my ‘bass player wanted’ ad and liked it.

“He answered the ad and we became buddies. Mark was a friend of Alex’s and he decided to join us. We decided to hang up some mics in Alex’s living room. We ended up cutting our first album there – and some of our second album.”

The band released its sophomore album, “All This Life,” on June 22, 2018 – also on Concord Records.

“We cut some of the second album in Alex’s living room in Los Feliz,” said Vos. “Even with our third album, that’s where we go to write. We know what the sound is like there.”

The Record Company’s sound has become very distinctive.

According to Vos, “We have been influenced by early electric blues, so some of that influence certainly shows. But we’re just as influenced by bands like the Stones and The Stooges as we are by blues legends like John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed.

“Our sound has a lot of early rock-and-roll but with a greater emphasis on the drums and bass. We aim to make the speakers move with our recording.”

The band’s music has been featured in more than 30 commercial, film, and television placements including the theatrical trailer for Last Vegas as well as ads for Coors Light, Subaru, Miller Lite, Showtime’s “Shameless,” ABC’s “Nashville,” CBS’s “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”

Vos describer The Record Company’s influences.

“We’re all fans of the Stooges, the Stones, Muddy Waters, Hendrix, the Dead and even the Beastie Boys,” said Vos.

“I just loved singers like Ray Charles and Sam Cooke while our guitar player listened to rock-and-roll like Creedence and Hendrix.

“We definitely try to center things around drums and bass – trying to find a good solid backbeat. But we don’t want to sound like we’re doing throwback.

“Lyrically, we look at life and how to fix things. You’ve got to look at yourself first.”

The band’s second LP was another step forward.

“The second album had more studio that the first record,” said Vos. “We did a lot of tracking at Boulevard Recording. It has a good tape machine and a big old board. It’s funky in a great way.”

Boulevard Recording is a recording studio in the center of Hollywood. Once home of the famed Producer’s Workshop, Boulevard Recording is where Pink Floyd mixed, mastered and did all its overdubs on “The Wall.” Steely Dan also tracked most of the basic tracks to “Aja” and “Gaucho” at the historic studio in the heart of L.A.

“We record with tape as much as we can,” said Vos. “We recorded a lot of live stuff at Boulevard Recording. It’s got a great vibe.”

Even though the band is just a trio, its music reflects a lot of versatility. Each of The Record Company members play several instruments both live and on record.

According to Vos, “We work hard to incorporate them into the music as creatively as possible. So, besides the typical guitar, bass and drums, we also mix in harmonica, dobro slide, lap slide, pedal steel, piano, etc. It’s about making the right choices for the songs and keeping things as engaging as possible throughout the album — without compromising the integrity of the song.”

Video link for The Record Company – https://youtu.be/gm2bM89I7YE.

The show at the TLA on December 31 will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $35.

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