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Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams (with Higher Animals opening) ~ 2012 June 29 ~ Towne Crier Cafe, Pawling, NY

... by Joanne Corsano

Eric Puente
Eric Puente, the Circus' new drummer
Click on the picture
to see a photo gallery of the concert

Band Personnel: Joziah Longo, lead vocals, guitar, mandolin, harmonica; Sharkey McEwen, lead guitar, mandolin, backing vocals; Eric Puente, drums; Tink Lloyd, accordion, ukulele, melodica, cello, tambourine, backing vocals

Set List

Higher Animals opened with 3 songs.
The Grand Slambovians played: Grand Slambovians - Windmills - Very Happy Now - Mellow Yellow {improv, the Donovan song} - Very Unusual Head [new solo Joziah] - She's Not Ready [new song] - Tink (I Know It's You) ... intermission ... Sunday in the Rain - Box of Everything [new song] - Northern Sea - snip of an oldie I didn't recognize {with falsetto - a Frankie Valli song, maybe?} - Pushing Up Daisies - Blue Suede Shoes - Talkin' to the Buddha - The Trans-Slambovian BiPolar Express ... encore ... Happy Birthday (to several audience members) - Alligators .

Scroll down past the videos for review; photo gallery to the right.



"Box of Everything":


The Grand Slambovians, also known as the long name in the title, introduced new drummer Eric Puente to America at a home-town gig at the Towne Crier, Pawling, NY. The story is that Tony Zuzulo, the band's original drummer and one of the founding members, is taking a leave of absence from the band, the length of which no one knows (including, probably, Tony himself). We heard that Tony is living off the grid in the wilds of northern Slambovia. Eric is a friend of Tony's and a long-time friend of the entire band, and is a hardworking and, if this night is any indication, enthusiastic and exciting addition to the band. Although we fans miss Tony, we welcome Eric sincerely and wish him all the best during his stay in the band, whether it's permanent or not. There's really no such thing as permanent in a band, anyway; we're just glad the mystery of what the band were going to do without Tony has been solved. You can read more about Eric at

The last Circus concert in this country was on January 15 in Vermont (my review of it is here). During what the band called their "hiatus" Joziah and Sharkey produced a Broadway children's musical, in which Eric performed in the band. Joziah said they actually wound up working harder during the "hiatus" than they usually do when they are touring. He said the band are working on a new album to be called Box of Everything and that he himself is working on a solo album, to consist of songs that the other band members say they are not interested in recording. However, the band have actually taken to performing some of these new songs live. Are these songs too weird even for this band? Time will tell. They did perform one Joziah "solo" song, "Very Unusual Head," a weird mixture of early Syd Barrett spaciness with the cheerfulness of a children's song. They also performed two new band songs, the brand new "Box of Everything" (scroll up for the link to a video) and "She's Not Ready," which Joziah said he wrote based on his experience of meeting Tink and immediately wanting to marry her, and that Tink wasn't ready (the audience awwwwed at how romantic that was).

The band has a new look, if you ask me. Not only is the drummer an entirely different person, but Joziah and Sharkey have both changed their personal looks dramatically with new hair styles. Joziah's hair is much shorter, his beard has lost its long fu manchu styling, and he has eschewed his traditional bowler hat. Sharkey's hair shows the effects of his early-hiatus haircut, and you can see his face better than you used to, so I think I like it. Only Tink hasn't changed anything about her appearance.

The show was opened by Higher Animals, the band fronted by the Longo children, Mimi and Orien, and including bass player Robert Muller and drummer Alejandro Leon. They played three songs, all of which were very enjoyable, and they were well received by the audience. They are working on their first album, and many concertgoers contributed to a tip jar to help finance recording time. All three songs were Mimi lead vocals (although I am told Orien also does lead vocals). Mimi has a powerful and melodic voice, and she looks exactly like a younger and dark-haired Tink.

The venue is easy to find on Rte. 22 just a few miles off Interstate 84, with a big parking lot and a fake cactus out front. The decor inside is faux-Native American/Southwest, which seems odd for a place with the distinctly Colonial-New-England name of "town crier." Concert Going Partner and I had made a dinner reservation for 5:30, at which time the band were still sound checking, so we were permitted to wait in the adjoining lounge to get out of the 90+ degree heat. Once seated, we ordered excellent overstuffed burritoes from the extensive menu, but chose not to indulge in the admittedly wonderful-looking desserts.

The four members of the Circus were definitely in a good frame of mind. They played several improv numbers from the rock 'n' roll songbook that is lodged inside Joziah's mind. These included an actually very good version of "Blue Suede Shoes"; Joziah started the song, Eric jumped right on a simple drum beat, Sharkey jumped right in with some guitar fills that were so good he made you think he'd rehearsed, and Tink jumped in with plucking the strings of her cello as if it were an upright bass. Joziah also engaged the audience with comfortable humorous banter; he explained the absence of the hat by saying Arlo wanted it back ("you new people have no idea what I'm talking about") and twice, when first Tink, then Sharkey, whispered something in his ear, he said that he had just been told that they had to go home now.

The actual set list consisted of the three new songs mentioned above and many familiar songs. When they played "Very Happy Now," Tink wanted to know if anyone in the audience knew which Donovan song inspired it. The answer turns out to be "Epistle to Dippy," and if you pull out your old Donovan LPs and listen, you'll notice a strong musical similarity.

The final encore was a nugget from the depths of the Slambovian catalog, the song "Alligators" which appears only on an obscure live release, and was revived during their recent U.K. tour. This song, with its "see-you-later alligator" theme, makes it impossible to play another encore; but I predict it won't last long as a final encore song, since it has none of the qualities one looks for in a final song (upbeat, leaving the audience with a smile on their face, or at least familiar to most of the audience).

So, the Circus is back in town, and it's party time in Slambovia.

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