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Any musical group with the name the Slambovian Circus of Dreams might be difficult to define or pigeonhole into a convenient genre.
Back in their early days more than 30 years ago, the six-piece band originally called The Ancestors, confounded some of the recording labels who were interested in signing them to a deal. They actually changed the band’s name to Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams, hoping they would become less attractive to the record companies.
The three founding members, Joziah Longo, Tink Lloyd and Sharkey McEwen insisted on playing to their own beat.
Instead, they moved out of New York City and into the Hudson Valley, and found their niche after crossing paths with the late folk legend Pete Seeger, who lived 10 minutes from them in Beacon, and the people from Clearwater. They performed at the organization’s two-day festival on the river multiple times.
“We did really well. People were responding to us in the folk medium somehow, and Toshi and Pete, we always had a tremendous love for them and they kind of (got) us into environmentalism,” said Longo. “We weren’t so smart about that stuff and we’ve been doing things with Clearwater since those early days.”
On Saturday evening, the three original members will be performing one of a few annual unplugged concerts as part of the Walkabout Clearwater Chorus & Coffeehouse series at the Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation in White Plains. Those who take in the show, will see a broad range of musical styles on display.
“We’re kind of at the trippy end of Americana, kind of at the trippy end of what The Beatles were doing around Sgt. Pepper, a little Dylan-esque,” explained Longo, the lead guitarist and vocalist for Slambovian Circus.
“It’s nice. We have a lot of different kinds of music, so it’s all kind of pulled into the mix,” he added.
He will be joined by Lloyd, a classically trained flutist in her youth, who has also included accordion, cello and mandolin into her repertoire. McEwen will be on guitar.
Lloyd said in the 1980s, with the heavy synthesizer sound, the group gravitated to the coffeehouse scene, and found their home with the likes of Seeger and Dar Williams and many others. It was in Westchester where they felt they found a home.
“There was big support in Westchester for the singer/songwriter thing,” Lloyd said. “We would just plug into that and we would just go into the place with my accordion and a drummer and three or four pieces and we’d play these open mics, and then it was just the timing of things.”
For the past three decades the Slambovian Circus has been performing in venues both large and small, including at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in Goshen, Conn. where they will once again appear this year in early August, Longo said.
For Longo, music has been in his blood since childhood. Both his father and grandfather would play the bar circuit in and around Philadelphia where he grew up.
For the past 30 years, the band has been their day job, he said.
Part of the group’s lasting appeal has likely been the members’ ability to continue evolving, listening to new sounds and searching for new ways of performing, Longo said.
“We’re always adjusting the music that we have, and even through our kids, we’ve heard a lot of new music over time,” Longo explained. “I think it’s really important to hit the reset button on yourself all the time to renew yourself. So we’re always adjusting things. But we don’t follow trends. We never did.”
Saturday’s unplugged concert is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 468 Rosedale Ave. in White Plains. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/