Saturday, January 14, 2012

Gandalf Murphy & the Grand Slambovians Sell Out Tupelo Music Hall 1/13/12

Picture as seen at   
Gandalf Murphy & the Grand Slambovians (AKA Gandalf Murphy & the Slambovian Circus of Dreams) played for a sold out crowd Friday night at the Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry, NH.  The audience was an eclectic mish mash of young and old, many of whom had seen the band several times before.  Despite this being my first time seeing the group live (a Slambovian virgin), it was clear that they had a strong underground following.   That being the case, it was the classic tell-tale mark of a great live show.

Happily settled in my general admission seat in the back of the room with a strong cup of joe, I waited in anticipation for the show to start.  Then the lights went dim, the room lulled, and in walks the psych-rock band taking their positions on stage.  Aesthetically the band members looked as if they were a bunch of crazed carnies that had just fell out of a possum belly nap and landed on stage.  “Alas” I thought to myself, “I have found my people!”

Ringmaster Joziah Longo opened the first set by saying, “We will do our best to entertain you, and take you to a different plane.”  Interestingly, that is exactly what he did.

Tinkering with the setlist to include a variety from their expansive body of work, they played a strong two sets.  Worthy of mention from the first set includes the following songs:

“Windmills” – an emotive and lyrically sobering number with eagle-eye perception.  This hauntingly mellow song was a cry from the marrow of reality.  Joziah Longo’s astute ability for simple phrasing alludes to deeper metaphors.

“Tink (I Know It’s You)” – Joziah Longo introduced this song by saying “Tinker Bell is a very special spirit that will save the world.  Not the Disney Tinker Bell that we all know, but the feminine spirit.”  Naturally, I had to agree with him.  The song was tight (one of my favorites) and was brilliantly executed by Joziah’s harmonica and vocal skills, Sharkey’s slide mandolin, Tink’s accordion rounding off the edges, and Tony in the back keeping a smooth tempo on the drums.  For lack of a better description, they simply nailed this song.

The band took a short break between sets and mingled with the fans.  I was lucky enough to get Tink Lloyd’s autograph.  I also had the opportunity to chat up drummer Tony Zuzulo for several minutes (fiddlesticks, I was shamelessly flirting with the guy!).  We did talk shop for a bit and I asked him if the band played festivals.  He said that they do a lot of festivals in the northeast.  He also said that if I ever get the chance, to check out the Glastonbury music festival in England.  He cautioned, “If you are into hard-core camping, then this festival is for you.”  Sounds right up my alley!

After the break the band rocked out a solid second set starting with a Dylan cover of Subterranean Homesick Blues.  As the die hard Dylan fan that I am, I was not let down!  Other noteworthy songs from the second set included:

“Northern Sea” – a romantic piece with a roving Celtic flare. 

“Baby Jane” - Joziah introduced this song by saying, “Songs are written by the ghosts who haunt them.”  The bittersweet ballad struck a chord with me, and I imagine anyone who has ever experienced a separation of ways with someone.

The last song of the second set was “The Trans-Slambovian Bi-Polar Express,” a catchy tune that was popular with the audience.  Joziah borrowed a wine glass from a fan and started the song with a classic blues bottleneck riff – It was a clever sound that made me envision the big old time steam engines.

After a standing ovation, the band was called back and played one more song, “Invisible”.  It was a wonderful song, with a lot of soul.  The tune was a perfect ending to a great concert.

I left the show satisfied.  I bought three of their cds, and drove home slowly so I could listen to all of them (gotta love the acoustics in cars).  Gandalf Murphy & the Grand Slambovians are a welcome sound in a sea of giant turds mainstream labels are pushing as music.  They transcend mediocrity and are a beacon of hope in an ocean of bad music.  I would also add that while they have a decidedly psychedelic slant, they are most certainly their own special thing.

The Grand Slambovians, Picture, Windmills, Everybody Needs a Change, Happy Now, Pushin’ Up Daisies, Tink (I Know It’s You), Alice in Space, Subterranean Homesick Blues, Northern Sea, Baby Jane, Ravenous Ways, Talking to the Buddha, The Trans-Slambovian Bi-Polar Express, Invisible

Joziah Longo – lead vocals, acoustic guitars, harmonica
Tink Lloyd – accordion, cello, melodica, vocals
Sharkey McEwen – electric, acoustic and slide guitars, mandolin, vocals
Tony Zuzulo – drums

Check out their website here

Ratings (1-5 Stars - 1 being the lowest & 5 being the highest for a total score of 25 points):
Performance: Excellent Live Show! *****
Sound Quality:  Top-Notch *****
Ticket Price: Reasonable $25.00! *****
Venue: Intimate *****
Travel/Parking: Super Easy to Find & Plenty of Parking! *****
Total Score: 25 Points!!!

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