On Stage: COVID starting to take toll on live performances again

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

The Slambovian Circus of Dreams

The Mummers Parade is a great Philadelphia tradition which 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 which 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.

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).

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.

Each year, the band treats area fans to a New Year’s Eve Eve show at the World Café Live.

Last year, the tradition was interrupted because of COVID-19.

This year, the tradition was set to resume. The concert was scheduled for December 30 and, as of Monday, more than 70 per cent of the tickets were sold.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus reared its ugly head and struck down the beloved tradition once again.

“The people from the World Café Live just called us this morning,” said Lloyd in a phone call Tuesday morning. “It seems a band that just played there had COVID and then a few of the staff members at World Café got COVID.

“So, the club has decided to postpone some of the upcoming shows just to be safe. Our show will be rescheduled sometime in March.”

Bright news for the fans is that the show hasn’t been cancelled. More good news is that on January 21, 2022, the band will be releasing a new album, “A Very Unusual Head.”

Recorded over the last four years in five studios and two countries, the album is a real Slambovian tribal project with contributions from many friends and a few “special guests.”

“We’re really disappointed that the New Year’s Eve show won’t be happening,” said Lloyd. “But, we’ll be back soon and the show will be a CD release celebration.”

On the Slambovian Circus of Dreams’ website, the following message was posted on Tuesday –

“Attention World Cafe ticket holders! Due to the rapid rise of Omicron in Philly, World Cafe has asked us to reschedule our New Year’s Eve Eve show. We’re bummed to miss you on Thursday but the good news is that we’ll make the new date a record release show so we can all celebrate the new release together, Philly style!

“Stay tuned for info on rescheduled date, ticket info, etc. Your 12/30 tickets will likely just hold over – we’ll let you know all those details as we land them in the next couple days. Wanted to reach out this morning, as we know many of you may need to adjust travel plans.”

On Wednesday afternoon, the World Café Live announced that the Slambovian Circus of Dreams show has been rescheduled for March 3.

The venue also postponed a show that was scheduled for December 30 at the Upstairs Lounge featuring Beach Fuzz, Gabi Gamberg and Lizdelise has been rescheduled for March 29.

Gov’t Mule

A similar thing happened to another Philadelphia show this week – Gov’t Mule’s show at The Met (858 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, http://themetphilly.com).

This message was just posted on the Gov’t Mule website –

“NEW YEAR’S RUN RESCHEDULED

“With the recent spike in new cases as a result of the Omicron variant, we’ve made what we feel is the only safe decision for us and our fans: to postpone our New Year’s Run. The health and safety of our fans, crew and all involved in making these shows happen is always our top priority. We don’t want any of our crew or fans to risk possibly getting sick nor would we want anyone missing out because they feel the right decision for them is to stay home.

“Fortunately, we’ve been able to reschedule the dates as follows: April 8, Beacon Theatre New York, NY (12/30/2021 Tickets Honored); April 9, Beacon Theatre New York, NY (12/31/2021 Tickets Honored); April 14, The Met Philadelphia, PA (12/29/2021 Tickets Honored).

“We’ve always approached our New Year’s runs as a very special set of shows, and these shows in April will be no different.

Stay safe, happy holidays, and we’ll see you all in 2022.”

Gov’t Mule is one of the most revered bands in the jam band scene – and one of the longest-running. The band got its start in the early 1990s and is still going strong.

Like the Slambovians, Gov’t Mule was celebrating a new album – “Heavy Load Blues,” which was released November 12 on Fantasy Records.

The Met will still host Bert Kreischer on December 31. The 8 p.m. show on New Years Eve is sold out but a 10 p.m. show has been added and tickets are available.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) also has posted a last-minute schedule alteration.

The Swift Technique’s 10:30 p.m. New Year’s Eve show has been postponed with a new date TBA.

The theater still has two shows scheduled for December 31. AM Radio will perform concerts at 2 and 7 p.m.

AM Radio Tribute Band

AM Radio Tribute Band, which is the brainchild of Su Teears and Kevin Burk is exactly what its name implies.

“We play songs mostly from the ’60’s, some from the ’70’s, some older stuff like the Ronettes,” said Teears, during a phone interview from her home in King of Prussia. “We also do some stuff from the ’50’s like Bill Haley & the Comets and Elvis.”

Burk, who is a native of King of Prussia and an Upper Merion High grad, said, “We’re normally a six-piece band and sometimes for bigger shows we’re a seven-piece with an added guitar. There are also times when we add a horn section and play as a 10-piece.”
AM Radio Tribute Band got its start exactly six years ago.

“Kevin and I were on a road trip to upstate New York,” said Teears. “As we travelled north, we listened to the radio until we lost our favorite station.”

AM radio covers frequencies from 525-1704 kHz (kilohertz). In the United States, there are clear channel stations which can operate at 50,000 watts 24 hours a day, regional stations which have restrictions on their broadcasting power and local daytime stations with low wattage allowance and limited range.

Listening to regional stations is more difficult. These stations are limited in power and often have directional broadcasting. So, if you exceed your favorite station’s range as you travel, the station fades out and is often replaced by a different regional station.

“When we lost the station we were listening to, we found a station playing all the hits we grew up with,” said Teears. “We toyed with the idea of playing these songs. We started playing them while trying to do things a little left of center.”

Soon, Teears and Burk were assembling a band – a band that became AM Tribute Radio.

The lineup of AM Tribute Radio’s full band features drummer Jimmy Cavanaugh from Norristown, guitarist Danny Eyer (Absecon, N.J.), Bill Sharrow (Collingdale/Spring Mount) vocalist/guitarist Joe Triglia (Lansdale), keyboardist Steve Sauer (Lancaster), Teears (Northeast Philadelphia) and Burk.

“Our first gig was December 2014 at the Bridgeport Ribhouse and we’ve had a stable lineup since then,” said Burk. “Our repertoire now is well over 500 tunes. There is so much to pick from.”

Teears said, “This is the music we grew up with. We’re purists. We try to keep it as close as possible to the original.”

Video link for AM Radio – https://youtu.be/an3eLlSQmIw.

Tickets for AM Radio are $35.

Other upcoming shows at the Sellersville Theater are Live Wire: The Ultimate AC/DC Experience on December 30 at 6 and 9 p.m., and Bill Haley, Jr. and The Comets on January 2 at 2 p.m.

At Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) the New Year’s Eve show featuring Minas and the January 1 show featuring The Philadelphia Jug Band have been “cancelled due to COVID.”

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) just announced that The Gilmour Project show scheduled for January 5 has been cancelled with no rescheduled date (refunds available at point of purchase).

Stomp

The musical stage show “Stomp” will still be making things a lot noisier on South Broad Street.

The energetic and highly percussive show is visiting Philadelphia now through January 2 for a run at the Merriam Theater (250 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-893-1999, www.kimmelculturalcampus.org) as part of the Kimmel Cultural Campus’ Broadway season.

“Stomp” has been visiting the area for more than two decades.

The stage show “Stomp” has its origins in busking, a British custom that dates back hundreds of years and features street performers. The show’s creators Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas updated the tradition and created a theater piece that is very loud and very intense.

The structure is always there but approximately one-quarter of each performance is improvised. The cast of the national tour has the versatility — and the experience with the structure of the show — to keep it fresh and new for every performance.

“Stomp” is not your typical touring stage show.

“Stomp” is a wordless show featuring a 12-member cast with energy to burn — a cast that creates beautiful music and sly humor with found objects such as Zippo lighters, push brooms, wooden poles, hammer handles, garbage cans, inner tubes, matchboxes and even the kitchen sink. It is a journey through sound, a celebration of the everyday and a comic interplay of characters wordlessly communicating through dance and drum.

“Stomp” runs for just over an hour-and-a-half with no intermission. It features non-stop intensity, lot of movement and a whole lot of noise. To get an idea of what’s happening in the show, picture a group of athletic dancers acting like a group of young kids left unsupervised in a kitchen after drinking a 16-ounce glass of Jolt (a soda that pre-dated energy drinks and boasted “all the sugar and twice the caffeine”)

The cast characters are Ringo, Particle Man, Doctor Who, Cornish, Mozzie, Sarge and Potato Head.

Video link for “Stomp” — https://youtu.be/a6X_idq-lyM.

“Stomp” will play the Merriam Theater on December 30 (2 and 7:30 p.m.), December 31 (2 and 7:30 p.m.), January 1 (1 p.m.) and January 2 (6:30 p.m.).

Ticket prices start at $40.

Now through January 2, People’s Light (39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, peopleslight.org) is presenting the world premiere of “A Christmas Carol.”

Unfortunately, all live shows have sold out.

Fortunately, you can stream the filmed version of “A Christmas Carol” from December 23-January 6 for $25.

This version of “A Christmas Carol” is adapted from Charles Dickens by Zak Berkman and features original music by Zak Berkman.

Callous Scrooge, shackled Marley, and the haunting spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future spring vividly to life in this fresh adaptation of a favorite yuletide ghost story.

Featuring a lively mix of original songs and newly arranged 19th-century English carols, this music-infused retelling captures the magic, joy, and generosity of Dickens’ beloved classic.

Each year, the People’s Light holiday show is a panto that transforms a beloved children’s story into a musical extravaganza filled with outrageous characters, toe-tapping original music, slapstick comedy, and topical humor for both kids and adults.

“A Christmas Carol” is not a panto. But it is music-filled, interactive fun for every age — whether you believe in spirits or not.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present “New Year’s Eve with Start Making Sense” with Nik Greeley & The Operators as the opening act.

118 North (118 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, www.118northwayne.com) will host Huffamoose on December 30 and 31 and Chestnut Grove on January 1.

City Winery (990 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, citywinery.com/philadelphia) will have Kindred the Family Soul on December 31 and Allen Stone on January 3.

The Franklin Music Hall (421 North Seventh Street, Philadelphia, http://franklin.musichallphiladelphia.org/) will present Gogol Bordello on December 30.

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