On Stage: Slambovian Circus of Dreams comes to Ardmore

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Slambovian Circus of Dreams

There is no lack of things to do when Fourth of July Weekend arrives.

Options include long weekend getaways to vacation destinations, fireworks displays and holiday picnics with family and friends.

This year, there is another option – a really good option for music fans.

On July 1, the Slambovian Circus of Dreams will be setting off musical fireworks with a show at Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, https://ardmoremusichall.com.)

The Slambovian Circus of Dreams — Joziah Longo (guitars, vocals, harmonica), Tink Lloyd (accordion, cello, flute, mandolin), Sharkey McEwen (guitars, slide mandolin, backing vocals), RJ McCarty (keys, bass, sax, banjo, backing vocals), Matthew Abourezk (drums) — is no stranger to area fans.

Music fans are invited to explore the depths of Americana “one trippy tune at a time” when the Slambovian Circus of Dreams takes the stage at Ardmore Music Hall. Voted Chronogram Magazine’s “Best Band of 2022” for their rootsy rocking psychedelia, the Slambovians’ deep connection with audiences and exciting live shows are legendary.

For more than two decades, the multi-genre band has been performing at various venues around the area including the Philadelphia Folk Festival, The Point, the Sellersville Theater and World Café Live.

The show this Saturday night will feature some “firsts” and “some “lasts.” It will be the first time for the Slambovians to perform at the club along Philly’s Main Line.

It will also be the first Philadelphia-area concert to celebrate the band’s release of “A Very Unusual Head,” which came out in 2022 and received rave reviews. The show on July 1 will also be the band’s last show on the support tour for the new album.

“We toured the album a lot last year,” said Lloyd. “We did a tour of the U.K. as well as concert and festival shows in the states. This will be the final show focusing on ‘A Very Unusual Head.’

“This is the first time we’ve played the Philly area in a long time. A while back we played the XPonential festival and also the Philadelphia Folk Festival.

This is also a rare warm weather appearance by the Slambovian Circus of Dreams. The band has a long-standing tradition of playing a New Year’s Eve Eve concert at the World Café Live on December 30 each year. Ironically, the show in Ardmore takes place right before a major holiday.

“A Very Unusual Head,” which is the band’s sixth studio album, was released January 21, 2022, on their new label, Storm King Records. During the summer, the Slambovian Circus of Dreams had a very successful European tour.

“We did 17 shows in three weeks,” said Lloyd. “It was killer. We’ve never been on anything as intense before. We killed it overseas. We played the Fairport Convention’s Copredy Convention in Banbury and were named the ‘fans favorites,’ and the Wickham Festival in Wickham with the Waterboys headlining.

“We played all over – including Cubley Hall in Penistone and the Colchester Arts Center in Colchester. It was a great tour, and we can’t wait to go back over again.”

“A Very Unusual Head” was recorded over the last four years in five studios and two countries. The album is a step away from the guitar-based Americana vibe heard on their previous albums.

“A Very Unusual Head” is a real Slambovian tribal project with contributions from many friends and a few “special guests” such as Dar Williams, Anthony Thistlethwaite (The Waterboys), Kolson Pickard (Tall Heights, Pico Romanesque), drummer Felipe Torres (protege of Carmine Appice and sideman for Davey Jones), drummer Matt Abourezk (Thin White Rope) and Tristan Tadin (keyboards).

Canadian engineer Dio Tadin (Tristan’s father) recorded the bulk of the album on a former reindeer farm near Peterborough, Ontario and at Big Blue in Cornwall, New York. Tadin’s resume includes work at Daniel Lanois’ studio in Hamilton, Ontario.

“We recorded two-thirds of the album in 2018,” said Lloyd. “We got half of it mixed and then COVID hit. “We released ‘Beez’ as a single and made an EP that was only sold at our U.K. tour.

“Last spring, we pulled together all the tracks recorded over the last five years. We did a lot of work with Dio Tadin in Peterborough, Ontario. Then, the Tadins moved their studio (Big Blue) to Cornwall, New York – which is near us. We finished making the album there.”

Inspired by the Surrealists and early British Psychedelia and the paths they pioneered, the songs on the album deal with topics ranging from the pseudo-scientific to the pseudo-religious realms and other forms of hob-nobbery for fun and profit.

The diverse album has a song about Stephen Hawking (“Force of Nature”), the planets (“Pluto”) and an inspirational song about the importance of bees in the ecosystem (“Beez (I Know Where the Beez Have Gone”).”

According to Longo, “‘A Very Unusual Head’ is dedicated to all the people who find themselves having to function in spectrums outside the accepted norms. Here’s to you… Good luck everybody!”

As always, the Slambovians’ songs feature great instrumentals accompanied by lyrics that are intelligent, socially aware, witty and mindful. Longo is a modern-day troubadour bringing a message to the people of 2023.

The new album displays many of the band’s influences — Beatles, Bowie, Incredible String Band, Syd Barrett, Brahms and The Waterboys…along with a good measure of Woodstock-era psychedelia.

The Slambovian Circus of Dreams has a deep connection with Philadelphia and its multi-national vibe.

“Joziah is a native son of Philadelphia,” said Lloyd. “He grew up in South Philly where there is a string band that Joziah played in with his father.”

Longo is a true Philly boy 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.

“Joziah comes from a part of the city where there are a lot of Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans – and a really old Swedish church,” said Lloyd. “His Italian uncles learned how to play music from the Irish immigrants. His parents actually met at an event at Gloria Dei Old Swede’s Church.”

The Slambovian Circus of Dreams 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 Murphy part. It made it easier to fit the name on marquees.”

Video link for the Slambovian Circus of Dreams – https://youtu.be/nSO17Vak7bQ.

The show on July 1 at Ardmore Music Hall will start at 8 p.m.

Ticket prices start at $20.

The Met (858 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, http://themetphilly.com) is rocking the holiday weekend with a pair of great shows on June 30 and July 1.

Friday’s headliner will be Yungblud with the Regrettes and Sophie Powers as the opening acts.

Dream Theater

On Saturday night, Dream Theater will be bringing its “Dreamsonic 2023 Tour” to the venue in Philly. The tour’s openers are Devin Townsend and Animals as Leaders.

This is the first run of the Dreamsonic brand, and the band is hoping this turns into an annual prog-music extravaganza possibly with a rotating lineup.

Originally named Majesty by Berklee College of Music students John Petrucci, bassist John Myung, and drummer Mike Portnoy,

Dream Theater is an American progressive metal band formed in 1985 under the name Majesty by John Petrucci, John Myung and Mike Portnoy — all natives of Long Island, New York — while they attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.

The band soon expanded with the addition of keyboard player Kevin Moore and vocalist Chris Collins. Releasing an eight-tune demo, Majesty Demo, as Majesty, the group sold 1,000 copies within six months. The departure of Collins in late 1986 left Majesty without a vocalist, and after a long period of auditioning possible replacements, the group settled on Charlie Dominici in November 1987.

They subsequently dropped out of their studies to concentrate further on the band that would eventually become Dream Theater.

Changing its name, the group agreed on Dream Theater, inspired by a now-demolished California movie theater. Signing with Mechanic Records, the group began working on its first full-length album. Delays caused by label mismanagement limited the group to performing at small clubs and bars. Frustrated by its experiences with the label, Dream Theater finally severed its ties with Mechanic.

Their current lineup consists of Petrucci, Myung, vocalist James LaBrie, keyboardist Jordan Rudess and drummer Mike Mangini.

Dream Theater released its debut album, “When Dream and Day Unite,” in 1989 and followed with “Images and Words” (1992), “Awake” (1994), “Falling into Infinity” (1997), and “Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory” (1999).

The band has released 10 albums since the turn of the century. The most recent Dream Theater albums are “Distance Over Time,” which came out in 2019 and “A View from the Top of the World,” which was released in 2021.

“A View from the Top of the World” was released to worldwide acclaim. The album shot to #1 on the iTunes Store Top Albums Metal chart, #1 on the Top Rock Albums and even reached #4 on All Genres iTunes Top Albums on release day. The new release hit #2 on the Amazon Best Sellers in Rock (CD format) topped only by The Beatles reissue of “Let It Be.” “A View From The Top Of The World” also garnered the group their first ever Grammy win, clinching Best Metal Performance for “The Alien” in April 2022.

The “Dreamsonic 2023 Tour,” which is already underway, will conclude on July 26 in Phoenix, Arizona. The tour’s band lineup is constant from start to finish.

“We wanted to do touring this summer and we wanted to do something that was fun for us and fun for our fans,” said Rudess, during a recent phone interview from his home in New York City.

“On the bus on our last European tour, we were naming bands that we’d like to have on tour with us. We did a European tour and Devin Townsend supported us. We also did some shows with Animals as Leaders. We wanted to find bands that would be different from us and yet at the same time, appeal to our fans.

“Animals as Leaders is an instrumental band whose music borders on fusion. Devin Townsend is an amazing artist. His music ranges from metal to symphonic ballads.

“This tour is a six-week tour from coast-to-coast. We’re playing around 90 minutes in our set.”

When “A View from the Top of the World” was released in 2021 and was supported by five singles, “The Alien,” “Invisible Monster,” “Awaken the Master,” “Transcending Time” and “Answering the Call,” with music videos released for each of them.

The band promoted the album with a concert tour of Europe from April to June in 2022. They had previously announced a tour of North America from late October to mid-December 2021 but announced on September that it had been rescheduled to early 2022, due to safety concerns related to the COVID pandemic The rescheduled tour began in February 2022 in Mesa, Arizona.

“Technically, the support tour for ‘A View from the Top of the World’ is over,” said Rudess. “We played the title song for the last time in Asia. But we still play some other songs from our last album in our current set.

“The last album was recorded during the pandemic. We have our own studio – DTHQ – so we figured out how to do it during COVID. We really like to play together, and we found a comfortable way to do it.”

There is a new album coming sometime in the future, but no timeline has been set.

“We haven’t started working on new stuff yet,” said Rudess. “While on this tour, we’ll probably discuss what we want to do and then get back in the studio after a break. We do most of the writing in the studio. We move pretty quickly.

“The end of July will be the end of our world touring cycle. We are a working band, so we’ll do the next album, get it out and then head out on the tour that follows.”

Obviously, this is a model that works for Dream Theater – especially considering the band has been together for just under 40 years and has released 15 studio albums along with a bootleg series featuring more than 25 albums.

Video link for Dream Theater – https://youtu.be/xg4eAv63BXQ.

The show at The Met will start at 7 p.m.

Ticket prices start at $28.

Sandwiched between Independence Day and the first post-holiday weekend is opening night for the hit show “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” which is being presented by Kimmel Cultural Campus (250 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, www.kimmelculturalcampus.org) and The Shubert Organization.

The show, which is making its Philadelphia debut, announced that “Kimmel Cultural Campus and The Shubert Organization was initially scheduled to run from July 5-30 at the Academy of Music. However, yesterday the presenters issued this announcement, “Due to scheduling changes with national tour routing, the run of “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” is running now July 5-23.

The lively musical takes place in a world of splendor and romance, of eye-popping excess, of glitz, grandeur, and glory. It is a world where Bohemians and aristocrats rub elbows and revel in electrifying enchantment.

Part of the 2022-23 Broadway series, this larger-than-life musical tells the story of star-crossed lovers who fall in love at the Moulin Rouge, a place where Bohemians and aristocrats rub elbows while relishing the electrifying entertainment.

The Moulin Rouge of Paris is a dazzling and spectacular universe, the symbol of the Parisian way of celebrating since 1889. Starting life as a popular cabaret and dance hall, the venue became an iconic music hall in the Roaring Twenties and then a theatre where numerous famous French and international artistes stepped out into the limelight.

The audience can dive into the world of celebrating truth, beauty, freedom, and most importantly, love, as this musical-remix extravaganza comes to life in front of your eyes. “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” is more than just a musical, it’s a state of mind.

Video link for “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” — https://youtu.be/kRYamIZWK-M.

“Moulin Rouge! The Musical” is running now through July 23 at the Academy of Music.

Ticket prices start at $20.

There is another option for theater fans.

The play “Lettie” had its premiere in Chicago in 2017. The show received rave reviews and appeared destined to have a long and successful run on Broadway. Then, COVID-19 changed all that – a pandemic that closed everything down.

When the original production ran at the Victory Playhouse in Chicago, Broadway World described the show as “profoundly heartbreaking and brilliantly conceived.”

Variety magazine offered this description – “‘Lettie,’ a family drama about a woman emerging from prison and addiction with a desire to reclaim the teenage kids who have barely seen her in seven years, is that rare play that manages to be both pessimistic and hopeful, with a central character simultaneously deeply sympathetic and infuriating.”

Now, “Lettie” is coming back to life and is being staged in various cities around the United States.

Now through July 13, Malvern-based theatre People’s Light (39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, www.peopleslight.org) is presenting the regional premiere of “Lettie,” which was written by Boo Killebrew.

The play opens with Lettie, a woman in her mid-30s, being released from prison after serving a seven-year sentence. Now trying to put her life back together, Lettie is living at Spring House, a halfway house for ex-cons, and she’s enrolled in a training program to become a welder.

Lettie has two teenaged children who have been in the care of her sister Carla and Carla’s husband, Frank. Lettie hasn’t seen her kids for years and is eager to reconnect with them, but Carla and Frank are wary.

The couple are uptight Christians. They had to clean up Lettie’s mess when she was addicted to drugs, and they do not trust Lettie’s competence as a mother.

Lettie’s daughter Layla is an effervescent 14-year-old who is a top academic student – and a drama queen. Her son River, who is 17, is a moody record collector and aspiring producer. Layla wants to re-engage with her mom while River wants nothing to do with Lettie.

Lettie makes a friend at her work – Minny, also an ex-con who is struggling to get her life back together.

“There is not an unhappy ending – and not a happy ending,” said director Abigail Adams during a phone interview last week from her home in Swarthmore. “It gives the audience a lot to think about.

“Zak (Berkman) gave it to me, and I read it. This is only the second production I read in years. I sent it back to Zack to read and then we agreed to do the show.”

Zak Berkman is the Producing Artistic Director at People’s Light. Adams is Senior Director of Special Projects and Executive Artistic Director Emerita at People’s Light.

Adams has been associated with People’s Light for over 40 years, serving as artistic leader for over two decades and chief executive for the past 10 years. Adams has directed more than sixty plays at People’s Light, including “The Children” and “Our Town.”

She established the New Voices Ensemble at People’s Light in 1990, which received the White House Coming up Taller Award in 2000. Adams served for 10 years on the faculty of Swarthmore College and has also taught at New York University, Bryn Mawr College, Carnegie Mellon University, and The Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario. She holds an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Ursinus College.

“Two things I liked were the ambiguity and the lack of stereotypes in all the characters,” said Adams. “There is a lot of room the playwright has given to individual actors.”

The play was written by Boo Killebrew, a notable playwright, actress, and TV writer for the hit Emmy Award-nominated Netflix series, “Longmire.” Her work as playwright has been presented at theatres around the United States, including The Roundabout Theatre in New York City, Boston Playwright’s Theatre, and Portland Center Stage.

“There are six actors, and they are all well-developed,” said Adams. “These characters defy the stereotype. Lettie is a character who gts in her own way all the time. She’s a very difficult person.”

The story is set in 2017. It started in late winter and ends eight months later around Thanksgiving.

“This is just a good story,” said Adams, who grew up in Media and graduated from Penncrest High. “It’s engrossing.

“One of the themes is – how do you recover lost time…especially with kids and the time you didn’t have with them. The play explores that. You don’t recover – but you can start again. Lettie is the story line. She’s in every scene.”

This production also features strong acting by Danielle Skraastad (Lettie), Kevin Bergen (Frank), Melanye Finister (Minny), Teri Lamm (Carla), Bryanna Martinez-Jimenez (Layla) and Jacob Orr (River).

“This play really does have great writing,” said Adama. “All of the characters are developed so well.”

“Lettie” is running now through July 13 at People’s Light’s Steinbright Stage, an intimate, flexible 140-seat theatre.

Ticket prices start at $47.

King Of Prussia’s live outdoor music series Concerts Under the Stars (Upper Merion Township Building Park, West Valley Forge Road, King of Prussia, concertsunderthestarskop.com) returned to Upper Merion Township Building Park for its 37th season back in May. The summer-long concerts will include live music for all ages, a beer garden featuring local craft brews and cocktails and local food truck options. Events will take place from 7-10 p.m. on select weeknights and 6-9 p.m. on select Sundays.

Concerts Under the Stars will be co-presented by Upper Merion Township and Rising Sun Presents – the event producers at venues including Ardmore Music Hall, Underground Arts, MilkBoy Philly and 118 North.

Upcoming shows in the 2023 Concerts Under the Stars series are Madison Cunningham with Craig Bickhardt Friends & Family on July 1, Unforgettable Fire (U2 tribute) on July 7, Keller Williams and KellerGrass ft. The HillBenders on July 16, Lisa Loeb on July 22, Tommy Conwell & The House Rockers with Soraia on July 28, Don McCloskey and Hoots & Hellmouth on August 5, Donna the Buffalo on August 12, Start Making Sense (Talking Heads tribute), Al Stewart & The Empty Pockets on August 26, Splintered Sunlight (Grateful Dead Tribute) on September 2, and Easy Star All‐Stars on September 16.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present Bella’s Bartok with special guests Strays & Misfits on June 29, Guy Clark on June 30 and the Davide Pannozzo Trio on July 1.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985,www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) is a prime destination to hear folk, jazz and blues music every Thursday through Sunday.

This weekend, Jamey’s House of Music will present HuDost on June 30 and Bobby Messano on July 1.

The “Jazz at Jamey’s” on Thursdays and the “Sunday Blues Brunch & Jam” are regular features on Jamey’s calendar while Friday and Saturday night shows feature national and regional acts.

On June 29, “Jazz at Jamey’s” will feature a performance by Khadijah Renee.

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