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Monday, January 29, 2007

Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams

The Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams concert this past Saturday in Muskegon, Michigan was flippin’ amazing. We forgot the tickets (oops) so we got there around 7:25, planning on getting that figured out and maybe catching some of the sound check. Turns out that they moved the time of the concert to 7:30 …still not sure how we hadn’t found that out. They’d also switched it to General Admission because of something with the season ticket holders for the venue. It was a sold out show and the only seats left were smack in the front row …OK. Didn’t phase us in the slightest, since we’re used to getting up close and personal with them (I wish …). Chen (Bass) saw us from the wings and waved and scooted off, then when the band came on Sharkey (Guitar/Mandolin/Vocals) looked down at us and just laughed.

They were on FIRE Saturday night. I guess the show at the folk festival was amazing and it fired them up for the next day, then add walking out to a sold out show and they were HOT.

Josiah (Lead/guitar/mandolin) was in fabulous ramble form. He was really into the spirit of play, the child inside seemed to want to burst out of him, and we were lucky enough to witness it. I think Josiah’s playfulness really flowed through to the rest of the band. Since we were so close to them being in the front row, we could hear that their monitors were picking up a local radio station between songs. I don’t think that anyone else in the audience could hear it though. Tink (Flute/Cello/Accordion/Theramin) mentioned it a couple of times, and they launched into “I Got You, Babe” along with the radio. Everyone in the audience was singing with them, and Sharkey was laughing so hard I’m surprised that he could sing. When we all got done screaming and applauding, Tink mentioned that they’d never done that one before. The next song was another from the radio, so we got an awesome bonus!

Tony (Percussion) just jammed out. I don’t think that there is an ounce of that man’s body that isn’t in tune with all of the rhythms around him. Watching Tony play is always like watching poetry, but never quite so much as on Saturday night, it just seemed to flow out of him.

There’s a voice with no name in the band …well, other than Gibson. Sharkey plays in such a way that the guitar actually sings. In trying to explain the concert to a friend, and the passion that he puts into the music, the only word I could come up with (and I had to make it up at that) was that his style is “Hendrixian,” and I don’t use Jimi’s name lightly. His talent is such that he makes it look effortless as his hands fly up and down the strings. Like with Tony, the give and take of the music as each instrument came to the fore, and then flowed back to support, was seamless. I really have a hard time when watching them, as opposed to just listening sometimes, because I can’t decide if I want to watch Tony or Sharkey, as they just seem to be so in sync. For this show, during the second set I scooted over so that I was sitting smack center stage, and I could really get to watch them both. I was just riveted, the way that the instruments communicate with each other.

Tink was rockin’ out at this show. Anyone who thinks that you can’t jam on an accordion or cello has never watched Tink play. The inherent talent inside this magical woman is stunning. The love of the music and playing shines from her, and it was so much fun to watch her really interact with the audience and have her share in our joy.

Chen was full of mischief, like his Dad, on Saturday. I got a great picture of Chen, Sharkey and Josiah together during the final encore. At one point when the radio was inspiring them *g* I really thought that he and Sharkey were about to start headbanging or hair flipping! They all have such joy in being together. I was talking to Josiah in December about Chen, and it struck me again at the Muskegon show, just how amazingly talented this young man is. At the time I didn’t know that he was Josiah and Tink’s son, but I don’t think I would have said anything any differently. I am so excited to watch Chen grow as a performer and a musician. He’s got this wonderful ethereal quality from his Mother, and that playful quality that shines through from his Father, and all that ability and raw talent dumped in from them both.

Musically, the show was absolutely spectacular, but was really only part of it. The Spirit of these people, the love that they have for each other and for their audience is what has us all coming back and driving all over the country to see them. It’s that moment when they finish the show and Tony comes over and gives us all hugs and calls us by name. It’s when Sharkey makes a beeline for the teenagers and talks to them about music, or takes the kids up to the stage and shows them chords or what the pedals do (I’m gonna have to eavesdrop on that next show …), or ruffles a kid’s hair. It’s when Josiah’s face lights up when he sees you, and kisses your cheek, or when Tink takes time to talk with you when she’s running the Merchandise table even though she’s super busy. It’s the smile that Chen gets when he sees how his Dad looks at his Mom. They’re the kind of people that you can’t believe you have to part company with. You feel like they should be a part of your life every day, and their music is, but them …there’s a bit that’s empty in us when we know we won’t see good friends again for a few months, that’s how it is with the Circus.

So yeah, that was our Saturday night. I had friends that couldn’t believe that I was going to travel 3+ hours and spend the night to hear someone that they’d never heard of in concert. Maybe I’ll get them to come with when I go to the Strawberry Music Festival in Yosemite in May. *g*

Thanks so much, you beautiful Slambovians, for helping the Child in all of us remember how to play.

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