The name of Americana band Slambovian Circus of Dreams dawned on Joziah Longo while meandering through a forest in Sleepy Hollow bordering a cemetery.
“I’m strange looking. I look like the guy that would wander in a graveyard,” said Longo, who triples as the band’s lead singer, songwriter and guitarist. “But it’s right behind where the Van Tassels are buried and all the Washington Irving-type of people that he used in his stories … and I’m a storyteller … a tall taleteller.”
With song titles like “Flapjacks from the Sky” and “Trans-Slambovian Bipolar Express,” storytelling is a touchstone of sorts for the band. Its sound blurs folk with pop rock, with a splash of country.
“Honestly, we were kind of on the front edge of Americana music,” Longo said, recalling the band’s evolution from edgy rockers to folksy artists in the late ’90s.
On Saturday, Oct. 27, the group celebrates its 20th anniversary at Irvington Town Hall Theater, 85 Main St., in its Grand Slambovian Halloween Ball. In 1998, the band — then called Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams — played its debut concert at Hammond House in Valhalla on Halloween night.
The funky title was “a goof,” Longo said, an amalgamation of the thoughts swirling around in his head. Gandalf was a reference to the iconic “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Murphy a nod to his primarily Irish hometown in Philadelphia, and Slambovia a riff on the term “slammin’.” “People used to say slammin’ back in those days, so I used to say that’s slambovian,” Longo said.
He jotted the name down on an index card and ran it back to his band mates. “Everybody laughed at the name, but we thought, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s try it,’” he said.
Within weeks, the band was racking up gigs in New York City and Westchester and was even featured in The New York Times. They toured along the east coast and California, and embarked on three U.K. tours a year.
Band members include Longo, a resident of Cold Spring; Sharkey McEwen, who plays guitar and mandolin; Tink Lloyd, also of Cold Spring, on accordion and cello; Felipe Torres, drums and percussion and Bob Torsello on bass.
At the Irvington gig, the band will also be joined by celebrated guitarist Gary Lucas. Called “a modern guitar miracle” by Rolling Stone, Lucas will pluck along to several of the band’s biggest tunes, as well as film projections of the 1931 Spanish language adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.”
The concert will also include a costume contest based on the theme “Legends of Sleepy Hollow.” Attendees are encouraged to don their best Headless Horseman, Rip Van Winkle and skeleton threads channeling the spooky genius of Washington Irving, best known for “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”
“Immortal Jellyfish of Slambovia” — fan-made umbrellas using lights and long, flowing tassels to resemble jellyfish — will also be out in full force.
The program will span the group’s biggest hits, songs off its upcoming album “A Very Unusual Head,” which debuts in spring 2019, and cult classics like the 1956 hit “I Put a Spell on You,” written and composed by Jalacy “Screamin’ Jay” Hawkins.
“Our fans always know we have a bit of a fantastical side,” said Lloyd, “and Halloween is a … fantastical time for people. That’s what this night will be.”
Longo will dress as a mythical “Storm King,” reminiscent of the Hudson Valley’s Storm King Mountain, and Lloyd is considering a river spirit or a Wiccan.
“There’s a lot of spooky history in the Hudson Valley,” she said. “We’re hoping people will tap whatever legend they’re feeling that night and come on down.”
Tickets are $27; available at tinyurl.com/IrvingtonHalloweenBall or by calling the box office at 591-6602.