Next up! Spooktacular!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The McLovins now on Archive.org


The McLovins live shows can now be found on Archive.Org! The band have always had a taper friendly policy, and now you can download shows direct from the Internet archive. As of this morning there are 7 of John's matrix mix shows available, a gorgous mix of soundboard recording and additional source mic'ing give a true reprersentation of a live McLovis concert.

The McLovins On Archive.Org

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sully's Pub 09/19/09

“Assurance - the act or action of assuring: as a pledge, guarantee: confidence of mind or manner : easy freedom from self-doubt or uncertainty, something that inspires or tends to inspire confidence .”

This is a pretty apt description of the performance of The McLovins last Saturday night at Sully’s Pub. Seeing the band live at Sully’s always feels like going home, it’s the 4th time I’ve seen them there and I think it’s the 6th time they’ve played the venue, and its intimacy always impresses me. Not a very large room with the stage right in your face, it breaks the barrier between the audience and the performer. I love the power the bands are able to generate here and have come to expect great things and Saturday’s show was no exception.

Due to their drummer not feeling well, Jake was asked to step in and sound check for the head-lining act, The Breakfast. It’s so nice seeing the guys being treated as peers, they exhibit professionalism beyond their years, and the dedication to their music is impressive. As the band started their own sound check, Jordan Giangreco the keyboardist for The Breakfast, remained on stage and for a few brief moments, a nice little jam formed.

Now everything was in place, and the band broke into Deep Monster Trance, a new song inspired by Where the Wild Things Are. Barely a day old at this point, the song is anchored by a rolling rhythm attack, ascending guitar and bass runs that help propel it along. I was so surprised on how fully formed this song already is at this point, the lyrics adding vivid imagery and this is full-on epic psychedelic jam. DMT is a worthy addition to their repertoire and is going to become an audience favorite. Bri brought a chill vibe to the crowd easing them comfortably back down a bit, and then slid effortlessly into the bouncy Virtual Circle. This has become a juggernaut of a song, just savage and clipping along at a furious tempo always tethered by Jake’s unrelenting beat. Jason and Jeff trade licks back and forth between the choruses and really push the song right to the climax. Killing Time continued the aural assault, the band just totally focused on the task at hand, building off each other as the spirals up and out until finally evaporating in a sonic wash of feedback. This song is just a fiend live and is really demonstrative of the bands strengths.

YEM surfaces next, this is a popular selection and the Sully’s crowd responds enthusiastically. The band does a very nice job of stretching this out and making the jam at the end their own. At one time this was a staple for the band and it really focuses on their ability to work with complex rhythms and tempo changes. Now a few months down the road and my opinion is that may have outgrown some of the covers that used to comprise the majority of their show and any of their recent originals stand up just as well as any covers they play. Jake starts counting off Purple Trees and by this time both the band and the audience realize this is a special show. The band is just manhandling the music, showing no fear as they attack each piece and the energy that they are bringing is just phenomenal. This is a textbook show of force and control, no hesitation at all and no loss of focus. During the band intros in the middle of PT, Jake engages the audience and the connection is just alive as they rip through the second half of the song. At one point the members of the band all had their eyes closed, just reacting and acting on what they were hearing, just so tight in the pocket of the jam. After PT they were spent, but as they start to move offstage the crowd urges them on for one more song. The encore is Conundrum, the album title track to their first album and the song that I think is most representative of the album. The song is such a nice cool down, jazzy and breezy then complex and emotional as it drives to a crescendo. This was such a remarkable show, as if it all came together at once, the right band, the right crowd and the right night. Easily one of their best if not the best show I’ve seen them play. The show was bitter-sweet and speaks to the ephemeral nature of the music, no quality audio recording exists. I think there was just a video recording of this performance, so this show now will only live on in the memories of those who were there; this truly was a special night.

Friday, September 18, 2009

DYNNE by The McLovins

Mmmm sweet sound don't leave me now, must make this din so extra loud, from the tick and tock of an old grand-clock, when the doors go creak till the bombs go off, when you're all alone and there is not a sound, or when you listen to the roar of a crowd And you hear them shouting on and on, make this din live on and on

"This is my assistant, the awful DYNNE," said Dr. Dischord. "What is a DYNNE?" asked Milo... "You mean you've never met the awful DYNNE before?" said Dr. Dischord in a surprised tone. "Why, I thought everyone had. When you're playing in your room and making a great amount of noise, what do they tell you to stop?" "That awful din," admitted Milo. "When the neighbors are playing their radio too loud, late at night, what do you wish they'd turn down?" "The awful din," answered Tock. "When the street on your block is being repaired and the pneumatic drills are working all day, what does everyone complain of?" "The dreadful row," volunteered the Humbug brightly. "The dreadful RAUW,' cried the anguished DYNNE, "was my grandfather. He perished in the great silence epidemic of 1712."

Listen now and you can hear all the sound of eternity, laughter screeching whisper breathing, he can cure your sound deficiency

The Soundkeeper, once the benevolent ruler of the Valley, became upset with the lack of appreciation for beautiful sounds and the rise of Dr. Dischord's noises, and she, consequently, locked away all the sounds in her fortress. The blackboard man asks Milo to help by visiting the Soundkeeper and stealing a sound that they can use to destroy the fortress. Milo agrees and, with Tock and the Humbug sets out for the fortress

The sound keeper yelled be quiet but the little boy refused, I’m so glad he refused, made the right choice, so glad he refused, for what is a world with out sound..

"The Phantom Tollbooth © Norton Juster & Jules Feiffer - DYNNE © The McLovins

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Brass City Brew Fest 9/12/09

Looking back a couple days after the fact, this was a very good show for the band. Arriving at the Brewfest about 20 minutes before show time, I noticed a couple things that might beome issues during the performance. The stage was a nice permanent structure, solid concrete and very deep, but during the soundcheck the drums seemed to be under mic’ed a bit and Jake didn’t look like he felt well. The rain of thd day before held off and after a little bit of noodling they launched into the genesis of a new song, a melodic and bouncy jam that had a slightly symphonic feel. This was quite enjoyable and flowed right into Sea Of Wisdom. This song really stretched out, with soaring vocals and firm rhythm, Jeffrey broke out a “Fly Me To The Moon” tease that he repeated during the jam. Guillotine Machine followed and was a slug-fest between Jeff and Jason. I noticed the levels were near perfect, moving 5 feet to the right of center and Jason was thundering, 5 feet to the left and Jeffrey was dominant. They had a very good sound system for the show, Drew the soundman hit all the marks and the sound really shined. Any questions about how Jake felt were answered as Virtual Circle bubbled up, this song is a vocal showcase for Jason and Jake and moves at a breakneck pace with Jake just a blur and yet still fits in with the band’s jammy feel. Jeffrey echoed “My Favorite Things’ teases throughout as the song dissolves.

Dynne started slow and steady, building in fervor but still controlled and firm as it leads into Bri, another soulful song , stout and powerful but still showing restraint as it flows along . Purple Trees begins and live this is a crowd-pleaser and I feel the closest to a traditional single that Conundrum has to offer. The crowd was pretty interesting, its as if the band was playing at the first hour of a 1,000 person, 6 hour keg party. If someone liked the music, they were vocal and made sure the guys knew they were appreciated! They started into Killing Time which is a monster piece, a complex jam that culminates in a fury of feedback and rhythm, I just adore hearing this song. Conundrum climaxed the show, a fitting closer, Conundrum echoes a lot of the musical themes of the album and sums up the set quite nicely. All things considered, the set came off very well, the guys amaze me, nothing phases them, they’re just at ease playing to 20 as playing to hundreds. After the show they talked to some new fans, took some pictures and enjoyed the moment.

Friday, September 11, 2009

“How come that McLovins show sounds so good?” A brief history of concert taping

Today we’re lucky enough to have high quality recordings of concerts as early as hours after the show has ended. Mind you this is a relatively new experience, due to all the improvements in compact recording equipment and the availability of high speed internet connections. Fans can now sit and debate away on the quality of playing or the choice of song lists of any given show as early as the next morning. Bit torrents and music hosting sites have changed the sharing of live music forever.

The recording method of choice now is the “Matrix” mix, which incorporates a blending of a soundboard patch recording with another audience recording, which I feel gives a faithful representation of the show. McLovins fans are blessed with a few very good tapers, Keith who does audience recordings and Dave who I think also makes matrix mixes, but the best recordings in my opinion come from John the Taper. John utilizes a soundboard recording and a set of AKG mics and this gives the ambience of the audience recording with the pure board output sound. His Sully’s pub shows and the BlueBack square show from August are among the nicest sounding live shows I’ve heard in years. Some purists prefer the audience recordings which are much harder I feel to pull off well. Straight audience recordings have more obstacles to overcome, the conditions of the room, wind if it’s an outdoor show, and the screamer or whistler or talker who babbles away during the show. It amazes me when someone sees the mics and still acts like a moron, do they really think that someday they’re going to be sitting down listening to the show and turn to their pal with pride and say “that’s me whistling”? Soundboard recordings offer the truest representation of the music, unfortunately they are almost always clinical sounding and lack any real soul.

The Grateful Dead are the band most responsible for the advent of live taping. As early as the Ken Kessey acid Test shows of 1966, members of the band’s entourage were recording the shows so they could be played back later and analyzed in a clearer light , this led to the explosion in experimentation and improvisation that the band set upon. There then became a need to document the variations in the band’s live performance and stealth recording became the standard in the 1970’s. Many times you would see tapers sneak in taping equipment hidden in wheelchairs or taped to a pair of crutches, there were many ways to stealth tape a show. Finally in 1984 the Dead’s soundman Dan Healy opened up an authorized Taper’s section to allow tapers the chance to get it right and some amazing audience recordings soon followed.

Here’s where I show how old I am getting, I got my first tape trading list from the back pages of Dead Relix as it was called in 1979. It was the “Acme” list of 10 shows, I think I sent off 30 blank maxells and about 3 weeks later got 20 tapes back in the mail. Now there were loose group of traders in the classified ads of Golden Road and Relix, and all you had to do is offer to trade, and somebody would take you up on your offer. The next step in tape trading came with the B&P, where you would send your blank tapes and return postage in a package and some kind person would copy over a show for you. Vines were where someone would send off a show in the mail, you would dupe the cassettes and send them to the next person on the list eventually the interest in the vine would die off and the last person to get it would gift it to someone. All of these trading methods relied on the honor system and for the most part, worked well. This type of trading ran into the late 90’s and early part of this decade with the only real change in the format being from cassette tapes to cd’s. In 2003 the advent of Bit torrent and p2p sharing protocals changed the hobby forever. We now have an embarrassment of riches musically speaking, the choice of a band to be taper friendly seems to do nothing to diminish their music sales. The bands that allow their shows to be tape end up developing a fervent fan base and they allow the connection between themselves and audience to be so much stronger.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Phish - Hartford 08/14/09

Happy happy oh my friend.. blow out candles once again
leave the presents all inside.. take my hand and let's take a ride

Backwards down the number line.. you were eight and I was nine
Do you know what happened then.. do you know why we're still friends

Laughing all these many years.. we've pushed through hardships, tasted tears
We made a promise one to keep.. I can still recite it in my sleep

Every time a birthday comes.. call your friend and sing a song

Or whisper it in to his ears.. or write it down just don't miss a year

You decide what it contains.. how long it goes
but this remains.. the only rule is it begins..
happy happy oh my friend

And all my friends come.. backwards down the number line..
And all my friends come.. backwards down the number line..

You decide what it contains.. how long it goes
but this remains.. the only rule is it begins..
happy happy oh my friend

And all my friends come.. backwards down the number line..
And all my friends come.. backwards down the number line..

Monday, September 7, 2009

Concert Of Hope 05/22/09

This was my first McLovins live show, a week or so before this concert, I had seen the band perform Linus and Lucy from what looked like a battle of the bands on a local cable access show. I remembered their name from an article in the Hartford Advocate and decided to check them out on Youtube. I saw the last 10 minutes of their May 22nd appearance on A Better Connecticut where they played Purple Trees out to the credits and knew right then I should see them live. That night they were playing at a benefit concert up at Granby High, The Concert For Hope and after begging and whining I could find no one willing to go with me, so I struck off solo to go see the show. Arriving there 10 minutes before the show, started looking around for the parents I had seen earlier in the day during their television appearance. I caught a couple glimpses of the band walking around back-stage and having no idea when they would be playing, I settled into my seat for the night.

The first band up was a nice acoustic group named Acaleia, featuring male and female lead vocalists a guitar player and drummer. They performed a strong selection of originals, very nice vocal work with a sound somewhat similar to Lone Justice, definitely an alt-country feel to the band. The group that followed was a female trio who I have to apologize for not remembering their name, they set up on stools and using the drummer from Acaleia they played a selection of covers and originals. A nice blend of harmonies, all 3 traded lead vocals during their set, thematically they fit very well with the opening act.
A short break followed and then The Kicks came on, a tight skate-punky ska-ish quartet. They played very well to the crowd, who thoroughly enjoyed their set, a strong guitarist
Chas Pfeiffer and bass player Rob Dei Dolori leading the way. An odd part of the group was the vocalist Pat Waltman, he had style and energy and reminded me of Mike Patton from Faith No More but seemed a little hesitant, he had a ton of swagger and smirked while not singing. They played mostly funky originals but did do a nice cover of One Big Holiday by My Morning Jacket. The next band was very exciting, and really was a shocker, I think they were called Channel 6 News Crew. They came out playing a curtain of feedback, 2 guitarists just shredding and screaming along, the lead player assaulting a number of effect boxes and just creating a sonic wall. Similar to Sonic Youth but without the melodies they tore through a series of songs, some with no discernable start or finish, the energy and power was evident, though they did use that to bludgeon the audience. After their set, the crowd thinned somewhat and I awaited The McLovins.

They came on to close the show, playing to about half the people who had been there, and performed a very clean and economical show. I was hoping to hear Purple Trees, but they played a 4 song set featuring Sea Of Wisdom, Bri – In Memory Of, Dynne and closing with Killing Time. I was struck by their professional approach, they settled in, quick tuned and just tore into their set. Now this was their second concert of the day, and even though it was getting late, they still gave a great show. Killing Time ending with Jeffrey’s signature feedback loop, all of them having a blast. After they finished, various members of The McLovins & The Kicks hopped back upstage and tore through a cover of Girls by the Beastie Boys. The concert ended and I was tempted to go up and talk to the band, but that was going to have to wait, I was really struck by how good The McLovins were, and knew I had to see them again and soon, a feeling I expect most people who see them share.


In the digital age the album and CD has gone the way of the dinosaur or dollar-a-gallon gas, becoming an anachronism. The delivery system of choice is a digital download and in a throwback to the early days of rock, single song purchases are now the standard. So along comes a group of musicians who bring with them a full-blown concept album. This is pretty heady stuff, a collection of originals spanning a variety of musical genres, chock-full of thoughtful lyrics and soaring melodies. What's most striking at first listen is you can't easily put your finger on their genre. It's roots stretch from funk to jazz to rock and psychedelia, all combined to create a sound reminiscent but never derivative. It’s a collection of songs that always seem to be pulled from the back of your memory, haunting and complex in construction.

The album opens with PURPLE TREES and the tone of the album is really set here, with the piece driven forth by Jason Ott's robust bass and Jake Huffman's rolling percussion. The song builds and soars due Jeffrey's precise guitar, very much in control but always on the verge of melting down. Jeffrey Howard's guitar work falls pretty squarely between Trey Anastasio and early Jeff Beck, technically deft but fluid, sleek in its pursuit of the rhythms through this album. Next up, the instrumental BRI, (IN MEMORY OF) is a memorial to a phallen phriend and allows the band to utilize Jake's earnest vocals to their best advantage. Quickly ascending, the song forcefully sweeps you up to a chilling vocal peak and then carries you safely down the other side. GUILLOTINE MACHINE is a remarkable song, loose and jazzy, quirky in timing and tone. Jason’s bass thunders throughout, stalking the torrid guitar and staccato drum work with equal vigor.
Now we find the center of the album, it's core. A suite comprised of 4 songs, inspired by Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth, with each song able to stand alone or as part of the cohesive whole. The songs echo the winding motif of the source novel and lyrically mimicking it’s text and themes. KILLING TIME sets us off slowly at first with the tempo and jamming becoming increasingly more intricate before inevitably collapsing in a raucous finish. This is my favorite song of these four and it has just a stunning jam when played live. SEA OF WISDOM brings a smooth turn to the album with soulful lyrics and a cool, crisp tone. DYNNE is a slippery, coiled beast, briskly snaking its way along. The pace is deliberate as the groove dissolves only to re-establish itself more forcefully as the vocals ramp up leading to the song’s end. RHYME & REASON starts innocently enough, drawing the listener in, again the vocals on this ring true and clean with not a hint of doubt or restraint. Multiple timing and tempo changes reflect the theme of journey or revelation that runs through Juster’s novel. Together these songs fully satisfy, and provide fertile ground for further exploration and improvisation.

CONUNDRUM holds a mirror up to many of the themes previously explored on the album and is an impressive work musically. Combining classic rock themes and a swing vibe that’s infectious, it also provides a showcase for some of Jake’s most exuberant drumming. Closing out the album is PLEASE REFUND THESE SLEEPING PILLS, a ukulele and bass ditty that illustrates the band’s sense of fun and features lead vocals from Jason.
CONUNDRUM is a very textured and diverse work, it’s hard to believe these guys have only been working together for a year. The musicianship and song craft are both mature and their musical fundamentals are rock-solid. The sound production on the album is full and rich, focusing on the band’s strengths and providing an excellent representation of their live performances. This is a rarity, it’s common practice for jam bands to offer up weaker studio albums leaving much of the energy and vitality to the live show, however this is a great studio album, fully reflective of The Mclovins live show.

Helping Hands on Hartford & Clear Channel 8/25/09

The McLovins played a single set today at the performance room at Clear Channel studios in Hartford. This was in response to a school supply drive sponsored by Helping Hands, Clear Channel was providing the drop off point. Confronted with a smaller performance room in a downtown office building, a late-ish arriving Jason and with loudness issues pressing, the band took this as a challenge and turned in a blistering show. During the sound check it became apparent that it would be a challenge to restrain the pure power and energy that this band brings to performing. Purple Trees led off at a moderate volume, however things quickly built in potency to full jam level. Bri followed, bringing the groove back and the intensity re-establishing as Jason and Jake just nailed the vocals. With Virtual Circle any concerns about loudness went out the window, as they tore this song up, Jeffrey was just punishing his Fender and at one point things were literally falling off the wall. The choice of songs really set the tone for the show. Sea Of Wisdom was up next and just pulled the audience right along with the band as they continued to flex some musical muscle.

From my perspective the confidence of the band right now is sky-high. They know their music and a summer of gigs have left them fearless in their jamming. Today they were performing in front of an audience for the most part unfamiliar with their music yet they avoided covers in favor of originals off of Conundrum. They trust their music to make a tangible connection with the audience and the guys continue to play to the crowd whether to 400 or to 20. The last three songs really building on another as Guillotine Machine was sharp and crisp leading into a rollicking Dynne, and finishing up with the musical melange of Conundrum. It was an impressively energetic show with just overwhelming sound. I'm just so happy for this band right now, they are really on the verge of it, even if they aren't aware of this, anyone who sees them perform live can feel it and see it and deep down, …we know.