Next up! Spooktacular!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

01/29/10 Cafe 939 - Boston

When last we were with The McLovins at CafĂ© 939 in Boston was back in October. They were coming off a very good summer, having had a great show at Gathering Of The Vibes and working their way back into the rigors of the high school year. Last night they co-headlined with …soihadto.. a band featuring Duff from Food Network’s “ACE OF CAKES” playing on bass. The McLovins have always had a great sense of timing, knowing when to really deliver the goods at the big shows, and last night was no exception. At the time of last October’s show, I wrote that their performance was “lightning in a bottle” and conventional wisdom or any school child will tell you that lightning never strikes twice…. or can it?

Last night’s show saw a McLovins that were much more tempered than their last show here, where their October appearance was an adrenaline-fueled high octane burst, last night was a more musically assured and textured performance. Jason has just blossomed in his role in the past months, assuredly picking up some lead vocal chores as well as back-ups, creatively integral in the creation of many of the band’s new song repertoire and fearless throwing his sound into the forefront at a moment’s notice. Jake is a dervish, a two-headed monster of rhythm and control, a ringmaster, his vocals have taken on a much more emotive edge, his drumming much cleaner, allowing room for the silences with no diminished power. Jeffrey has been on an upward trajectory for months, intuitively knowing when the time calls for a clean crisp sound or when it’s time for discord and raw power. I really hate to play favorites but in town Friday another high-profile show was happening and I'll state that Friday night in Boston, pound for pound, The McLovins were the best band in town.

At the beginning of Deep Monster Trance; which was four songs into the set, my daughter Kayla turned and said “Tonight is Jeff’s night”. This was a simple statement and last night, this was a fact. Many nights one band member rises to the occasion and puts their stamp all over a show, last weekend at Hartford it was Jason who shined, and Friday was Jeff’s night. They played Tokyo Tea at the soundcheck and you could see that they were loose and ready to go, they exhibit a lot of poise and professionalism that you don't see in most bands. They hit the stage at 8:00 and opened with Conundrum, an interesting choice and a fitting one as this song features multiple time and signature changes, a swing section as well as traditional jam runs, the song covers the gamut of the McLovins sound. Killing Time up second came as a bit of a surprise, this song is just a sonic kick in the teeth, more of a set ending jolt than a warm-up, but this sent a message, and that message was to take no prisoners. Milktoast Man came around next, at the same point as last week’s show as a chill-down after Killing Time. Deep Monster Trance is where the wheels started to come off the train, and I mean that in a good way! The energy was really high at the start of the set, but at this point it just took off… DMT lived up to its name and was a beast, Jake and Jason just thundering along while Jeff exploded with a series of intricate runs, tonal sustains and blues flourishes. Virtual Circle continued to sustain that energy with just an incredible series of solos and runs. At this point I was just shaking my head at the level that Jeff was playing at. Guillotine Machine kicked off with an monstrous drum intro from Jake who was just a blur of motion, again the song morphed into something entirely different, coming back to the central groove and then departing again. Tokyo Tea was the penultimate choice, the sound was broad and beefy, great lyrical interplay and another chance for some extended jamming. I saw Jake and Jason smiling as they looked over at Jeff while he was just lost in a jam. The final song was Purple Trees which is usually a chance to showcase the members of the band. Jason seemed a bit surprised by his intro but ripped off a tasty bass run. This was not the usual PT, but a free-form version of Purple Trees. Jeff pulled out everything last night, blues licks, incredible scale runs, feedback and fuzz effects, space tones, whammy bar; it was a really special night.

The band is producing at such a high level, punching their game up a bit and solidly fitting into their new role as headliners. The band communication at this point is stunning, a group mind has formed, an intuitive style of playing, each member lost in their work yet completely aware of the piece as a whole. I really can’t do justice to the level of playing Friday night; I can try my best to just describe what I saw and what I heard. When …soihadto.. came onstage they thanked The Mclovins, and Duff their bass player came up to the mike and said “We’re on tour right now and this is the best band we’ve played with”. The guys will have to start getting used to hearing this…maybe lightning does strike twice, I know everyone attending last would have to agree.

just look at the smile on this face...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sully's Pub 01/23/10 - Part 2

If life was a horror movie, this night may have been called "Jason's Revenge". Last time we talked, Killing Time had just ended and everyone’s ears were still buzzing.. a slow, deep groove now began to form, a reggae-ish beat and Milktoast Man made it’s debut. The song echoes some familiar Police-like vibes but it is definitely reggae ala-The McLovins. A nice solid beat with popping guitar interludes as Jake and Jason team on vocals. This tune makes for a nice chill, a cool-down after the aural assault of Killing Time. Jason and Jeff were real standouts on this, the two of them almost sharing leads while breaking off clean and sharp runs. Next Jason starts hammering out the first few bars of Break On Through , the crowd keys in on what’s being played and start screaming their approval.. This song is done as a very clean cover with not a lot of additional flourish, Jason’s bass and lead vocals pretty much shaping the sound.

Jake intros another new song “Tokyo Tea” which made it’s Youtube debut a week or so ago, by invoking the fact that “Basslovin has shown up”. This is a deep funk jam, led by a furious bass line that pulls you along, Jeff plays a complimentary guitar lead, knocking out some just soaring solo work, the whole thing held together by Jake’s frenetic drumming. As soon as the song ends, Jason says “And now here’s something completely different..” as he again handles lead vocals while snapping out a deep bass riff while Jake just pounds out the beginning of Seven Nation Army. Jeff pulls out a slide (!) and the band just rips this cover apart. If anything it’s almost more frantic than the White Stripes original. Jeff’s slide work is a glassy wonder as he glides up and down the neck, Jake just burying his pedals into the stage, this song was such a treat. Virtual Circle is next and is easily the cream of the newer songs, quick and desperate, with a terminal velocity, moving at break neck speed. Bri – In Memory Of closes the show a fitting end for a night like this with a dedication to Nash, a friendly PT regular.

This is another example of what the right room can do for this band. The energy of the crowd and the closeness of the quarters combine for an intimate experience that is shared between band and audience. This was a milestone show for the guys, they played 4 new songs this night, they debuted 2 originals and 2 new and very different covers songs. As if that weren’t enough, the five song run of Milktoast Man, Break On Through, Tokyo Tea, Seven Nation Army and Virtual Circle feature Jason’s strongest bass-work in recent memory and he nailed lead vocals on 2 of these songs and shared vocals on another 2. This is a band that is growing fast, they’re evolving right before our ears. Just when you see one of them has upped his game, the other 2 respond in kind, their on-stage communication is sharp and precise, their musical instincts are just fearless. I just can’t wait until Friday night and the Boston show, who knows what's coming next

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sully's Pub 01/23/10 - Part 1

I got up this morning with my head all awhirl, a bit tired from bopping and dancing half the night and morning away. So I’m gong to break up the review of last night’s Sully’s Pub show into two separate posts. After a fairly efficient sound check, the opening band Emergency Service went onstage a bit late. A quick stage change allowed The McLovins to hit the stage a bit after 11:30, and they tore into the opener Purple Trees. I’ve long considered Purple Trees to be the most commercial or anthemic song off their Conundrum album, tonight’s versions was deliberate and languid, with an expansive jamming section that just shredded and pushed the song to over 15 minutes. The first show of 2010 found the band totally at ease with a swagger and a joy that was so evident to the crowd. Jake has adopted a sharper, more precise drumming style, his power is massive, but I notice so much more of his drumming is for effect, very jazzy in its use, filling spaces, propulsive and pulling the songs forward . The band then dives right into Hell Yeah!, the second song off of their new EP and Jason and Jeff have both broken strings during the previous song. This doesn’t slow them down, they still play on and when the song ends, it’s time for a quick string change and a mini-break. After only 2 songs they are already ½ hour into their set.

Sully’s Pub is an interesting place to play, the crowd is right on top of the band, the front of the stage pushed back about 20 feet and then a series of 3 or 4 stairs brings you up to the back bar. A band playing onstage looks forward to see the crowd rise up in front of them and all that energy from the crowd pours right back down to the stage. Jason finished his string change first so he and Jake started in on Rapper’s Delight, chugging right along, Jeff joined in before the end and all was right with the world. Deep Monster Trance started in next, easily the best live version I’ve heard, again taking the original song and just blowing it up big and bold. Jake slowed thing down next with a pretty remarkable cover of Rocky Raccoon, played at half-tempo, which turned into an audience sing-a-long. 20 In A 35 is one of my favorite of the newer songs, having debuted in a somewhat muted form at Boston in October. This song really stands out due to the interplay between Jake and Jason’s rhythm, and Jeff playing these amazingly sustained notes, holding one for a good minute and a half. Killing Time quickly follows and to quote Steve H, “Killing Time is a sweet song about butterflies” that evolves to a thrash fest. Jason starts scourging his fretboad, while Jake attacks his percussion with a short sharp attack and Jeff turning in just an incendiary guitar assault.

The band is really deep into it at this point, the response from the crowd is pushing and urging them on, the shack was packed and rocking, the night has just started......

Rocky Raccoon

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sully's Pub Tomorrow night!

It's a sort of homecoming tomorrow for the band as they make their way back into the enfolding arms of Sully's Pub. This will be their 6th appearance there and their first as a headlining act. Emergency Service is the opening act, "Tokyo Tea" will be making it's concert debut and word has it there's a true instrumental gem on it's way.. a McLovins magnum opus.. how could you risk not being there to hear that? Go to the show.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Holcomb Farm Fall Fest 10/12/09

Granby Community Television has been broadcasting a special on the Fall Festival from Holcomb Farm complete with much of The McLovins performance from that day, and sit-down interview with the band. I have a lot of memories of this show.. Jake feel poorly and losing his voice, Jason handling lead vocal duties, the debut of the McBanner, Jason breaking his second string in a week, and amazing versions of caravan and Cissy Strut. It's hard to believe this was only 3 months ago, time flies when you're having fun.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dead Air @ WESU 1/18/10

An important point which I feel frequently gets lost, is that if you’re a fan of The Grateful Dead or of Phish, you’re a fan of music. You know and can appreciate musical originality, the complex signature changes and the improvisational jams. John Whalen is a fan of music, and last night he proved to be an adept interviewer and an avuncular host.

Dead Air on WESU radio in Middletown invited The Mclovins in for an interview and to play some of the band's newer songs. Right off the bat John keyed in on the age versus musical skill aspect of the band and quickly got to the heart of the matter which is the music. The guys were put very much at ease and had a great time doing the show. Quite a nice interview, thoughtful questions and candid responses really added to the experience. The show is up on the archive and makes a wonderful afternoon listen.

WESU - Dead Air Show # 246 - The McLovins

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tokyo Tea

I'm so glad to finally hear this, the germ of this song has been percolating in the form of an amazngly funky jam for the past month or so. Now it's emerged fully-formed and ready to join the repetoire, very nicely balanced with Jason's bass lines and Jeff's leads, Jake holding court with some killer stacatto cymbal work.

Standing like a statue
with a rose gripped in his teeth
you know he rolls
the dice

he could take them all
except for one
and guess who his gaze is on
the only one

You know he can’t stand to lose
no not this one

You know he can’t stand to lose
no not this one

cm-on kitkat gimme the news
i ain’t got time for all this blues

She advances towards the bar
he orders her a drink
a Tokyo Tea
on ice

She knows just what she wants
and sees what she can get
she’s not surprised
to find

You know she can’t stand to lose
no not this one

You know she can’t stand to lose
no not this one

cm-on kitkat gimme the news
i ain’t got time for all this blues

Playing hard to get
Will only make you lose
Playing hard to get
Will only make you lose
Remember playing hard to get
will only make you lose
you’re mine

You know they can’t stand to lose
no not this time

You know they can’t stand to lose
no not this time

Thursday, January 14, 2010

And did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?

We find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a dry spell. The last show of the old year was Sullivan Hall on 12/29, and the next proper gig isn’t until Sully’s in Hartford on 1/23/10. The first McLovin’s appearance of the New Year was a guest spot by Jeffrey at the 2nd Annual Nocera Benefit. Stanley Maxwell performed the “Wish You Were Here” album by Pink Floyd and Jeffrey joined in as the guest guitarist. This Sunday 1/17/10 the McLovins will be featured and perform on Uncle John’s DEAD AIR, live on WESU radio 88.1 FM. This still leaves us with over a week until the band headlines at Sully’s Pub.

One of the reasons I started keeping this blog was the immediacy of this new media and a feeling that if the start of this journey wasn’t written down, much of it would be lost in the shuffle. We now live in an era of fast-food content, a voracious search for the newest and the most fresh, consumed and digested at a feverish pace. Live concert recordings are upped literally hours after a show has ended, armchair quarterbacks dissecting and analyzing every step or misstep. Facebook and MySpace now offer access to artists that is immediate, and personal connections are formed at a faster rate than ever before. There has been a thinning of the wall between the artist and the fan in this new era, performers can now dispense with a record company or an A&R department because they can count on their fans to do much of their promotion work, allowing more creative freedom. I’m sure this nearly month long hiatus was full of some introspection for the band and a flurry of musical growth. Coming off a volley of successful end-of-year shows, I see this band emerging energized and with a sharp focus on the future and an amazing slate of upcoming spring shows. Try and catch them live on the radio or streaming this Sunday and make sure you try and get over to Sully’s to see them live, in the past this has been a very special venue for them and it always feels like a homecoming when they play.

Uncle John's Dead Air