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Sunday, January 31, 2010

01/29/10 Cafe 939 - Boston

When last we were with The McLovins at Café 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...

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