The equinox occurs twice a year, when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun. The day is balanced with the sunrise and sunset exactly 12 hours apart. Last night in Hartford at Black Eyed Sally’s the McLovins put on a show that was an example of life in perfect balance. The mixture of a packed room, a wonderful sound system and a band focused on the job at task was alchemical. They played a shortened first set and then came back and plowed through a longer second set that left the audience spent but still demanding more. The night didn’t start quite so easily with Jeff’s amp cooking itself during sound check, luckily a spare house amp proved up to the task, they were able to go on with the show.
The first set opened with Cissy Strut which works its way into Rapper’s Delight for a musical mélange I call Cissy’s Delight. The audio was fantastic during the rap portion as a nice echo and delay added to the propulsive feel of this song. The new ballad This Town was up next, a clean and chill song firmly establishing a first set vibe. Deep Monster Trance just lept out of the gates and cruised along, DMT is now one of their best live songs, a sprawling and bellowing brute that turns the set upside down. Jason dons his fretless bass for the new cover, Diamonds On The Sole Of Her Shoes. This Paul Simon song follows the newer reggae / world music path blazed by the McLovin’s own Milktoast Man. After the thrash-fest of DMT, this song helps to bring the groove back down, slightly sultry and smooth. After Jason switches back to his Carvin, Purple Trees is counted off by Jeff. Jason then breaks one of his strings and is forced mid-song to change back to the fretless. Purple Trees is usually a second set piece, and the traditional band intros fit in here nicely in the later jam. A nice shout out to the crowd follows the intros as their value is recognized and credited as the fourth member of The McLovins. Purple Trees ends and Jake calls a short break to deal with the broken string.
The second set explodes as the intro to Killing Time unspools. This is the most powerful weapon in the McLovin’s arsenal, an aural vista that just bludgeons with its sheer power. With the final feedback buzz of Killing Time still ringing, Jason pounces on the bass riff to Break On Through. There is no hesitation or faltering in this cover, the crowd responds as Jason growls out the lyrics, Jeff tearing up the lead, imparting his own flair on this rock classic. Jake and Jason team-up vocals on the title refrain as the crowd roars their approval. Tokyo Tea starts as Jake lets the crowd know this is the song that they entered into the Bon Jovi competition, and a surprisingly large number of the audience sing along with the bouncy lyrics. Milktoast Man again sets an ambient vibe and allows the audience a chance to catch its breath. Conundrum shows up next and lays down a signature swing pace. I called Rocky Raccoon as soon as Jeff hit the first note in tuning, the song led to audience and Jake sing-along as the pace of this Beatle’s classic.
The set was just really warming up as Hell Yeah followed and Jason, Jake and Jeff were having such a good time and it shined in their performance. This is a band that thrives on the crowd interaction and the audience just loved what the band was dishing out. As of late Guilotine Machine has evolved into a free-flowing shredding showcase as Jason and Jake forge a rock solid base as Jeff cuts a swath through the monolithic rhythm. This is a stunning set piece as the band just stride through this sprawling soundscape. Beadhead Crystal Bugger is next, though only the third time played live this tune has already found its niche within the Mclovin’s eclectic playlist. This is their last song of the set and the band leaves the stage to chants of “1 more song”, “3 more songs!” “5 More!”. Somehow they are talked back onstage and they light into what has to be the most playful version of YEM they’ve performed. Jeffrey lost control of the song about a minute in, the band broke out laughing and meandered around a bit, but they eventually found their way back to the song, only to lose it again. The crowd was going wild, clapping along wildly and urging the band onward. They rallied and made it to the finish, a fitting end for such a special night. This had to have been one of the top 5 shows I’ve seen, and the band is right on track for the upcoming festival season.
The opening band was The Trey Wilson Trio, who shared some similarities with the McLovins. They are also a trio of youngish musicians, but the sound and style of the two bands are miles apart. TWB focuses on a nice arrangement of blues cover, mostly Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix, with a couple of classic blues tunes by Little Walter and Junior Wells. The guitar here is the focus, the drums and bass providing a solid rhythm section for Wilson’s guitar pyrotechnics. Trey Wilson is a very good blues guitar player and I’d really like to hear some original compositions from his band.