It’s a bit before 3:30 in the morning and I’m sitting here furiously typing notes about tonight’s show while the experience is still fresh in my head. Waking up in a few hours I’m sure I’ll be a bit more objective and hopefully better able to express myself more clearly. First impression though, they crushed this, this band came to play and had the floor shaking, and left the crowd drained and on their knees. I don’t know if it was the full moon, or seeing Phish in
Working from a concisely drawn up set list, the band plowed their way through a 1 hour set followed by a 1-1/2 hour 2nd. Jake handles the song selection, and always constructs the sets for maximum flow, the show having an organic feel as they move through a series of peaks and plateaus leading up to the final musical assault. They open up the set with a cover of Martha and the Vandella’s Dancing’ in the Streets, the classic summer paean to shaking’ your bones. This was played more along the lines of The Grateful Dead’s version rather than the Motown original. Slipping slowly in to Tokyo Tea the pyrotechnics started with Jeff just ripping leads and nimbly running up and down the neck.
Milktoast Man is where the evening really crystallized for me. Set up in their current power trio configuration, Jake is playing from stage right, Jason in the center and Jeff is stage left. Jason and Jeff squared up for a series of complimentary runs, facing each other and leading Jason to rip the sickest bass solo, much to the delight of the crowd. Jake’s drum intro to Guillotine Machine has evolved into a full-blown drum solo, and is quickly followed by a dirty bass and guitar jam with Jason and Jeff again sparring with complimentary licks. Conundrum is one of my favorite songs off of their first album, and is so representative of the McLovins sound than anything off the first album Deep Monster Trance closed out the set with a slow bass groove, only to turn into an unchained beast as Jeff accentuates his leads by slowing down and speeding up again to catch the main groove, I’m pretty sure the song ended up clocking in at a bit under 15 minutes.
After a brief 20 minute set break, they break into Purple Trees, their anthemic crowd pleaser, once again Jason setting point and calling the thunderous transition into Rapper’s Delight. The crowd went nuts, bouncing and singing along, the band just reveling in the crowd reaction, easily drawing as much energy from the crowd as they give back. A smooth groove quickly follows as Jake breaks into Watchin’ The Detectives, a nice bit of a breath catcher following the set opener. 20 in a 35 is up next and has grown into a furious jam, pulling the band into a tightly wound powerhouse, just as the song starts spiraling out of control, Jake brought the beat back down and returned the train to the tracks. Bead Head Crystal Bugger is the band’s newest jamming vehicle, a potent progressive jam mechanism, with haunting leads and a rock solid rhythmic backbone. Again the energy in this show is insane; each song seems to rise to a higher level than the previous, a perilous ascent with short pauses before again scaling new heights. Jake calls out for a sing-along as Jeff and Jason dip into a laconic cover of Rocky Raccoon, setting the stage for an annihilating version of Killing Time. Jake offers a cautionary codicil to his introduction “there’s no explosions or anything” and wisely the crowd doesn’t believe him. This song is so epic in scale with an absolute deafening consummation.
Shakedown Street was called next, a traditional cover that has grown into a jumping off point for some very impressive second half jamming. Halfway through, the original tune is left far behind as the song is transformed into a bass and guitar jam showdown, before dipping gracefully back down into the groove. The set was winding down and I was expecting a forceful close. Jason moves up to the mic and I call Break On Through, though he had been suffering the effects of a chest cold, he seemed eager to attack the lead vocals. He broke out a smooth bass intro as Jeff slid in behind him with silky leads and Jason began to growl out the lyrics much to the delight of the enthralled crowd. I figured there would be a Phish closer and to my surprise it was Farmhouse. YEM is the traditional McLvoins Phish closer, a rollicking but technically demanding cover that doesn’t leave much room for musical exploration. Farmhouse was the cover choice at their Nectar’s show last spring and Jeff took the advantage this night to run a series of “No Woman No Cry” teases through this joyous sing-along. The band left the stage to cries of “One More! One More” were chanted by the crowd. Figuring Yem was next I watched as the band took the stage for the encore. Jason and Jeff talked for a bit and I saw Jake shaking his head as he waved off the first choice and after a quick minute they reached an agreement and it happened….
Jeff broke into the opening chords of Tweezer Reprise and the crowd went ballistic! I couldn’t believe this had been called. During the middle of Killing Time I made a note in my book to talk to Jeff about sticking a Tweezer Reprise jam in a future set, and here was the full song! Surely inspired by last week’s near legendary Tweeprise performances by Phish, the McLovins took this cover and made it their own, the whole bar was shaking, Jeff and Jason pogo-ing along with the crowd as Jake and the audience screamed out the lyrics. I really can’t explain how well this played out, it’s one of those see it to believe it moments.
Buzz Universe from Elizabeth New jersey came up to open last night's show for The McLovins. They are a 5 piece band comprised of Guitarist/vocalist Alex Garay, Drummer/Vocalist Dave Migliore, bassist/Vocalist Greg McLoughlin, Saxaphonist/Vocalist Brian Ciufo and Vocalist Rosie Lazroe. Buzz Universe is a energetic band with a sound I can only describe as folk/world/rock. They performed a sold 1 hour set, Garay's guitar work is very nimble and supple with a very nice sustain. Ciufo changed between sax and percussion all nights, with Mcloughlin and Migliore forging a solid rhythm base. The revelation of the band is the vocals with many of their songs featuring all 5 members in a nicely harmonic blend, Lazroe utilizes a nice punch vocal that pops right out of the mix. Set standouts included This Ol' Cowboy, Caballo Viejo and The Rock. I can't wait until they have a chance to play with The Mclovins again, perhaps next time a little closer to them.
The band opened their set with the original Another Way then covered Marshall Tucker's This Ol' Cowboy, then played Homer's Trio, All Of My Friends, Caballo Viejo before closing with The Rock.
This was such an epic show, not a false move was made as the guys were so confidant from the choice of songs to their musical swagger. The TweePrise was such a brilliant move, to be savvy enough to tap into the zeitgeist surrounding that song right now made this song the most obvious surprise to everyone except The McLovins. Summer is shaping up to be a behemoth with this show allowing the band to focus all their attention on the performance, they’re doing their job, it’s up to us now to support them and spread the word. This show sets the table for next weekends Nateva festival and this is a band on a mission and it’s taking no prisoners.