Next up! Spooktacular!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Three hearts, three minds, one vision....

Last night at The Katherine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, The McLovins played without a doubt their best show of the year; perhaps their best ever. The evening began innocuously enough with an easy hour-long drive down the sleep seaside town of Old Saybrook. The Kate is a 1908 Town Hall converted into a state-of-the art performing arts center and is now a premier shoreline music hall. The aural balance of the hall is fantastic and the band tore through a couple runs of Tokyo Tea as a soundcheck to set the levels and at a bit after 8:00, the fun started.

Conundrum was up first and was a fairly conservative choice, akin to dipping a toe into a freshly drawn bath. . Conundrum, the title song to their debut album, is most representative of the musical range the band is capable of playing, a bouncy jam instrumental with a ton of swing and some solid shred. This Town followed, and offered a nice little exploratory jam toward the end of the song but again was a fairly moderate offering, but apparently the first two songs were just the prelude to the mayhem that was on the wind.

The band had set up in their alternate stage configuration, with Jeff and Jake stage right and left and Jason smack dab in the middle. Deep Monster Trance is a forceful example of the power of this stage structure and what this band can do they’re on top of their game. DNT this night was a primordial beast jam, Jeff and Jason hunching over and squaring off against each other, with Jake powering forward, the trio locked in a striking symbiosis, as the leads and rhythms blurred throughout the song. Something special was happening onstage and everyone there was a witness. With wide grins the band dove straight into Cissy Strut and within a minute the jam was again in full force, Jason led the charge last night, casting a strong funk groove that really set the tone for the entire night. A monstrous bass solo cut through the din and Jeff coaxed some stunning boppy swing leads as the song drew to a close. Purple Trees was up, but not it’s recent form as an intro to the Purple Trees->Rapper’s Delight-.Tweeprise that has become a show staple. This time Purple Trees was it’s own entity, and twice during the song the transition into Rapper’s was waved off, as the band completely deconstructed the song and then throwing it back onto the tracks it had careened off. Jason and Jeff traded leads throughout with Jeff pulling back to let Jason thunder and then Jason anchoring Jeff’s soaring leads. This song was a behemoth, and with the run of Deep Monster Trance, Cissy Strut and Purple trees, the band had turned in one of their best sets of jams ever. Watchin’ The detectives was a nice cool down, the band, still a little dazed by what was happening on stage, gave the audience a nice re-entry and the set break was nigh and the best was yet to come.

The second set hit the ground running right from the start as the intro to Tokyo Tea spills through the theater. The energy and improvisational tone of the first set was in full effect as the song stretches into a jamming opus as Jeff runs through a series of Star Wars teases. Milktoast Man is a laconic and deliberately paced tune, but since the Main Pub show in July, the song has become a vehicle of intense exploration. Tonight was no exception, Jason stolid in the center, constantly flicking back and forth between Jake and Jeff, guiding the jams along, leaving Jake and Jeff ample freedom to probe and push. Signature and tempo changed rapidly while Jeff and Jason alternated leads, the groove again assuming a deep funk bent as the tune slowly made its way back around to the original tempo. Shakedown Street is one of the band’s earliest covers, and this night it quickly evolved into a smooth funk dance jam.

The last 3 songs of the set are just stunning examples of how far this band has come, and a glimpse of what’s still to come. . Virtual Circle was just a sprawling work, a raucous and fevered performance, just when you thought things were unraveling, the song tightens and spins back down into its core jam. This went on several times during the song before the climax. Jake was taken back a bit and was obviously moved by their performance. Caravan was a last minute fill-in for Killing Time and this was the Caravan of Nectar’s; a laconic, swampy version, Jake playing two-thirds tempo, Jason running triplets, and Jeff dredging up the dirtiest, snaky riffs I’ve ever heard him play. Beadhead Crystal Bugger was just a staggering piece; I can’t do justice to the level of musicianship displayed during this segment. You have to listen to the recording yourself and realize that this was 3 songs each a staggering improvisational work and each one more intense than the song before. The crowd called for an encore and as soon as Jason lowered the mic so Jeff could get his vocal in, I knew what was coming. Good Catch was a delight, a cherry on top of the sundae and a fitting end to an amazing night. This was a moving night, the last big summer show before school starts, and it was a night I’ll always remember.

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