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Published: 2010/11/08
by Bill Clifford

The McLovins / The Groove Smugglers, Infinity Hall, Norfolk, CT – 10/30

The McLovins, a teen trio from Connecticut discovered when its “YEM” video went viral courtesy of the Phantasy Tour message board, continue to evolve as a first-rate jamband. On Mischief night in Connecticut, the trio performed at Infinity Hall, one of the better music listening rooms in New England. Amongst the nearly sold out crowd at the all ages performance were many teens and classmates, along with parents in tow. Also in attendance however, were many middle-aged adults – certainly spillover from the evenings canceled performance from moe. in nearby Albany, NY., – who’ve managed to catch wind of this trio’s reputation by word of mouth or a festival experience over the last two years. A unique variety of costumes, (MilkToast Man, The Drummer’s Mom, Fishman’s doppelganger, to name a few) were in the audience out on this hallowed eve.

This performance balanced some newly written McLovins’ songs along with some of the groups more popular numbers, as well as a plethora of classic rock covers. On the instrumental opener, “3:47” the trio was joined by the opening act, The Groove Smugglers, a percussion-only trio. The rhythm was thunderous as four percussionists created a cacophony of beats and tempo, accented by the mellifluous soloing of Jeffrey Howard on guitar, drawing a huge ovation as the performance got underway. The low bass rumble of “I Wouldn’t Wanna Be Like You,” a 1977 progressive rock staple by the Alan Parsons Project seemed to go over the heads of most of the younger audience. The glow sticks were set aloft during a rousing “Tokyo Tea,” and drummer/vocalist Jake Huffman was told to inform the crowd that the fire alarms would go off if they kept being thrown. The rising and falling tempos of “This Town” brought the energy of the crowd up to its first set highlight, while the slow, funky grove of “Tetop – To Each Their Own Path” featured swirling waves of wah wah guitar. The face-melt moment came with set closer, “Deep Monster Trance,” as Howard wailed fast and furiously up and down the neck of his guitar – Eric Johnson has nothing on this kid – eliciting rapturous applause.

The trio donned different costumes each set, coming out for the second dressed in drag. They began at another high point, with a blazing cover of the Rush classic “YYZ,” one of several first time played songs of this particular night. The Purple Delight medley featured the trio segueing from “Purple Trees” to a groovy “Rappers Delight” and then into Phish’s “Tweezer Reprize,” drawing a huge cheer from the crowd before moving through a drum solo and closing with “Guillotine Machine” and the glow sticks once again littering the Hall air. Phans unable to make it to Atlantic City to catch Phish were jubilant when the McLovins played “YEM,” and it has been interesting to hear how they’ve developed as a trio, evidenced by how they’re playing this classic. Howard displayed deft guitar skills, moving effortlessly between blazing, caterwauling solos through fluid and melodic verses and back again. But perhaps most impressive was bassist Jason Ott, whose sense of timing and rhythm, here and really throughout the evening, seemed highly improved. Along with Huffman, the rhythm section seemed to drive this frenetic cover. They demonstrated vast musical dexterity moving from the slow, mellow reggae of “Milktoast Man” through the scorching rock of “Bedhead Crystal Bugger.” They then closed with an encore of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird,” another well-played and received virgin performance for The McLovins.

The Groove Smugglers, a trio of Hartt School of Music percussionist’s, opened the performance. This groups acumen of a drum kit, bongos and an assortment of other hand percussion was unique and original, and certainly worth seeking out at future performances.

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