The marquee at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester may not have been lit but the lights were shining on stage at Garcia’s as Hartford-based improv/rock quartet The McLovins hosted a CD release party for their newest (and fourth) album, Beautiful Lights. The somewhat mild weather didn’t bring out a large crowd on that Thursday evening, which worked to create a more intimate feel to the show. Despite this, the band didn’t fall back on treating it as a rehearsal and brought a decent amount of energy to their performance, especially during their second set.
The first set kicked off with the 2010 single “Cohesive,” a collaboration The McLovins wrote and recorded with Tom Marshall (Phish lyricist) and Ant Krizan (of Spin Doctors fame). After getting the room warmed up the band gained more momentum and gave the crowd a good taste of their new album, which made up a significant portion of this set. Unlike McLovins shows of the past the first half of the show was less jam-and-shred heavy and focused more on the straight ahead performance of the new material close to how it was recorded – an intentional move by the band to explore new creative areas. A highlight of this was the title track (an instrumental piece) off the album that features a few simple, yet beautiful ideas that could serve as a conduit for a much longer live performance as the band grows with it.
After a set break with time to gaze at the numerous photos of Jerry Garcia cladding the walls of the venue, The McLovins started with more energy reflected both on stage and in the crowd. Early on in the set a little sampling of head candy was dished out with a tease of the Grateful Dead’s “St. Stephen.” About mid-set the band broke out one of their staple earlier tracks, “Tokyo Tea,” which guitarist Justin Berger channeled a few of the familiar guitar tones of Trey Anastasio during many of his improvised riffs directly leading into a refreshing jam on “2001.” More songs from Beautiful Lights were featured including “Birthday,” which was the strongest live performance from the new album as they worked in the cohesive improv they have established their name with. To wrap up the show, The McLovins gave a nice rendition of “The Weight” with each band member taking a turn on one of the verses.
For a young band whose members are still in college, The McLovins can pull together strong performances while showing they are eager to explore new areas and make their next show better than the last. The band has been in its current lineup for roughly two years now – Jake Huffman (drums/vocals), Jason Ott (bass/vocals), Justin Berger (guitar/vocals), and Atticus Kelly (keys/guitar/vocals). With this amount of time together and the release of Beautiful Lights the band is making a new statement about their determination to make it to bigger places. The McLovins have been able to generate a lot of energy with larger festival audiences in the past and it is worth anticipating their next festival stop after the release of Beautiful Lights.