McLovins stampede the Ironhorse

By Leslie Rosenfield

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themclovins.com

The streets and restaurants of Northampton were bustling Saturday night with teenagers, college students and adults all gathered and gearing up for a common reason: The McLovins were in town.

Hailing from Connecticut, the band surprisingly did not meet in their hometowns. Members Jeff Howard and Jake Huffman actually met in the summer of 2008 at a rock music camp, while Huffman met Jason Ott at a jazz camp that same summer.

“I just called them up and we started jamming in the basement,” said Huffman.

Huffman’s mother, Carol, the band’s manager and driving force, was at the front of the stage the entire night. Throughout the night, the trio liked to throw out the term “momager” in recognition of her work.

Nearly two years after becoming a YouTube sensation with their popularized rendition of the quintessential Phish song “YEM,” Ott, 17, Howard, 16, and Huffman, 18, have blown up across the jam-rock scene. Their talent, despite their youth, has captivated many, with their numerous YouTube videos. They didn’t get there overnight, though; Drumlovin Huffman has been playing the drums for 10 years and explains, “Music has always been a part of my life.”

Axlovin Howard started out playing the acoustic guitar and transitioned to playing the electric around nine–years-old. Now 16, his skill most certainly surpasses that of his years.

While Basslovin Ott started playing the piano at age 5, he mastered the cello and picked up the bass around the eighth grade, when he first learned how to play “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes.

With several years of getting to know one another, practice and perseverance, this trio let the entire crowd at the Iron Horse know they are the real deal. 

The McLovins opened the set at 10:12 p.m. with “Caravan,” a solid funk-rock jam that spanned a little over an astonishing 13 minutes. The song featured outright guitar solos from Howard, while Huffman kept the pace and upbeat rhythms of the flow, and the infusion of Ott’s swift bass slaps and funk beats turned the heat up. Throughout the first song, the crowd’s energy started out a little slow but increasingly gained speed, allowing the boys to show off their mastery of funk, rock and bluegrass infusions.

When the second song, “Tokyo Tea,” started up, everyone knew they were in for a wild ride. The fans erupted and the entire venue was grooving right along with the energy exuding from the stage.

While the three definitely showed they have strong technical skills, their inspiration and love of music shined through at every moment of the show. They explained how they are influenced by electronic, jazz, classic rock, jam music and funk – anything that has a “good funk groove,” according to their bassist, Ott.

As the first set rolled on, the energy at the Iron Horse kept getting stronger and stronger, to a point where the floor was even shaking. The third song marked a point of independence for the guys. They went right into their new song, “Cohesive,” written with Tom Marshall and Anthony Krizan of Phish. Ott, Howard and Huffman clicked with each other, exuding a fluid blend of their music throughout the entire song.

Huffman took on lead vocals during “Cohesive” while smashing down on his well-rounded kit. The hooks, guitar licks and catchy lyrics were crowd-pleasers and drew in the fans even more. Although their sound needs maturation, this matter should be resolved as the band members get older. 

The boys were approached to write and record this song with Krizan and Marshall after the two and Phish front-man Trey Anastasio spotted their “YEM” video online. The trio explained how they learned to write songs in a different way, where they became more focused and thorough with their music. All three agree, “Cohesive is more accessible than other songs – short, to the point and grabs listeners, and has a catchy hook.” The crowd seemed to agree, as their screams grew louder and the grooving on stage increased during the tune.

Throughout the rest of the first set the three held it down and rocked it out with funk, rock, jazz and reggae tones which had fans soaring through the highs and lows of every guitar, bass and drum solo.

Toward the end of the first set, the band busted out their hit cover “YEM,” and had the entire venue in an uproar. Screams, laughter, cheering and dancing ensued when they attacked the technically-challenging piece. All three executed their rendition flawlessly with “Landlady” and “Peaches” teases infused throughout the jam.

Howard hit the axe precisely and roused the crowd with his enthusiastic dancing and roadrunner fast fingers up and down the frets, while Ott laid down funk beats and Huffman had a riveting drum solo at the end, with sharp hits to the symbols and kick drum.

The energy and hype remained as the second set started up after a quick 10-minute break. This time around, the trio came out with instruments blazing. They opened with their original song, “Beadhead Crystal Bugger,” featuring quirky bluegrass and jazz infusions. The McLovins showcased their unique style with elongated notes, striking riffs and playful beats that had heads bobbing and feet moving.

Next came another original McLovins song, “Deep Monster Trance,” that let everyone know these guys have their own style and are producing progressive music with an original funky flare.

As the set progressed, their flare, technicality and energy only grew and pulled the crowd’s heartstrings with a cover of “Break On Through” by The Doors. They rounded out the set with “Conundrum” and “Hell Yeah,” which got the crowd chanting, “Hell yeah, encore!”

The trio rounded out the evening around 1:00 a.m. with “Virtual Circle” as an encore. The song sustained a high level of intense jamming; flawless guitar solos and brought the tempo back down at the end for a soothing close.

The McLovins showed their dedication to pleasing their fans when they lingered after the show to sign merchandise and pose for fan photos at nearly 1:15 a.m.

Although commonly mistaken as a Phish cover band, The McLovins demonstrated their talent with a bunch of hit original songs and their funky, smooth and slick style. The trio are making a big name for themselves with a solid fan base and hopefully some festival spots this summer.

According to the group, their goal for the future is to “Headline MSG, Red Rocks or Bonaroo…really headlining a festival would be amazing!” Given their performance last Saturday, there is little doubt that The McLovins will be around within the coming summer months and for many, many years to come.

Leslie Rosenfield can be reached at [email protected]