Newby’s, Memphis, TN
July 15, 2014
By Randy Harris
In a somewhat last minute booking, The McLovins made a stop in Memphis last week on their way up to Ohio for an eventful Tuesday night at Newby’s. With an intimate, primarily local audience, the band proceeded to weave their way through a versatile collection of originals and cover tunes. While the core of the band consists of Jake Huffman (drums), Jason Ott (bass), Justin Berger (guitar) and Atticus Kelly (keyboards), the McLovins brought along a three-part horn section with them to the Bluff City, consisting of trombone, trumpet and saxophone. While the horns added a certain flavor to the show, I felt that the venue was not quite big enough for the full band’s sound. Since it was a last minute booking on a Tuesday, Newby’s had the band play on their “bar side” instead of their “theater side,” so the horns tended to be a bit overbearing. They were solid musicians, however, picking out strong staccato notes and contributing to the stage presence. They also stepped off the stage for a few songs here and there to let the core quartet strut their stuff. Despite the size of the bar side, Newby’s always offers a one-of-a-kind musical experience. It is one of my favorite places in Memphis to see music. It just feels comfortable, homey and inviting, with a wide variety of regulars.
While I’ve known about The McLovins for a while now, this was my first live experience with the band, so you can imagine how pumped I was when I saw the last minute addition to the Newby’s calendar. The first thing I noticed about The McLovins was their technical ability. It was truly refreshing to see such a young band with such tight technical chops. They seemed to hold themselves and play with maturity, while still opening up with energy. Also, the variety of the setlist shows a lot of potential. From vocal tunes to instrumental, rock and blues to jazz, and slow songs to upbeat dance tracks, The McLovins are gradually becoming a force to be reckoned with.
The band worked their way through a couple of tracks off their latest full length album, Beautiful Lights, released this past January, including a compelling take on the ballad “Yankee Rose,” as well as a few from their older albums, such as groovy, laid back pop tune “Cohesive” off of 2012’s Who Knows. They also brought out all of the tunes from their new EP, Funk No. Uno, which was released later on this year somewhat under the radar. It’s a great collection of funky dance songs, and the band rocked them all live. They also played a surprisingly high volume of cover tunes, spanning from the Grateful Dead’s “Scarlet Begonias” and “Shakedown Street” to Lettuce’s “Do It Like You do” to King Harvest’s “Dancing in the Moonlight” and even The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” They also covered The Band, Little Feat and more, with incredible poise and maturity.
All in all, The McLovins put on a great show. Led by Huffman’s soulful vocals, Berger’s speedy guitar solos, Kelly’s melodic keys and Ott’s funky bass, the band presented an impressive performance on a beautiful Tuesday night in Memphis. It’s great to see such a young band keeping the jazz and funk factors alive. I cannot wait to see what comes next from this talented group of musicians.