Margot & The Nuclear So And Sos
About a year ago, my office manager, Greg, and I swapped music libraries for the day. He flipped open a huge notebook filled with CDs and handed it to me with particular care and said, “This… this one is amazing.” He introduced me to Margot and the Nuclear So and Sos after learning how much I loved Death Cab For Cutie and a few other similar indie bands. He promised me that I would like it more than any of those bands.
And he was right.
So even though Greg and I don’t work the same job together anymore, it didn’t stop him from letting me know they were coming to Kilby. Having seen them before, he tried to describe the show to me, but couldn’t. “You just have to go. It’s an amazing experience.”
Once again, Greg was right.
Even with heat bordering on ungodly, on Saturday, May 21, Kilby had what was—quite possibly—the best line-up I’ve seen so far this year. Opening for the touring bands was a local new comer, Almost Brothers. Taking into consideration that this was the band’s second show, they put on a decent spread of tunes. There were a few false starts and stops—and more than one apology—but considering how new these kids are, there was nothing to apologize for. Their songs were simple, but honest, and their sincere concern for the audience was refreshing.
The real surprise of the night was Cameron McGill & What Army. Up until that show, I’d never heard of McGill, solo or otherwise. To say you need to run out and pick up anything/everything you can find from this group is a gross understatement. If you haven’t heard them before, once you do you’ll wonder how you ever functioned without them.
A regular touring veteran of Provo’s Velour (and playing there following Monday), Cameron McGill & What Army have a sound that feels right at home in the city’s own local indie and alt. country scenes, something you’d expect on the bill with Band of Annuals and Cub Country. Despite a few incidents of mic feedback, the songs came across crisp and clean, every lyric audible and every harmony ringing. McGill sings with a soft intimate sort of intensity, everything from guitar/harmonica ballads to upbeat piano-centered tunes that you can’t just stand and listen to, you have to move. If you aren’t so much as tapping your toe, check your pulse. You might be dead.
And the army he rode in with was just as spectacular. Every member is incredibly talented, whether they’re soloing on a guitar, swapping instruments for different songs, or just finding a new element to bring out with their instrument. Everything was perfectly balanced and made for the perfect introduction for the headlining band of the evening.
Margot & The Nuclear So And So’s were nothing short of an amazing concert experience. As if fitting eight people onto one stage wasn’t skill enough, they managed to get their instruments on there too, and with two drum sets (one standard floor set, and the other a symphonic percussion set up on stands), a keyboard, two guitarists, one bass, an electric violin, a French horn, a trumpet and a trombone (I know, I know: No tuba?), it was no easy feat.
Even crammed as they were—the bassist and one of the guitarists were nearly hitting their heads on one of the speakers on the ceiling—there was a surprising amount of movement, percussionist Casey Tennis even taking to something to the effect of free-form dance while they played. And since it was their last night touring with Cameron McGill & What Army, the band called McGill on stage to play harmonica on a song (amazingly enough, there was just enough room.)
It’s an amazing experience to watch eight people all working together, especially on Kilby’s tiny stage, to put together such an amazing show. They played most of their songs off of their 2006 album, The Dusk of Retreat, but also unveiled some news songs for their up-and-coming album, Animal!, to be released later this year. The crowd loved the premier tracks, but really came to life during the band’s standards like “Skeleton Key,” “Vampires In Blue Dresses” and “On A Freezing Chicago Street.”
The group “finished” with “Quiet As A Mouse,” but did bait the audience with a potential encore. There was an encore, but I found myself wandering back out to the courtyard. After hearing the band end with such an incredibly huge song like that, it was hard for me to believe the show could have just kept building. We went to the store, talked to some of the members from the other bands, and listened from outside, where it was finally starting to cool off.
I left the show nothing short of content, with a vinyl of some new tunes from Margot and virtually everything McGill had up for sale. The music was amazing, the crowd was energetic, and the bands were spectacular. Keep an eye on our local boys’ in the future, and anyone thinking of missing either of these two incredible touring bands next time they roll through the valley is a damn fool.