Margot and the Nuclear So and So


with Cameron McGill & What Army

Larimer Lounger - Denver, Colo.
Friday, May 16, 2008

By Brian F. Johnson


Cameron McGill isn’t one of the So and Sos, but he might as well be. The Chicago-based troubadour and Indianapolis indie group have long-held ties that bind and quite often where you find one, you’ll find the other.

So it was no surprise to learn that McGill would open Friday night’s show at the Larimer Lounge. What was surprising however, was what McGill revealed to Denver for the first time. McGill has for years been just a solo artist, bringing his highly intellectual and deep songwriting to the stage with simply a guitar in hand. But Friday night marked the first time that McGill performed in Colorado with his full band, What Army (as in “you and what army?,” but “you” here is Cameron … you follow?)

What Army fits so perfectly with McGill and the inclusion of a full band adds a depth to his songs and his stage presence that was missing before — not to imply that anything was lacking in McGill’s solo work, at all.

In the heat of his set, I blurted out to the wife “It’s like the difference between Ryan Adams on Heartbreaker and Adams now with The Cardinals.” It’s really that freakin’ good!

Guitarist Jeff Kmieciak (who looks like he could be one of Adams’ Cardinals) is utterly fantastic and the tapestry of melody he weaves behind McGill’s foundation is beautiful as well as rocking.

Sound troubles plagued the band’s monitors, but the relatively good-sized crowd couldn’t tell. McGill was shaken after his set, chalking it off as a bad one, but was happy to learn that the issues they were hearing (or not hearing, for that matter) in their monitors did not come through to the crowd. I can’t wait to see them back in Colorado later this year for their performance at Monolith, as well as some other non-festival shows that are in the works.

The equipment demons that plagued McGill were not as kind to Margot and the Nuclear So and Sos. The band struggled from the get-go with sound issues that made the audience recoil from time to time, and it was obvious that the band was frustrated by the problems.

But despite the frustration their execution of their songs was spot on. The band played a number of new songs from their upcoming release, Animal, which were all strong, but the real magic was their more familiar material from their previous release Dust of Retreat.

I was prepared to go into this rant in this part of the review about how sad it can be when audiences don’t embrace new material from a band and insist on the old material. I call it the Peter Frampton effect…the poor guy could put out the best album ever next week and people would still only care about Frampton Comes Alive material.

However, if I do get into that rant, I’ll be paraphrasing, if not plagiarizing Dave Herrera, the Backbeat editor of Westword.

I’ve always enjoyed Dave’s phrasing about what he’s listening to, and thus am always happy to bend his ear for a few minutes, but on this night the band was already on stage, and thus we only talked for a few minutes. So it’s surprising that I can be this pissed at him.

I’m not pissed at him for anything he did on Friday night — it’s not like he got drunk and groped me. I’m pissed at him for his actions Saturday morning. I woke up to find that “Mr. Over-achiever” had his review of the show posted at 8:37 a.m. But what really got under my skin is that Dave summed up the show also exactly how I would have.

It’s just plain and simple that Dave is an asshole. Yeah, he may try to pull off the whole nice-guy thing, but deep down I know his true colors. I don’t know if he’s bugged my car, but I said almost this EXACT thing on the ride home.

Dave wrote on his blog: “The songs were tuneful and pleasing enough, and I’m sure I may grow to love many of them at some point. But last night, as the band unveiled each new one, I waited patiently for them to finish, so I could hopefully hear older cuts like “Skeleton Key,” “Vampires In Blue Dresses,” “Dress Me Like a Clown” and “Quiet As a Mouse,” the ones I already knew by heart and love unabashedly. And you know what? When they did get around to playing them, they sounded every bit as good to me as the first time I heard them … But don’t get it twisted. I’m not writing off the new songs, by any means; they just didn’t instantly move.”

In fact, why don’t you just read Dave’s blog. I mean, hell, they probably need the Alexa rating boost more than we do anyway.

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