Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s. The name of the band is a mouthful, the names of their songs are notorious mouthfuls, and as they approached the (dense) crowd last night at LA’s Bootleg Theater, it became evident that the band itself is rather a stage-full.
There’s a lot to be said, or written, about their live performance and it’s tough to pare down the numerous, meaty topics and create a concise, meaningful piece of writing. Let’s start with the size of the band and go from there. Perhaps the most notable part of Margot & Co.’s show was how incredibly tight they are for a six-piece band. They play with a level of professionalism and nonchalance that is extremely overt and impressive.
And, though it appears effortless, the focus woven into each band member’s performance is tangible. So much so, in fact, that during a post-show chat with guitarist Ronnie Kwasman I actually had to ask if they were having fun up there. He grinned and confirmed they were having a blast. “We love playing LA,” he said, and expressed his surprise and appreciation for the size of the crowd that turned out. Who were an interesting aspect of the night's show. Critics have consistently cited the band’s intensely loyal and devoted fan base and it was certainly evident among the audience at the Bootleg. Jumping, chanting, whistling, shouting song requests, screaming lyrics—the crowd was fully engaged and showed no signs of slowing. From a rowdy group of frat(ish) boys behind me getting dramatically resentful along with frontman Richard Edwards in a “Shannon” sing-a-long (“But I’m probably gonna just get drunk, Shannon / I’m gonna go get drunk, Shannon” they growled), to a trio of young(ish) girls front-and-center who could be heard ooh-ing and ahh-ing in time with every move Edwards made (and you could easily make out the glisten of perspiration on their necks and the flush in their cheeks—the kind that comes from hormones, not temperature), it was clear that every member of that audience was convinced this group could do no wrong. It was a bit hard to argue.
Critics have also been harsh in the past about the band’s inability to break-through—calling them overly precious and simultaneously morose as well as arguing that they take themselves too seriously. Well, firstly, precious + morose when added to this Margot equation seems to = an irresistible, gritty, grungy rock that is softened and undercut at the perfect moments with hints of ethereal magic. And secondly, taking themselves “too seriously” (if that is in fact the case) obviously works for them. They are undeniable pros!
Showcasing 8 songs off of the band's latest release: Rot, Gut, Domestic (2012), came in the form of fan-requests (which where made loudly and often). Highlights were “A journalist…” followed by “Broadripple is Burning,” which saw most of the band clear off the stage and brought the focus to Edwards, who garnered pure focus from crowd. Another highlight was the sort of folky-grunge sound of “Skeleton Key” with the addition of Erik Kang on violin. “A Children’s Crusade on Acid” and “New York City Hotel Blues” were also high moments for the crowd and band alike, complete with laconic drumming, screeching guitars and cool keyboard styling's.
Last night’s show was one in a West Coast string of 21 shows in 24 days (plus a few more on the back end), following 20 shows on the East Coast last month—a tour schedule hectic enough to make even onlookers tired. How much rehearsal does it take to get the six of them to play with the aforementioned insanely professional tightness? None. “We’re road ready,” Kwasman said. “Well,” he added, “we did get together this tour, which is something we’ve never done, for three days at Rich’s house, in his basement just to go over the new songs. Then we hit the road.” Three days! Three days of rehearsal and a live show so fluid and effortless you would think this group has been playing together for 30 years, albeit nearly 10. The fact that this talented pack of musicians is still playing tiny venues for $15 a show is mind-boggling. If chamber-pop rock, mixed pure rock and roll is your thing then this sextet (sometimes septet) -from Indianapolis is for you.
Set List: Arvydas Sabonis, Fisher of Men, Books About Trains, The Ocean (Is Bleeding Salt), Claws Off, A Children’s Crusade on Acid, Jolene/Payphone, Tiny Vampire Robot, A Journalist Falls in Love With Death Row Inmate #16, Broadripple is Burning, New York City Hotel Blues, Prozac Rock, Quiet as a Mouse, Skeleton Key, Shannon
Encore: Talking in Code, The Devil, Christ