I have a bone to pick. At the risk of stating the obvious, Margot and the Nuclear So and So's sound nothing like the Arcade Fire. They've been compared Montreal's finest often, and it’s easy to see why. I mean, they each have more than four members and both Margot and the Arcade Fire have percussionists! Wow, it’s like they were separated at birth!
Honestly, they couldn’t be any more different. For one thing, the Arcade Fire exudes a tremendous sense of joy and ecstasy, lending their music a cathartic quality. Margot is not quite as cathartic. The Arcade Fire's instrumentation, while similar in quantity, is chaotic, messy and almost violent. Parts clash and collide, swirling around without much control. Margot is much more controlled. Each part is placed exactly where Margot wants it. I could go on, but that isn't the point of this review.
The point is reviewing Margot and the Nuclear So and So's set at Docs on July 1st. I saw Margot’s set at the Vogue in Indianapolis a few months back. They presented themselves as a fantastic live band, full of energy and full of life. That energy surged throughout the venue, infecting everyone there. It was one of those “religious experiences” that R.E.M and U2 fans seem to think only comes from their favorite band.
By contrast, Margot seemed a bit tired at Docs. They seemed to be having an off night. As usual, Margot exhibited the kind of professionalism that has propelled them beyond local band-territory. However, that energy wasn’t as prevalent. That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t an enjoyable show. In the end, I have mixed reactions to this show.
Opening with “Vampires in Blue Dresses,” the set included crowd-favorites “Skeleton Key” and “Broad Ripple is Burning” as well as some surprises. “As Tall as Cliffs,” one of the songs slated for release on Margot’s next album showed that Margot’s recent success is not a fluke.
As expected the highlights of Margot’s set came during the “ch-ch-chunk” guitar and massive wall of sound during the chorus of “As Quiet as a Mouse,” and the tender balladry of “Jen is Bringing the Drugs.” As expected the “Meow meow meow” chorus on “Paper Kitten Nightmare” still sounded…ridiculous. It's always seemed to be a silly and unusual departure from the themes that Edwards usually deals with. Nonetheless the crowd eats it up.
Much can be said about Richard Edwards’ devastatingly beautiful voice, but Margot is a great band because each member has a unique and vital identity. On “Broad Ripple is Burning” it is Emily Watkins Rhodes Piano and backing vocals that give the song such a sweet, lovely quality. On nearly every song, percussionist Casey Tennis shakes and shimmies, chain-smokes cigarettes and with the help of drummer Chris Fry helped give Margot the propulsive rhythm section that draws those unfortunate and inaccurate Arcade Fire comparisons. It is this melting pot of personalities that makes Margot special.
While attending Bonnaroo in Tennessee, I met a young couple. The guy commented on my Margot and the Nuclear So and So's button, saying that he had seen them live and really enjoyed their set. When I found out they were New York I realized how much Margot's popularity is growing. While Indianapolis will always feel an immense sense of pride in Margot, the rest of the country seems to just be catching up. It remains to be seen whether Margot will capitalize on this.
My guess is that they will.
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