Summer in Chicago means a few things - Cubs games and annoying drunken Cubs fans (I'll admit, sometimes I am one of them), bright white skin after a winter hibernation and a swarm of great bands passing through the Windy City. As summer creeps up it seems that every night there is another great band to see. Last Saturday was no exception. There were three great shows at three different venues to see that night, the first of which, Margot And The Nuclear So And So's, I was looking forward to the most.
From the moment Margot And The Nuke's album, The Dust Of Retreat, was given to me I have been unable to stop listening to it. Taking their name from Wes Anderson's Royal Tenenbaums' character, Margot Tenenbaum, this eight-piece indie rock collective has managed to create a little slice of chamber pop perfection. An opulent assortment of strings, percussion, brass and guitars breathe life to frontman Richard Edwards' poignant lyrics. With The Dust Of Retreat this Indianapolis-based band has managed to create an intimate album that is introspective and narrative, with each song painting a beautiful world that seems at once both intensely real and impressionistically dreamlike.
When I love an album so much I tend to be a bit nervous that the songs won't translate well live, but thankfully that was not the case with Margot. I arrived at Chicago's Double Door with just five minutes to spare, just enough time to grab a drink and stake out a good spot to stand. The venue wasn't too full yet, but as the band took the stage it was apparent that they had some die-hard fans that had come out specifically to see them. With no word to the crowd the band got right into it, starting with one of my favorites, "On a Freezing Chicago Street," a prefect song to play, since, in true Chicago fashion, the temp had dropped about 30 degrees in a matter of hours. It was right about then that a drunk girl behind me asked me if this was South (the headliner for the evening). When I told her no, the band was called Margot And The Nuclear So And So's, she asked me which one was Margot. I punched her in the throat and laughed as she dropped to the floor like a sac of potatoes (not really, but I wanted to).
The Double Door is the perfect setting for Margot's melancholy tunes, and although the stage is small, they all managed to have incredibly engaging stage presences (is that a word?). Casey Tennis seemed to be taken over by the music as he played his percussion kit and danced around the stage like a man possessed by something greater then himself, which in this case seemed to be a tu tu-wearing fairy from Never Never Land. Jesse Lee's cello filled the room with sounds both sad and lovely, but it was Emily Watkins' subtle beauty and enchanting backing vocals that really stood out for me. Her voice rang out in perfect harmony with Richard Edwards' earnest lyrics.
Margot And The Nukes (which is much easier to say) ran though most of their debut album over the course of their set, playing such stand outs as "Skeleton Key," "Paper Kitten Nightmare," and "Vampires In Blue Dresses," ending with the Nada Surf-esque "Quiet As A Mouse." Those that arrived early enough to catch Margot were treated to something exquisite and arresting. If you have a chance to see this, do yourself a favor and go. It's like reading a literary masterpiece with your ears while dancing slow and quiet with your lover. Plus, they are playing with two really great bands, South and Something For Rockets, so you really can't go wrong.
Margot And The Nuclear So And So's