Margot & The Nuclear So & So’s played Bowery & MHOW (pics)
It was a night of tempered (but cautiously hopeful) expectations at the Music Hall of Williamsburg last Wednesday (9/29). With Rogue Wave/Midlake playing at Webster Hall and Best Coast at the Bowery Ballroom, the competition for the evening was fierce, and it didn't help matters that the headliner of the evening, Margot & The Nuclear So & So's, recently lost/replaced a number of its members, including the band's only female - Emily Watkins.
Though energetic enough, even the two out-of-town openers seemed to have relatively low expectations. Each were convinced that no one knew who they were, but during both sets there were moments of recognition and appreciation from the audience that helped to lighten the mood and inject some energy into the sparsely populated room. At one point, opener Cameron McGill dedicated an older song to a friend, saying, "not that anyone has that album" only for someone to yell out, "I do!"
For The Lonely Forest, that uplifting moment came early in the set when someone yelled out, "Tomato Soup!" "What? Metal Soup?" asked lead singer John Van Deusen. "TOMATO SOUP!" the fan yelled again. "Holy shit! You know one of our songs? Wow." Van Deusen's dimpled smile registered his excitement. "Someone actually knows who we are." The three members not constrained by a drum kit proceeded to show their enthusiasm by jumping around on stage.
As for Margot, though a number of fans sang along, the reception was largely underwhelming, and the relatively low turn-out didn't help matters. Sadly, it seemed that the change in line-up took a tool on both the band the audience. The venue pushed back the show by 20 minutes since attendance was so slim an hour after doors, and they even closed off the balcony in a painfully obvious attempt to plump up the pit.
Kudos to Margot multi-instrumentalist Erik Kang for keeping a smile on his face and punching up the set with regular contributions from the lap steel and occasional (but always delightful) violin interludes. The absence of the cello, horns, and backing female vox (all distinguishing features for the band in the past) was certainly felt.
Of course there were high points, like crowd pleasers "Skeleton Key" and "Quiet Like a Mouse," but overall, the set dragged. By the time someone came on stage and left behind two bottles of partially consumed Jameson, the band was already wrapping things up. One song later, lead singer Richard Edwards thanked everyone for coming and headed off stage.
It was the rare occasion when an encore didn't seem like a given. Before the room began to empty, however, there was a glimmer of hope for fans. Kang briefly appeared in the empty balcony to survey the crowd before making his way back to the stage, and at his beckoning, the band returned for another two songs.
The ultimate cringe moment of the evening came just before the encore. Everyone but Edwards had appeared back on stage, prompting bass player Tyler Watkins to teasingly say, "I think someone's missing." After a brief pause, a response came from near the front of the crowd. "Yeah. Like half of the members of your band." (Yikes.)
Despite my chagrin that night, I like Margot. They were good sports for the most part, but I fear the group's recent restructuring seems to have left them somewhat detached and dejected - like a band recovering from a forced lobotomy. Let's hope Margot's identity is still in flux.
The Music Hall show was one of two NYC dates on a larger tour for the band in promotion of their new LP Buzzard which is out now.
More pictures from the Brooklyn show, and videos from both NYC shows, below...
Margot & The Nuclear So & So's
freak flight speed & long gone - margot & the nuclear so & so's at MHOW
Margot & the Nuclear So and So's @ Bowery Ballroom - "Bookworm"
Margot & the Nuclear So and So's @ Bowery Ballroom - "Skeleton Key"
Margot & the Nuclear So and So's @ Bowery Ballroom - "Quiet as a Mouse"