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It was a night of chamber pop and droll viz-art at The Black Cat on Saturday, as Cloud Cult and Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s played a many-strings-attached set to a crowd of studious head-bobbers.
Cloud Cult, named for a Native American sect that prophesies that mankind will eventually lose control over technology, lost control over one of their arrangements early in the show, prompting an apology from lead singer Craig Minowa. But the ensemble recovered and wound up wielding their instruments quite ably, dip-stepping a beam between nuanced baroque and driving indie pop, with some harmonic chanting thrown in. The band mixed in some theatrical gags, too: Minowa wore a black strip of facepaint across his eyes and a mask with butterfly-style false eyes on his forehead, precluding attacks from the any praying mantises lurking in the audience. Meanwhile, band member Scott West spent the entire set painting on a large canvas in the corner of the stage, his brushstrokes imitating the tempo of each song.(Bids on the painting had climbed to hundreds of dollars by the end of the show.) Cheesier gags included gratuitous use of a smoke machine and a pause to photograph the audience.
Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s also decorated the stage with art: giant carboard cutouts of what appeared to be winged llamas. But these were already complete and the band stuck to playing music, more or less stealing the show—thanks largely the lap-steel and violin work of Danny Kang, which made certain songs seem haunting and windswept; and percussion stylings of Casey Tennis, who made creative use of two empty water jugs and a suitcase.