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Matt Hopper, The Devil Whale, Cameron McGill & What Army:  Live

by Andrew Whorehall

Matt Hopper & The Devil Whale | Kryptonite, Rockford, IL 08.25.2010 | Photo provided by Chris Wachowiak at Krypto

Matt Hopper (& The Roman Candles) is a singer-songwriter from Hatcher Pass, Alaska (at least that’s what he’ll tell ya).  He’s lived everywhere it seems in the last 10 years, documenting his tales, characters from places he’s been to, places he’s from and places he’s going to next.  He’s released a few records on his own, as well as under the band name, The Roman Candles earlier in the last 10 years.

Brinton Jones is the lead singer songwriter of The Devil Whale; home base, Salt Lake City, Utah.  The band has self released a full length and their newest e.p. while opening for the likes of respectable artists like;  Cold War Kids, the Autumn Defense, Glen Phillips, Richard Buckner, Damien Jurado, the Band of Annuals, Mike Doughty, Rocky Votolato, Richard Swift, David Dondero and many more.

They recently passed through Rockford, IL, on, August 25th, a Wednesday night.  Usually a ‘staying in night’ for most, they arrived opening for a few of their midwestern friends;  Chicago’s, Cameron McGill & What Army.  3 great bands from all over the U.S. on one night, in Rockford, IL.  The amount of talent in the room may have been the most overwhelming aspect of the night for an informed witness/listener.


The Devil Whale opened first, convincing a small crowd unaware of their music to turn to their friends and ask, “Who are these guys?  They’re great.”  The Devil Whale played songs off their newest e.p. “Young Wives” and a few selections off their full length, “Like Paraders.” Rock, folk, harmonies slippin’ in and under classic pop arrangements with the right amount of feedback when needed, Kryptonite via Salt Lake City.  Jones’ songs, the band, on record are subdued, well crafted and produced- live, they explode.  The band supports Jones’ lead like a rock machine should.  There’s something going on in Utah;  there would be no surprise to see the ‘Whale’ sign with a respective indie label in the near future and accidentally open for the likes of indie giants while forging their own path to headline.  Catch them now;  an amazing, live band, great players in control of beautiful pop-folk arrangements that explode with color.

Hopper joined the Whale for the 2nd set performing his own set of tunes rooted in ‘Crazy Horse’ delivery and Americana stories of the road, people.  The first thing you’ll notice is Hopper’s voice, a commanding wail from a tiny frame that can hit some bar room falsettos and yelps from deep below.  A great story teller / band leader took control of the room with his own catalogue of songs, many from his recently released beauty of a record, “Jersey Finger.”  The  Devil Whale served as his, ‘Roman Candles,’  following Hopper’s emotional delivery and dressing up standard rock songs with Americana inflections and punk instincts.

Cameron McGill & What Army | Kryptonite, Rockford, IL 08.25.2010 | Photo provided by Chris Wachowiak at Krypto

Cameron McGill & What Army had to close the night after all that;  and they did mightily.  The Army this time around featured Adam Plamann (The Wandering Sons / Miles Nielsen) on keys and sax, and newly hired touring bassist / songwriter, Miles Nielsen (Harmony Riley / The Wandering Sons / Miles Nielsen & The Rusted Hearts).

What’s most ironic about this night of  great talent is that it could have been billed as “Cameron McGill & The Wandering Sons.”  Luckily the midwest irony only went as deep as the eye would allow incestuous, midwest, musical thoughts & connections.  Cam’s songs are musically monstrous regardless of presentation, trampling such thoughts.  The Army and their Rookies took the bar that Hopper and the Whale raised and dismantled it, playing songs from their newest, e.p., “Deserters” and previewing songs from their  finished full-length, record, “Is A Beast” (Due in 2011).

Older cuts from “Hold on Beauty” and “Warm Songs for Cold Shoulders” fleshed out a majority, electric set.  Cameron’s voice was in majestic, vicious form and the Army with their newbies in toll proved why they are one of the midwest’s finest going right now;  giving character and weight to McGill’s fragile, honest, emotional songs while playing their own hearts out.  The band is oiling up for a fall tour with Margot & The Nuclear So & So’s where McGill will be doing double duties, keys and what nots for Margot’s gang and then leading his own mates through the east coast and back.  Do what you can to catch this band.

The amount of talent in that room that night has left a mark on me for days. Each band brought their A+ game to an F+ city in the middle of nowhere.  Just another night in Rockford, IL, that I, and many others who were lucky enough to be there to listen, won’t forget soon.

Thank you to Chris & Kryptonite for another great, irregular night of music by 3 of  America’s great bands in one spot.