I must confess that I was not overly excited about going to see MGMT at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD last Saturday. Instead, I was mostly looking forward to meeting my brother in the parking area before the show and hearing about his latest western excursion over a few tasty, refreshing brews.
I had only heard a couple MGMT songs prior to the show–the wildly popular, radio-friendly tunes “Kids” and “Electric Feel.” I’m not usually a fan of pop music, but at the same time, I’m not going to dislike something just because it’s all over the place. Plus, I hold my brother’s musical tastes in high esteem, and it was his idea to go to the show, so I gave MGMT a shot.
I must say, it was not at all what I expected. The majority of MGMT’s, roughly, 90 minute performance was a sonically and rhythmically diverse array of songs based largely around an acoustic guitar wrapped in a psychedelic bundle of synthesizer noises, guitar sounds, and smooth melodies. It was as if they’d actually been from the ’60’s, gained access to a time machine, made a pit-stop in the ’80’s to borrow some Nintendo sounds, then arrived in the 2000’s in time to captivate the children and grandchildren of the baby boomers.
As a man who enjoys a healthy dose of psychedelia, I was pleasantly surprised by MGMT’s diversity and range of songs. The two founding members, Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden, who met at Wesleyan University in Connecticut in 2002, were accompanied by three other musicians for the show. All three of which have been playing shows with and recording with MGMT since the release of the band’s first album, but, from what I understand, are not necessarily “part of” MGMT.
As I was thoroughly enjoying and bebopping to the “filler songs” during the show, the rest of my fellow concert goers surrounding me on the lawn seemed somewhat disinterested. As soon as any of the hits would begin, though, everyone, mostly college age people with long hair and tie-dye shirts, erupted in drunken cheers as a cloud of sweet smelling herbs wafted above our heads. When MGMT started playing or not playing, as it were, the song “Kids,” a couple girls turned to me and challenged, “Why don’t you try dancing?”
“Looks like they’re doing enough dancing on stage,” I retorted.
To my astonishment, the band wasn’t even playing the song! It was a pre-recorded track that Goldwasser and VanWyngarden were just singing and dancing along with, while the other band members just sort of milled around the stage and fiddled with their equipment. It was tremendous! It seemed like they were sort of making a mockery of the song’s popularity, as research I’ve conducted has uncovered that Goldwasser and VanWyngarden regret putting that song on the album.
It reminded me of a video I saw of Nirvana a long time ago. They were on some sort of music top singles countdown show, and they were supposed to play “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Of course, they were sick of the song and really started to hate it by then, so they decided to make a joke out of it by obviously “fake playing” their instruments to a pre-recorded track while Kurt Cobain sang the song in a really low, creepy voice. Stickin’ it!
I’m happy to say that I opened my mind and my heart, and gave MGMT a chance to win me over. And in so doing, I’ve gained respect for and have become a fan of a band to which I may have never given a second listen.