When I made my way through the pouring rain last Tuesday to DAR Constitution Hall to see the psychedelic rock band MGMT, I had no idea what kind of crowd I would be dealing with. Back in 2006 when they released their first full album, “Oracular Spectacular,” only my coolest friends had heard of them, but by the time their sophomore album “Congratulations” came around in 2010, “Time to Pretend” had won Best Breakthrough Track and Best Track at the NME Awards and the music video for “Electric Feel” had been nominated for the Best Art Direction at the MTV Video Music Awards. In other words, they were kind of… mainstream.
But after “Congratulations” was released, I didn’t hear much about the band. The reaction to their second album seemed much more muted, which made sense considering it contained far less straight up pop songs, and while I really enjoyed “Congratulations” it seemed like they disappeared. I didn’t even know they had been working on a new self-titled album until it was released and my coolest friend posted something about it online.
So I was interested in seeing who would show up to Constitution Hall on that dark and stormy night and it far exceeded my expectations. There was a wonderful mixture of people who seemed way too cool for school and the kind of people you could tell were only there for the stuff that played on the radio. It was the perfect atmosphere for shit to get kind of weird, and oh how it did.
Kuroma, the brainchild of Hank Sullivant, was the opening band and played an energetic set, but it was clear that most of the crowd was there for MGMT, and only MGMT. At one point Sullivant even made a joke, telling a few of the interested fans in the audience that they didn’t have to stand up and dance, but could sit down and rest before MGMT came on. Despite the crowd, Kuroma played a fun set that was the perfect warm up to the weirdness.
MGMT started their night with “It’s Working,” the first song off of “Congratulations” and almost immediately people jumped to their feet. While Constitution Hall isn’t the best venue for a dance party, most of the audience didn’t really seem to care. Performed live, the song seemed way more meandering and confused than on the album, which made the hook even more incredible when it finally broke through half way through the song. They followed up the excitement with one of their most popular songs, “Time to Pretend.” While I was surprised that they’d play such a big hit so early, the crowd absolutely loved it. The few stragglers that had been sitting jumped right up and started dancing along with the rest of us.
I had anticipated that MGMT would put on a great light show, a band like that just had to, right? What I didn’t expect were the absolutely crazy visuals that went along with it. At one point there was what looked like some sort of bacteria interacting with other bacteria overlayed with some fast tracking shots of a house in the country, all of it constantly changing color. During the song “Introspection”, a cover of the Faine Jade song, frontman Andrew VanWyngarden had a fish eye lense camera attached to his mic stand which he starred creepily at, and then turned on the other band members and the audience. The best (read: terrifying) part was the recurring image of a half crustacean/half human thing with deer antlers and an umbrella growing out of its back. It also had eyes where its nipples should have been. This creature monster thing would wander around psychedelic landscapes with a zombie like shuffle. It was absolutely horrifying. I’m still having nightmares.
They capped off the show with “Kids” and “Weekend Warriors”. While both songs seemed to be a little more toned down than their album versions, the audience still broke out into a fun dance party that didn’t seem like it was going to end.