Concert Review: MGMT Recalls, then Subverts their own Weirdness

Going into an MGMT show, it wouldn’t be an outlandish assumption that things were going to get trippy and weird. Sure, mainstream attention for the psychedelic indie-rock duo has taken somewhat of a nosedive following their sophomore album Congratulations – which critics and fans alike have largely attributed to it’s overly-experimental sensibilities. But if anything, this was the very quality that drew a large crowd of fans, old and new, to the Union on Tuesday, May 23, 2018.

Photo by Charissa Che

Perhaps borne of a desire to subvert our expectations, Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser indeed got weird, but in a more casual, tongue-in-cheek fashion. In their opening song, VanWyngarden blissfully smirked at his bandmate as he simultaneously sang, percussed, and peddled on an exercise bike. When the song was over, he nonchalantly handed the thing over to the bouncer for safekeeping.

Photo by Charissa Che

Another cheeky instance came with the frontman’s question, “Who here has a phone?” Oddly (perhaps because they were made self-conscious about it), there were hardly any phones to be found, Snapchatting or selfie-ing the schtick. “Come on, I know all of you have one!” he said. “Take them out!”

Photo by Charissa Che

Obligingly, three people took out their smartphones and waved them around. It was a simple yet delightfully clever audience participation setup. As VanWyngarden sang about the perils of digital technology and social media in “TSLAMP” (“Time Spent Looking At My Phone”), a giant projection of a revolving iPhone behind him seemed to swallow him whole onstage. In front of him waved real-life phones, effectively trapping him in his own demise.

Photo by Charissa Che

To Read our interview with Ben Goldwasser
go to here.

This moment, alongside the static background projections of EKG waves, femme fatales, and kaleidoscopic oozes one would find in an I Spy book all had the quirky markings of an OK Go concert on drugs (and drugs there were aplenty, among attendees). The encore was especially amusing to behold: after some short minutes of the requisite “One more song!” chant, the crowd was “treated” not to “Kids” – the most notable unplayed song during the set – but a lulling guitar ballad. Some country ditty followed, to the obvious chagrin of some people in the back. Others chortled at the guys’ ongoing wry attempts to toy with our emotions.

Photo by Charissa Che

After about a dozen impatient grouches ditched the venue, the guys thanked us for coming to their last leg of their North American tour, and said they had one more song. The wobbly synths of the beginning of “Kids” finally kicked in, and we were sated. But that wasn’t really the last song: they somehow managed to do their infamous remix of the “Neverending Story” theme song, featuring “Encore Duck.” An inflatable duck bounced around the audience, and blissed-out crowdsurfers rejoiced. True to the theme of the night, MGMT outdid themselves with giving us what they knew we wanted – and then some.

To view more photos from the show, go here.



Charissa Che
Charissa Che was born and raised in NYC and has been a journalist for over 12 years in news and arts and entertainment. She is a regular music contributor for Salt Lake Magazine. Additionally, she holds a PhD candidate in Writing & Rhetoric at the University of Utah. She prides herself on following the best cat accounts on Instagram. Calicos preferred.

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