By Aisha Sharipzhan
The experimental indie rock band started off the setlist with the eerie, mellow song “Intro” from their 2005 demo album, “Climbing to New Lows,” released back when they were called The Management (MGMT is a commonly used abbreviation for “management”).
The introductory song bled straight into “Little Dark Age,” the first single from MGMT’s newest album of the same name. Like much of MGMT’s music, the song is reminiscent of 80’s electronic rock with moody vocals, hypnotic synth and a dark ambience contrasted by bright blue stage lights.
An essential part of the performance were the visuals that turned frontmen Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser into mere silhouettes against the fast-paced, flashy backdrop. The band clearly wanted the focus to be on the show’s display rather than themselves as they spoke only to compliment the venue and to comment on how the show was flying by.
“When You Die,” another song from their latest album, featured warped graphics based on the single’s music video. The unique images included a psychedelic cave of eyeballs and a grotesque mesh of facial features smiling down on the crowd, complementing the song’s dark lyrics: I’m not that nice/I’m mean and I’m evil/Don’t call me nice/I’m gonna eat your heart out.
“They like being weird,” said D.C. resident Marissa Newberry, 32. “They have so many great visuals, so many different lights, colors and backgrounds. They’re a different level when it comes to that … it was different to any band that I’ve ever seen.”
After playing a couple of unfamiliar new songs, MGMT went back to their roots and riled up the generally reserved crowd who recognized the synth introductions to “Time to Pretend” and “Electric Feel,” hits from their 2007 debut album “Oracle Spectacular.”
Visiting from Atlanta, Ryan Mitzel, 28, said while he enjoyed the performance as a whole, he was most excited about “Electric Feel,” “Time to Pretend” and “Kids,” all songs from MGMT’s first and most popular album.
The show had an air of 80’s nostalgia both in the songs performed and the accompanying visuals. “She Works Out Too Much” is a song about a girl who spends too much time on social media and the visual metaphor for the song was an ’80’s workout video splashed across the big screen behind the band.
“Time to Pretend” displayed an 80’s-style video game with a graphic of a deer running through Twitter symbols to collect points.
There also seemed to be a recurring theme of technology and social media, especially with the performance of “Tslamp,” (an acronym for “time spent looking at my phone”), which featured iPhone apps, such as Facebook and Venmo, panning across the backdrop. The song is from the album “Little Dark Age,” and its lyrics about our relationship with phones definitely hit close to home: I’m wondering where the hours went/As I’m losing consciousness/My sullen face is all aglow/Time spent looking at my phone.
D.C. resident Clayton Russell, 36, found the commentary on technology relatable and ironic because people had their phones out during “Tslamp” to record the performance.
“Maybe 10 years ago, you wouldn’t even be recording the song on your phone,” Russell said. “I’m a phone addict too. The phone they had on the screen was an iPhone X [which I also own] … I mean, we’re all hooked, it’s like crack … That’s what they’re trying to say.”
To the audience’s satisfaction, MGMT closed their set with “Kids,” which had a surprising twist. Halfway through the song, the melody seamlessly blended into “The NeverEnding Story” by Limahl, the title song to the 1984 film of the same name. The crowd would not let MGMT go after that, deafeningly demanding an encore.
Leaving the audience with a taste for the old and the new, MGMT ended the night with “Hand it Over” from “Little Dark Age” and “Of Moons, Birds & Monsters” from “Oracle Spectacular.” Those who have not explored MGMT’s music since their 2007 success will certainly not be let down by the band’s comeback and the new experimental sounds they have to offer in “Little Dark Age.”
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of MGMT’s Facebook page.
Aisha Sharipzhan is a senior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.