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Thursday, July 4, 2013

MGMT @ Harley-Davidson Roadhouse, Summerfest

July 3, 2013

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Stylistic reinvention is a sure way to keep listeners off their collective feet, but with 2010’s Congratulations many suspected that synth-poppers MGMT went too deep into psychedelia and strayed too distant from anything pop-related. Whether the laconic step-back emerged from a fear of going big and failing or a truly inspired direction dictated by the founding duo Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser’s mutual taste in '60s music, it didn’t matter if the music was any good, only if it was catchy. And catchy it was not. There were no earworm singles, no danceable synth lines, and the lyric sheets read a few pages long. There was really nothing to grasp. That seemed to be the point.

No matter how much MGMT pushed people away with their trippy-ness, there will forever remain a demand to hear the three hit songs (“Time to Pretend,” “Electric Feel” and “Kids”) from their debut Oracular Spectacular. It was immediately apparent that the young crowd that camped out at the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse on Wednesday night, filling every bench seat three hours before the band’s set began, came for those in particular. Restlessness seemed to spread throughout the masses until MGMT finally strode into “Time to Pretend” about 40 minutes into its performance. The silky, synth jam “Electric Feel” provided another moment of sheer pandemonium later, as well. 

But MGMT would mainly focus on its weird, blistery, psych-pop jams for the remaining hour and 20 minutes. Backed by a visualization running through a bright neon-colored galactic odyssey, the tunes sounded far-out but nonetheless enjoyable. At some points, the sun-drenched songs would barely lurch forward. Lead singer VanWyngarden looked dazed as he mainly shook a tambourine on stage. MGMT threw in a few new ones from their upcoming record, each bizarre, of course. They introduced a slow meandering cover of “Introspection” from little known '60s psych-rockers Faine Jade and its exploratory, whimsical new single “Alien Days.”

MGMT ended up closing the night with the title track “Congratulations” from its cantankerous record, confounding everyone who showed up to hear them play arguably the most popular of its three pop songs, “Kids.” But that’s MGMT for you. They love throwing you for a loop.