"Well, you know what MGMT sound like live? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Their music and stage presence are so bland, we all might as well have been staring at a brick wall."—Amy Phillips, Pitchfork, Oct 20, 2007
MGMT’s status in the music world has changed a lot since Amy Philips saw them that night at Crash Mansion. Nothing proves that more than the sea of people that flocked to McCarren Pool on Sunday. Rain and lightning did little to keep the crowds away. A line wrapped around the outside of the pool with hipsters looking for their free opportunity to see one of the hottest acts alive, along with Ting Tings and Black Moth Super Rainbow.
After having spent most of my day at the Guggenheim, I arrived shortly after 5pm, and the line was unlike anything I’ve ever seen at McCarren Pool. I soon overheard a staff member mention that no one else was getting in, as hundreds stood on queue unwilling to accept that sad fact. Roughly 15 minutes later a staff member walked down the line with a megaphone telling everyone that the pool had reached capacity and no one else was coming in.
Some people walked away disappointed, some looked for spots around the exterior of the venue to listen from, while others were more relentless and chose to test security by hopping the fence.
It all seemed like a lot of hysteria over a band with one unremarkable album, a couple good catchy singles, and little reputation as a live band. Naturally, I couldn’t help but want to see what all the fuss was about (which I guess makes me another victim of the hype). So, despite my friends’ inabilities to get in, I abandoned them and ventured in alone thanks to a spot on the list.
Inside, McCarren Pool was an endless sea of people. It was easily the most crowded show the venue has ever seen. MGMT had just started their set, and they were exactly what I could have expected based on Amy Philips’ Pitchfork review—bland. They should not have been headlining a venue of this size in front of such an enormous crowd. They’re just not that good. They sounded awful and their stage presence was weak. Much better and more established bands like The Breeders, Hold Steady and Liars brought large crowds, but nothing in comparison to the masses that MGMT pulled in.
I went to this show hoping to find an answer to the question "why is MGMT so popular?". I thought that maybe they’d blow my mind. Instead, they sorta just blew. They’re simply not a good live band. "Time to Pretend" is a really fun, catchy single, but sounds much much better on record.
Plenty of other music bloggers were there, including Heartonastick and The Modern Age, and no one seemed impressed by MGMT’s performance. Meanwhile on BrooklynVegan commenters have once again gone wild. Idolator has done everyone a favor by collecting some of the most ridiculous comments from the long thread.
What I learned on Sunday: Louise Bourgeois is a brilliant artist who is finally getting recognition for her art, after a lifetime of hard work. MGMT is just another overhyped band who didn’t have to work long enough to deserve their massive popularity.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Pelly