This past Wednesday evening, downtown Detroit showed few signs of the economic hardships we all read about, feel ourselves, or hear from friends across the country who see the latest example of the decay of our fair city in the national media. As masses of people headed to Comerica to catch a beautiful night for a Tiger's game, I had the opportunity to check out psychedelic-electronic-indie-alternative wunderkinds MGMT as they took the stage at the Fillmore (cough, State) Theater. Playing to a soldout house, MGMT and opener band Tame Impala brought some fun to the middle of a pre-summer week. The crowd consisted of mostly white suburbanite kids in their early 20s and late teens, most of whom were singing along with the numbers off of Brooklyn, NY-based MGMT's critically acclaimed 2007 album Oracular Spectacular. It's been called a top album of the decade and has garnered praise from a panoply of artists and tastemakers. Unfortunately, the band's sophomore effort Congratulations did not have the enthusiastic reception of the debut, having been panned by fans and critics as a boring album reflecting more of the same formula that made the debut so successful. However, critical negativity aside, the packed theater was further testament to the band's mainstream success, particularly with the young musicians' contemporaries.
I headed into the show a bit before the opening act Tame Impala took the stage. Cut from a similar cloth as MGMT, Tame Impala impressed me with their modern, indie-meets-psychedelic rock, sound. I shot the first few songs of their set and hung around a bit as the already packed room grooved to their sound that some in the crowed professed to enjoy more than MGMT. Having not heard them before, I'll reserve any blanket judgment, negative or positive. Suffice it to say that when I met up with some friends in the State Bar, I was annoyed that the video feed from the stage playing over monitors in the bar was not accompanied by the actual sound (why is that such a difficult concept?)
After a drink, I wandered back outside between the bands' sets and was still finding people on the sidewalk looking for tickets (yes, I did have some kids outside asking if I had extra tickets or could sneak them in - no on both counts). Snapping a few shots of the scene, I headed back in to catch the first songs of MGMT's set. Playing songs from both albums (not that they have much more material than that), MGMT had the crowd pumped into a frenzy of adolescent hormones as girls on the rail screamed out their love for lead singer Andrew VanWyngarden. Highlights of their 90 minute long set for me included Electric Feel, Pieces of What, Time to Pretend, and an encore of their hit single Kids, all off of Oracular Spectacular. The show was fun and the audience was into it, but people weren't moving around very much. I'm not a big fan of shoe gaze rock, and I can enjoy the stand-in-one-place-bobbing-your-head rock, but somehow it makes me sad to see people not dance to dance music. Which isn't to say that nobody was dancing, but it seemed that most people were just too cool to dance or shake their asses to the beat. When it comes to neo-psychedelic music, the moniker is often lost on me as I would think that listening to that music on any psychedelic drug would make me want to take a header off the balcony, or just drive some nails in my ears (or leave?) rather than being 'trippy,' or 'psychedelic,' which is not to mention that I'd wager that 98% of the audience had never taken a psychedelic drug (not that I'm endorsing or condoning, mind you - you can't handle it, you emotional and intellectual lightweights who would piss yourself from smoking banana peels) and wouldn't know the real meaning of 'psychedelic' if little fairies jumped on their heads as the room melted around them. So, all in all, it was an enjoyable show (despite rumors of lip-syncing) but the performance was a note-for-note reprisal of the album tracks - nothing that I couldn't experience by running a half-mile to get kinda sweaty, putting on some good headphones and the 2 albums on random, and pretending that Fillmore security was harassing my friends to stop dancing in front of the stairs.