MGMT played for a nearly sold-out crowd at Avila Beach Resort Friday night. The concert followed criticism from fans and music critics alike in regards to MGMT’s lack of stage presence and reputation for leaving out certain fan favorites from its performances.
If the crowd’s reception of the band’s set on Friday was any indication, MGMT may finally be winning over skeptics of their sophomoric release.
Regardless of whether “Congratulations” will produce the amount of success of the band’s previous album, “Oracular Spectacular,” at least a portion of Friday’s crowd seemed to have gotten what it wanted. Fans near the stage danced for most of the night singing lyrics to the songs they knew. For some, this was the first time they had heard the songs from their most recent release, which came out earlier this year.
Matt Kubat, a 26-year-old San Luis Obispo resident, waited to hear the band’s new songs until Friday’s concert. He said he wanted to be able to make up his mind about the new material a lot of his friends had been denouncing.
“It’s a lot easier to make a good sound if it isn’t live,” Kubat said. “I didn’t think they were going to be that good live based on what I’ve heard. I’m probably going to get the CD now. There’s a lot of throwback sounds; it had that ‘60s, on-the-beach feel to it.”
Kubat said he has been listening to MGMT for a while and that he finds the band’s new sound hard to articulate.
“When people ask what kind of music they are, it’s really hard to say,” he said. “I kind of like that.”
While it may be difficult to describe, MGMT’s music can be described as something fans can dance to. And for almost the entire duration of the show, that’s what more than half of the roughly 5,000 people in the crowd did.
MGMT had almost everyone near the stage dancing and screaming, whether it was word-for-word with their more popular hits or to the songs some had never heard before. During parts of the show, people were hoisted up on their friends’ shoulders to get a better view of the band.
Despite the occasional utterance from the crowd for MGMT to play “Kids” or any of the other songs from its 2008 release “Oracular Spectacular,” the crowd didn’t shout out anything at the band besides backing vocals to the songs they knew.
Fallon Evenson, a sophomore at Cuesta College and Avila Beach resident, said she was hoping MGMT wouldn’t make a complete u-turn from its set at Coachella and just play the hits everyone wanted to hear.
“They blew my expectations out of the water. I thought it was going to be what everyone else wanted, the hits,” Evenson said. “The way they did it was so much better because they played what they wanted and it translated to us. What made them happy, made us happy. That’s pretty much what music is about, sharing thoughts and feelings and experiences.”
But after opening the show with mainly new material, it started to happen. “Play ‘Kids,’” someone yelled from the crowd.
The band received some heat for not playing its best-known song at its performance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival this year, a move that some reviews have criticized as being detrimental to the band members’ career.
The question of whether MGMT should have played more from Oracular Spectacular will remain up for debate. But perhaps more pressing is the question of whether die-hard fans and casual listeners are able to embrace MGMT’s newest material.
BJ, a local radio disc jockey for San Luis Obispo’s New Rock 107.3 calls himself a “casual listener” of MGMT and said he was not too impressed with the band’s new material. Like many, he had heard the poor reviews about the band’s stage performances. As a DJ at a station that still gives two of the hits from Oracular Spectacular regular rotation, he said he felt an obligation to see the band.
“I don’t think their concert is for the casual listener,” BJ said. “I would rather just listen to it on the CD, to be honest.”
BJ recalled that as soon as they opened the gates to the concert, fans ran to be the ones nearest the stage.
“That was pretty cool,” he said.
For those fans who stayed until the end of MGMT’s encore, there wasn’t any song left unplayed — old or new. MGMT went through all three of its releases, playing nearly every song it’s ever written and culminating the show with its dance sensation, “Kids.”
At that point, frontman Andrew VanWyngarden and keyboardist Ben Goldwasser ditched their instruments, grabbed microphones and danced along with the crowd to their biggest hit, immediately turning Avila Beach Resort into one giant dance party.
Evenson was in the middle of the crowd for the entire show. Even though she enjoyed the entire show, “Kids” was the highlight, she said.
“Everyone there shared something. Everyone shared the appreciation for their music,” she said. “You could look a stranger in the face and smile and it was accepted; it felt natural. We were all on the same page for once.”
Whether or not MGMT came to Avila thinking it had something to prove after its recent reviews, the fans’ appreciation of the concert didn’t go unnoticed by the band.
VanWyngarden took multiple opportunities to thank the audience for coming out and for the applause after each song. Unlike the band’s performance at Coachella, he didn’t tell everybody to “please go out and buy our album.”
While the last song of the show may have been the highlight, there were other moments that stuck out as well.