words and photos by Faith-Ann Young
A hugely hormonal, mostly teenage crowd packed into Webster hall last night (October 30, 2008) to see MGMT...... the average age around 18 to mid twenties. Rumor was the tickets for this show sold out in minutes and I would say most MGMT fans were at a loss when opener (co-headliner?) Suicide came on.
Now, if you know anything about the 1970s and 80s post-punk scene, you know about Suicide's eccentric performance history and their prominent place in rock and roll history....(Hell, even Springsteen lists them as influences.) Since MGMT are big fans of Suicide (which they've cited several times in interviews), it is perhaps not so random that the two bands share a stage (although most still living post-punk groupies may slit their wrists upon hearing legends like Suicide opened zealously for new pups MGMT.) But let's be clear: the crowd was not ready for Suicide's avant-garde performance art. Musically, Martin Rev and Alan Vega's experimental no wave rock was too heavily distorted, disorienting, and frenetic for any of the kids to appreciate. Plus, it didn't help that ski goggles on a sixty-year old man just makes him look senile- rather than 'punk' or badass. Slow moving onstage, yet trying zealously to motivate the crowd with hand punches and pointing, Suicide's duo more ressembled "oh no, grandpa got into the medecine cabinet again" retirees than fabled rock legends. And shamefully, the eccentric synth moves of Martin Rev, who at one time simply pounded the synth machine with his fists, was old news to electronically-immersed "Mac Garage-band" generation; one teenager mumbled "All they are doing is playing a backing track." The sad reality is, while it's always cool to watch real legends in action, these men are unappreciated by the new kids on the block. When Alan Vega started motioning with his hands, one kid just shouted "we don't know what that means," which was just a feeble reminder, punk as Suicide know it anyway, is dead.
So needless to say, the highlight of the night (editor in disbelief) came when MGMT came onstage in full mariachi suits, laughing. The whole crowd cheered, giggled and toasted their beer cans, as a thick haze of pot smoke wafted down the front row. Visibly refreshed and at ease (especially compared to their lackluster performances at United Palace Theatre opening for Beck weeks ago), the band played to their fans. The crowd pleasers like "Kids" caused the most commotion; at one time the whole of Webster Hall appeared to be jumping up and down (like kids on a trampoline) hands in air, with glee. (Truth be told; when MGMT played a couple unrecognizable songs- i.e. newbies not on their current album - the songs were not so impressive). Best part of the night? When lead singer Andrew broke into a sick rendition of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want To Have Fun," apparently using something (a vocoder?) to adjust his voice to a helium-level octave. Ahhh, to be young again.
MGMT play one more NYC show tonight, Halloween 2008, at Music Hall of Williamsburg. More pictures from last night below...
Suicide have a non-MGMT-infected show coming up at Music Hall of Williamsburg.