“Too good to be true” was written on the poster for the MGMT show in Korea. Since the release of their debut album Oracular Spectacular, MGMT has gained much exposure in a very short period of time. Not only did the band open for Paul McCartney’s shows but they also toured the UK as a supporting act for Radiohead. Artists such as Jay-Z and Pharrell Williams were apparently also eager to feature MGMT in their songs. The band even found themselves in the middle of copyright controversy when Nicolas Sarkozy of France used their song “Kids” without the band’s permission in one of his online videos.
Needless to say, the spotlight shined on MGMT before they even had time to squint to see what was going on. But disregarding all this publicity and promotion, the band does have qualities that justify their popularity and attract fans. Thus when MGMT finally decided to pay a visit, Korean fans were thrilled yet surprised that such a hyped up band would come to Korea so soon, hence the phrase on the poster.
The concert was held on April 1st at the Ax-Korea Hall in Seoul, a popular venue where artists such as Corrine Bailey Rae and Mew also performed in the past. The original starting time was 8:30 pm, but it was announced only a couple of days before the show that there would be an opening act. SmackSoft, a Korean indie band that was requested to performed by MGMT themselves, played about five songs in front of the audience, composed of mostly people who had never heard of the band before. Many complaints were exchanged among the eager fans of MGMT at low decibel levels; but to be fair, SmackSoft’s songs were of a completely different style compared to that of MGMT’s.
SmackSoft left the stage, and just when the waiting started to become unbearable, the lights went out. Video projections and the Jaws-theme-tune-like voiceover of the word “MGMT” had the crowd screaming as the band finally came on stage. They started the show with “Song for Dan Treacy,” off their new album Congratulations. The soothing mood created by “Weekend Wars” and “I Found A Whistle” allowed some time to observe the stage. The usual five members of the band were present, but Benjamin Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden, the two core and founding members of MGMT, took the center of the stage. While Goldwasser remained relatively stagnant throughout the show due to his keyboard commitments, VanWyngarden walked around the stage and reached down to greet the fans who were devoted enough to grab onto the barricades.
Complete chaos struck as soon as the melody to “Time To Pretend” became recognizable. It wasn’t just the unintentional elbowing and stepping on shoes that one usually expects when attending a show; the bigger, burlier people surrounding me swept me off my feet (quite literally actually as both my feet were off the ground from being trapped) and took me to places I’d never dreamed of, for instance, in front of the stage. Unfortunately, I was moved against my will again when MGMT played “Electric Feel” and “Kids.” The band’s playful and mischievous attitude seemed to rub off on the audience. Although they were complete strangers to one another, everyone laughed and danced with everyone else, together relishing the moment.
However, some people in the audience seemed to lack concert etiquette. Although drinking and smoking was prohibited, beer cans were sneaked into the show. These people carelessly threw the empty cans onto the floor, which might have seriously injured people when the crowd was jumping up and down to the music. After the show, countless beer cans and cigarette buts covered the entire floor (there was also a sympathy-inducing shoe, but ill-manners was probably not the cause of its becoming astray).
According to Interview Magazine, MGMT has an “uncanny knack for producing pop music that sounds as if it were filtered through a kaleidoscope.” Just like the scintillating images created by the mirrored reflections of beads and pebbles, MGMT’s music has a strong, distinctive color that sets them apart from other bands. The psychedelic melodies combined with VanWyngarden’s child-like voice had almost a cathartic effect on the audience. When VanWyngarden clumsily muttered “Jae mit na yo?” and “Sa rang hae yo,” meaning “Are you having fun?” and “I love you” in Korean, the crowd went wild with excitement. MGMT left the stage after playing “Congratulations” as the second encore and last song of the night. Although some obnoxious members of the crowd might have hampered others from fully enjoying the show, the band’s outstanding first performance in Korea had everyone more than disappointed that the show came to an end. Tired from a night of frenzy, fans left the hall with fingers crossed, hoping that MGMT will come back again in the summer.