Although Halloween is a month away, costumed students crowded Eclectic last Saturday for what was arguably the most anticipated concert of the semester, the return of Wes alum band MGMT. However, the audience’s patience was tested as technical difficulties and miscommunication delayed the show until the early hours of the morning.
Anonymity tinted with hedonism flavored the night, with crowd members decked out in contorted masks, metallic clothing and fake blood. Girls with butterfly wings flitted by, to reveal other students with phrases like “IT IS OVER” and “REPENT” scrawled down their arms. This was Halloween at the end of the world.
Students dressed up at the request of MGMT members Ben Goldwasser ’05 and Andrew VanWyngarden ’05, who filmed a video for their song “Electric Feel” during the show.
With doors opening at 9 p.m., the bill for the evening featured performances by four bands. The evening began with the Spirit Marines (Jake Aron ’08, Zach Fried ’08, Matt Leddy ’08, Sam Ubl ’08), followed by Brooklyn-based Bear Hands (including Ted Feldman ’09 and Dylan Rau ’07). With dance-music interludes between sets, the third group to take the stage was fellow Brooklynites Chairlift, whose set rounded out just after 1 a.m.
In the wee hours of the morning, most concert headliners would be well into their sets. But as it approached 2 a.m., there was still no sign of the band students crammed and contorted into the ballroom to see. Where were Wesleyan’s electro-pop sweethearts, MGMT?
When the band finally took the stage, Goldwasser and VanWyngarden, accompanied by the live band that the group added after signing with Columbia Records in 2006, seemed less than thrilled to start their set.
The delay, however, was no product of fame-induced apathy or poor planning. Fried, who organized the show with Max Horwich ’08 through the student music organization ICBM, was able to explain the wait.
“In their new setup, they have three vocals, three keyboards, two guitars, bass and six mics on the drums,” Fried said. “Basically, one of the vocal mics was cutting out—it had been working fine for the other three bands—and they didn’t want to play their set without backing vocals. They were especially concerned about the sound for this show…tons of shows have quick sound-checks immediately before the band goes on [just as MGMT did], but there just happened to be a mysterious mic cutout that they were unwilling to perform without.”
So while the unexpectedly long delay was little more than the result of bad luck, a breakdown in communication led to a frustrated crowd and further difficulties for the technical crew.
“The audience was so huge and rowdy, it was very hard to communicate between the sound guy on the stage and the sound guy at the board,” Fried said. “I actually had no interaction with the…audience. I could just tell they were huge and frustrated.”
But with the band onstage—not playing and without explanation—for over half an hour before their performance, it’s understandable that some audience members were annoyed.
“The long wait—let’s be honest, it sucked,” said Rob Boyd ’08. “It sucks that we had to wait to see MGMT because of technical difficulties [with no explanation]. That they were having mic problems wasn’t all their fault, though.”
But, not unlike fighting with a best friend, the audience dropped their grievances for ardor as the band finally tore into their first song. Though sardine-can conditions proved to be an obstacle for dancing, the crowd found a way around it by collectively jumping, swaying and shouting along to choruses of songs like “Time to Pretend” and “Electric Feel.”
Despite the will of the band, the audience, the organizers and Eclectic members who volunteered their time to set up the show, it appeared that there was no way to outrun time—or the Man. Though MGMT ignored Public Safety’s commands to stop the show in favor of playing a fourth song (the original set included seven), little could be done when the Middletown Police Department was called in to shut down the show for going over time.
The early shutdown indeed added insult to injury in the wake of the evening’s earlier delays and dilemmas, and no doubt left disappointment in the hearts of the audience and band alike. However, MGMT is said to have still captured great sound and footage from the set, and plans to play again at Fayerweather Hall in the spring. As for the crowd’s parting sentiments, Boyd’s reaction seems to sum them up best:
“I thought the concert was, generally speaking, a lot of fun,” he said. “And the short set they did play was, let’s be honest, fantastic.”