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Light show, special effects enhance local indie concert

Column by Abbey Maynard

Abbey Maynard-w2000-h2000This Sunday, psychedelic indie rockers MGMT made a stop at the 7 Flags Event Center in Clive during their “Alien Days” tour — aptly named after their third studio album.

Out of a combination of concert withdrawal, a whim to spend money recklessly and because I sort of enjoy their music, I decided to go.

Though “Alien Days” was a decent enough follow-up to their previous releases, it felt a bit, well lacking. Sonically, MGMT stayed in about the same place — doing ‘neat’ stuff with synths and a mix of lyrics that are equal parts nonsensical and shallow. However, if you’re less into the poppy MGMT and prefer a more snythpop and psychedelic vibe, I’d recommend listening to their new record. It could be pleasantly surprising. But even with these shortcomings, MGMT is still the lovable weirdos the indie community has come to love and adore. And their show was incredible.

After a halfway decent 40-minute set from their opener, Kuroma, MGMT seized the stage with the energy, bravado and eccentricity that has become their signature.

Their 15-song set list was explosive — sprinkled with their ‘classics’ like “Kids” and “Time to Pretend,” a cover of Faine Jane’s “Introspection” and a fair amount of material from their newest release.

But that dreaded moment where weathered, but not terribly committed, became lost in the set list inevitably arrived.

To cater to the majority of the audience who were, well, in an “altered state,” MGMT had plenty of neat toys. A small RC hovercraft sailed over the audience during “Alien Days,” and a handheld camera that lead vocalist Andrew VanWyngarden sporadically pointed at the audience or the band were a few of the crowd’s favorites. A few members of the crowd brought it upon themselves to bring glow-in-the-dark hula-hoops and while waiting for an eminent encore, everyone passed around glow-sticks to throw at the stage in a desperate plea for another song. But the star of the show — perhaps even surpassing the music — was the light show.

Swirls of pinks and purples, delightful optical illusions and images of fictional monsters paced across the massive screen that nearly surpassed the length of the stage. Every time a new section of the light show began (though it did happen when MGMT moved on to different songs), a, “dDid you see that?” reverberated throughout the audience. The show morphed each time the screen changed, and instead of being distracted like so many light shows have the potential to do, it actually enhanced the performance.

As the set ended with 2010’s “Congratulations,” an unsettling peace feel upon the crowd. The show was ending, but none of us were ready for it. The light show, the bonding moments the audience had — like when a 300-pound man somehow made it, completely unnoticed, on to the stage and dived into the crowd and the crowd intelligently refused to catch him as he landed on the frigid concrete and slithered into the crowd on his belly — and most of all, the music.  There weren’t chants and screams for a second encore, and nobody really lingered. We weren’t ready for it to end, but we knew it had to come. Our excitement respectfully subsided, the song ended, and we orderly exited the venue.

Perhaps this is the mark of a good concert—when the audience and the musicians quietly agree that the end has arrived.

Maynard is a sophomore English major and study of culture and society minor and can be reached at abigail.maynard@drake.edu




  1. MGMT fangirl November 21, 2013

    Nice review, but FYI: The third album is self-titled. It isn’t called “Alien Days,” though that is one of the its singles. 🙂

    1. MGMT fangirl November 21, 2013

      Of course I would have a typo in my comment. Sorry about the extra “the” in there. 😛

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