Music

Between Coachella Appearances, MGMT Records a Live Set

Photo: Jeremiah Garcia

Fresh from a performance at Coachella MGMT played a set of songs at Apogee Electronics Studios in Santa Monica, CA to benefit LA-based radio station KCRW.

If you want to listen head to kcrw.com on Monday, April 28. The live sets are usually played around 11am.

MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular is one of those albums that will be pulled out at some point in a future Rolling Stone article to talk about music that defined a generation. In my opinion it doesn’t so much define a generation as mark an important point in time: its 2007 release coincided with the beginning of the worldwide financial collapse and the erasure of 80 years of social progress in the US. Just as Buffalo Springfield’s self-titled album came to symbolize the underlying unease of the '60s, so has Oracular Spectacular become emblematic of the horror of the late 2000s. The album, replete with apocalyptic imagery of decadence, decay and a post-technological rebirth, had great timing.

I have heard Oracular Spectacular played in the houses of middle-aged Burning Man attendees in Santa Cruz, in the million dollar condos of computer-assisted stock trading experts in New York City, in inner-city high school gymnasiums in Los Angeles, on college campuses of Ivy League schools, and in virtually every bar in America. And, its success was not all due to timing: it’s truly a great album. However, nothing MGMT has released afterwards has come close to being as good.

Which is probably why when they played for the radio station KCRW in Santa Monica they made sure to throw in several songs from Oracular Spectacular and only played a smattering of new material. PopMatters was invited to the show, which occurred in between the band’s two headlining appearances at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival outside of Los Angeles in Indio, CA.

Describing a show is a relatively worthless endeavor when you can just click on a web stream and watch it (which you’ll be able to do on Monday, April 28th here: http://www.kcrw.com/music/programs/mb), which you should if you’re a fan of MGMT. It wasn’t transcendental but if you enjoy their songs, hell, why not watch?

I couldn’t enjoy the show, however, and it was mostly due to my outlook. Lately everything has taken on a darker cast and I’m having problems with my ability to self-reflect on the reasons why. I think part of it is due to reading Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Using the relentlessness of big data sets he shows that we have literally gone back to a time in the US, and most of the world, where almost all money and property were owned by an oligarchy. And this is not due to the financial crisis of 2008, but is a process that has been going on since the era of high-taxation of wealth begun by FDR during World War II was ended by Reagan in the '80s.

That would be fine if I were listening to a working class band like the War on Drugs, but I was listening to a group of kids from Wesleyan, one of the most expensive private schools in the United States, sing and play songs for a bunch of people that all seemed to be talking about making business deals. At one point between songs a guy next to me asked his friend, “Can I get in on that deal? I’ve been looking for an investment ever since I sold my company.” Which is all well and good, more power to them, but you usually don’t want to listen to deals getting made when you’re hoping to experience magic.

On the walk home from the venue I happened by a narrow alleyway that upon closer inspection led to what was almost a city block of mobile homes that looked like they were from the '50s and '60s. There were even one or two classic Airstream trailers. Large pine trees hung over the mobile homes like aging guardians, and Christmas lights marked the walkways.

I assumed that I had walked in on a high-concept enclave for people with lots of money to spend to live in their own Museum of Natural History diorama. After wandering around for several minutes and taking in the otherworldly setting I reluctantly left, having not seen anyone around. As I walked out I saw a sign on a fence that read “Village Trailer Park Reaches Development Settlement With City”. After a quick web search I realized I had just walked through a ghost town. Apparently Village Trailer Park, one of the oldest surviving communities in Los Angeles, would soon disappear.

The article stated that where there had been a community, populated by pensioners and retirees, of people that all strove to help one another there would be a high-rise condominium development for the elite of Santa Monica. MGMT will undoubtedly be playing from the stereo systems of the new residents, keen to experience their lives to the fullest.

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