MGMT Gives a Final “Congratulations” to the Class of 2010


On May 1, MGMT headlined Fordham’s 2010 Spring Weekend concert at the Rose Hill campus. (Alex Palomino/The Observer)

Published: May 5, 2010

“This one’s more of a weed smoking one,” said MGMT frontman Andrew VanWyngarden, after slowly strumming the opening chords of “Congratulations,” the last track off their sophomore album of the same name. “Congratulations” is a slow churning, mellow record inspired by some of MGMT’s most coveted influences including Syd Barret, The Zombies, David Bowie and the Beach Boys.

On Saturday, May 1, nearing the end of Fordham’s week-long, annual end of the year party, Spring Weekend, attracted students from the Rose Hill and Lincoln Center campuses to listen to the sounds of student bands, such as Lincoln Center group Average Girl and Rose Hill trio Penrose. However, the climax of the day was the final performance by one of music’s biggest acts, MGMT.

Martyr’s Lawn was turned into a gathering of the tribes, a collection of music lovers, partygoers, die-hard fans of all three acts, colorful characters, and the more-than-obvious eccentrics. Looking out from the stage, the trees easily concealed a number of buildings and the uncanny blue skies were filled with smoke from the grills rising through the air as if a dozen makeshift bonfires had been lit in honor of a newfound utopia. While MGMT played host to welcoming the summer months, Spring Weekend 2010 was a day of beautiful weather, unforgettable music and a perfect way to reflect and celebrate the end of a school year stacked with personal accomplishments and achievements that span from the lives of the awkward freshman to the elated senior.

At 12:30 p.m., the gates opened and students entered the concert grounds in a controlled chaos like that of driven cattle. Thanks to a satisfying high of 84 degrees, students took no time to help usher in summer as if it had never left. Blankets and towels were spread across Martyr’s Lawn like a newly patched quilt, Frisbees and footballs were tossed among friends and strangers, and tank tops, sundresses and occasional bikini tops became the dress code of students who, a few months ago, were all too familiar with the inner linings of their raincoat and boots.

By 1:00, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) band Average Girl, one of the two winners of Fordham’s Battle of the Bands who was granted the privilege of opening for MGMT, took the stage first and tore through their set with an intensity only the afternoon heat could match. Average Girl sound as if Uncle Tupelo had a nephew who was born out of the back of a 1967 Ford pickup truck, later to meet his first cousin Bruce Springsteen at a local Asbury Park dive bar owned by Hilly Kristal. Seniors Cary Kehayan (guitar and keyboards) and Matt Benjamin (guitar), both FCLC ’10, beat their instruments into a pulp with punk-folk passion on songs like “Idaho State Fair” and crowd favorite “Ramon,” while drummer Burton Frey wailed on the drum kit with violent ferocity and a jester-like humor.

“I think it’s a really cool way to end our time here at Fordham,” Benjamin said days before the show. “Getting to play to the entire University with a huge band is definitely a unique opportunity so hopefully it goes well.”

And it did. After Average Girl’s charismatic set, Rose Hill power trio and second winner of the Battle of the Bands, Penrose, made up of Philly brothers Dan, Tom and Pat Murphy, showcased their own brand of riff-heavy blues influenced by the industrial sound of Black Sabbath and the guitar-wielding magic of Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. The group opened with the pastoral folk of “God’s Railroad” and ended their set with a tight, but faster and all- too-clean cover of the Black Keys’ “I Got Mine.”

The audience spared no time in gathering like packed sardines for the epiphany-like sounds of MGMT’s mesmerizing live act. As the late afternoon approached and the sun grew lower in the sky, MGMT finally emerged looking like the young college art students they once were. With half of their set dedicated to their recently-released sophomore album “Congratulations,” the audience knew every word to new songs  “Flash Delirium” and the drug-influenced “It’s Working” religiously, like a Jesuit knows his Bible.

“[‘Congratulations’] wasn’t really something that we sat down and strategized and thought about and decided to change our sound and experiment,” VanWyngarden said. “I think what we’ve always liked to do was change things up all the time. It just kind of felt like the natural thing to do with the sophomore album.”

“We were keeping the live show in mind when we made it,” said drummer Will Berman. “It’s easier to transition it to a live setting than the first [album].”

The other half of their set was dedicated to songs from their titanic first album, “Oracular Spectacular,” an album whose songs “The Youth” and “Electric Feel” persuaded members of the audience to attempt to crowd surf, resulting in many failed tries. Both sets of songs were excellent, many of which sounded, with amazing clarity, similar to the albums.

After taunting the crowd with the opening riff of “Time to Pretend,” the song as a whole was met by a wave of elated screams. As the band ran on stage linked hand in hand with one another to grant the request of an encore, the last song, “Kids,” left many students at peace with themselves after a tribal chanting of the song’s title. As VanWyngarden and fellow frontman Ben Goldwasser came out from behind their instruments to interact with the audience, students were also met with water bottle blasts, the by-the-book punting of a beach ball, an improv drum circle, multi-colored jumpsuit men,and a life-sized Gumby, all signs of a more than memorable Spring Weekend that was anything but ordinary.