MGMT w/ Helios Creed & Francis and the Lights

07/16/10 Greek Theater – Los Angeles, CA

Words/Photos by Revered Justito

You know a song is rocking when it is stuck in your head after the first listen.  That was me a few summer’s back with “Time To Pretend” by MGMT.  Walking the halls at work trying not to mention shooting heroin in Paris as I walked past million dollar execs, I just knew there was something about this Brooklyn based duo.  I went to Target, bought Oracular Spectacular and fell in love instantly.  The album that was so good Phish named a campground after it at Festival 8; I had finally found the two headed love child of Ween and The Flaming Lips.  By this point, you don’t need me to tell you that the bands follow up Congratulations is a giant middle finger to mainstream rock and it’s legion of simple minded fans.  For someone like myself (music snob, 31 years aged, addicted to Del Taco and possessing way better music taste than you) the latest and greatest album by Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden is a breath of fresh air more fit for Bonnaroo than KROQ.  So on a hot and sticky night in Griffth Park (aka Hipsterwood adjacent) I headed to the Greek Theatre to see for myself what the live MGMT experience was all about.

It would be easy for me to chastise the crowd off the bat.  From the kids not old enough to operate a motor vehicle and your typical I <3 Silver Lake yet live in Whittier hipster fucks with lame headbands, neon clothing and those god awful Zeus meets Pocahontas sandals that for some reason are all the rage (breath, run on but I don’t care) the crowd was full of people I look down upon.  Instead we are going to rip the nights first band Helios Creed to shreds.  What can I say, he was so bad, I wanted to listen to Creed.  I must assume that Helios would tell you it’s experimental music, but from what I could gather he is just some d-bag with stolen riffs and a lot of guitar pedals.  One song was most of “Nervous Breakdown” by Black Flag, another was a combo of Joy Division, Pink Floyd and Primus on their worst days. At least “Lactating Purple” was short.  Even if there was a somewhat decent song in there, it was drown out by far too many effects.  Chorus, echo, delay, loops – all at the same time, all sounding like a bunny pooping Chiclets chewing gum into a rusty tin can.  It was so bad, I started to wonder if MGMT had intentionally brought bad bands on the road with them as a further effort to be difficult.  By dumb luck, I taped Helios last song – an 9+ minute epic called “I Am The Jaw.”  You’re in luck folks, because this was the best thing he did all night.

 

Having already established that I am a music snob and better than you, I would like to brag for just a moment.  In 2002, I saw a lil band called Maroon 5 open for O.A.R.  While a few locals crashed the gig and rooted their boys on, no one had heard Maroon 5 at this point.  At first I was uncomfortable, it was so poppy, and pretty and not me at all.  Yet by the end of the set I was hooked and knew the band would one day become massive superstars.  Watching Francis and the Lights as main support for MGMT, I had the same exact feelings as I did with my first Maroon 5 show.

The sound is familiar.  That pale 80’s English white boy who wishes he was a black Motown artist but got stuck fronting a new wave band.  The type of backing band who hit every local show on The Police reunion tour, the guys who still find it funny to Rick-Roll your buddies, yet can f’n play their asses off.  I have looked all over the net for the guitar players name (if you know it, please leave as a comment) Guitarist Jake Rabinbach (Thanks Peanut) is the driving force that makes the whole thing work.  Great tones and riffs that make you feel as if you are at the big dance at the end of an 80’s teen flick.  And the bands vocalist, Francis?  Wow, where do we start?  Part Adam Ant, part the non-dickwad side of Adam Lambert – this guy is an already larger than life frontman.  It will be amazing to see how great he becomes with some fame and adoring fans flocking to shows.  His voice is strong – falsetto but very reminicent of white Michael Jackson.  He has killer dance moves, and great stage command.  Their set was the type of set where each song gets a little bit better and by the end you are pissed that they are giving up the stage to the headliner.  When Francis comes back to the Greek a few summers from now as the headliners, make sure you pay this review a visit and admit that I told you so.

 

Before MGMT had a chance to take the stage, I could feel the war brewing inside the sweaty, sold out venue.  On one side of the battles lines was the sold out crowd.  Merch lines were longer than beer lines, seat locations were bragging rights/sophmore year status points based on whose Daddy had the better corporate hook ups, and I won’t even mentioned the brace faced gal who called her boyfriend to tell him she would imagine bouncing up and down on his boner when the band played “Kids.”  On the other side was MGMT – a band who is fighting for control of their artistic integrity, a band who can not and will not be labeled looking to challenge their massive 21 and under fan base.  I for one want to be challenged, and found myself deep in enemy territory when the house lights went down and the band took the stage.

Sitting stage right/middle venue, the group kicked things off with the mellow Congratulations track “I Found A Whistle.”  This gave the crowd the perfect chance to continue their conversations over the beautiful song that sounds a lot like The Beach Boys had they been raised in the United Kingdom.  The show seemed to be designed to slowly grow in energy song by song  “Weekend Wars” “The Youth” and “Flash Delirium” all built upon each other and flowed nicely into the first major victory for the crowd.

 

“Electric Feel” the second single from Oracular Spectacular (not to mention fave of San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum) was the first time all night the entire venue removed their backsides from the orange stadium seating  For the first time in a long time, I cursed the camera in my hands, wanting to move, yet having to keep still in order to avoid those nasty thumbs downs on YouTube.  Once “Electric Feel” wrapped, the band unfortunately lost most of the crowd.  With the band now warmed up and ready to kick some backside“The Handshake” in my opinion was the musical highlight of the night. Even with the song rocking far harder than on record, with most back down in their seats, it was clear the crowd was only there for the hits..  Psychedelic pop 60’s surf rock-esque songs “It’s Working” & “Song for Dan Treacy” while great failed to connect with the distractable teen angst.  “It’s Working” was clearly a bathroom/beer/cell phone break for many.  Bored and in line for beer the band managed to sneak a quick victory over the crowd.

 

 

“Time To Pretend” satisfied the souls of everyone but me.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE this song – but it needed to rock harder.  It really felt as if the band held back.  Intentional perhaps, while most freaked out, I just wanted it to pound me harder and faster.  Did I just say that?  You know what I mean.

 

At the conclusion of the bands breakthrough hit – the crowd was lost and bored yet again.  I didn’t want to sit back down for the epic “Siberian Breaks” but I also did not want to be the one asshole who stands in an entire section of people plopped down upon their asses.  At well over 10 minutes, most of the crowd was bored before the first verse.  With the band performing the massive monster flawlessly – I only grew more impressed with the band.  One of my personal MGMT favorite soon followed in form of an ode to a living legend.  I get that major record labels are dead and in their final days they often collectively have their heads up their asses.  How the hell the “fine” folks at Colombia Records didn’t release “Brian Eno” as the lead single is beyond me.  Upon my first listen of a “pre-release leak” this was the song stuck in my head and in fine fashion the band nailed it on that hot muggy night at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.

 

With multiple mentions that the band was performing their last song, the venue went bonkers for the massive hit “Kids.”  What I found interesting is that the band doesn’t really play the song at all.  While too far back to tell if the band was lip-syncing no actual instruments are played during the set.  Instead, Goldwasser & VanWyngarden bounce up and down free of their respective keys and guitars and just act goofy.  Perhaps their way of not playing “the hit” or maybe just how they have always intended to give the crowd their money-worth; for most it was the highlight of the night.  As fans began to exit the award winning venue at the conclusion, I held out hope for a few more.

 

After a slight train wreck to start, the band played a spot-on version of the complex number “Of Moons, Birds & Monsters.”  For those who remained inside the venue, the band closed with the soft and lush title track “Congratulations.”  In a way the song took on a second meaning.  Sure kids chatted when not vomiting on each other.  Yes hipsters smoked dirt weed and acted cool vs. being cool.  But in the end, MGMT won the war.  They sold 8,500 tickets in Los Angeles on a Friday night.  They spread out their hits in between complicated new material.  They knew when to challenge and when to please.  Most important, their young fan base bought merch, boogied to the sounds of their youth and ran home to tell all their friends.  While for some it may have just been a chance to be tagged in the prom princesses Facebook photo the summer between Junior and Senior year – for many it was a gateway drug.  A gateway drug to Meat Puppets, Flaming Lips, Butthole Surfers and Ween.  I’ve known for years that “Pepper” and “She Don’t Use Jelly” paved the way for “Time To Pretend” and “Kids.”  Where will MGMT go next, I can’t tell you.  Perhaps they will never sell 8,500 tickets again, but for those willing to listen, the ticket has been punched and a new generation of intelligent music fans has been born.

A direct descendant of the outlaw Jesse James and star of a 1983 Kilpatricks Bread radio commercial, Reverend Justito has taken his gift of ADHD and put it to good use by creating one of a kind concert reviews. A bootlegger at heart, the man lives off Whiskey, Taco Bell and the love of San Francisco sports teams.
ReverendJustito
Sunday, July 18th, 2010 at 9:18 pm.
Categories: Reviews.

9 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Peanut

    JAKE RABINBACH

  2. Aleph

    For a self proclaimed “music snob”, you should probably do your homework before you accuse Helios Creed of ripping off any of the people that you mention above.
    Maybe you aren’t going going to run out and buy our entire back catalog, but at least get your facts straight.

    Oh, and BTW, MGMT brought us on tour with them because *they* are big fans of our music.

    http://www.headheritage.co.uk/unsung/albumofthemonth/1447#
    http://www.staticwhitesound.com/chrome/discography.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrome_(band)
    http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=Helios+Creed+Chrome&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

  3. Aleph,

    I see you write as us. I must assume you were one of the fine folks on stage with Helios at the Greek? Perhaps you are the mighty Helios himself?

    Look, you make music that is difficult. Perhaps MGMT are fans, good for them. But you can’t tell me you didn’t get up on stage and try to make something that is listenable and considered music. You made noise and the parts that did sound like a song were songs I have heard before. I get that there are 12 chords. But the fact is you bit Joy Division, you bit Black Flag and you bit Pink Floyd.

    Now, for you to say I didn’t do my homework, that’s just silly. I checked out the myspace page, learned that my heroes – The Butthole Surfers were influenced by you guys and most important read Helios bare bone Wikipedia page. While I am sure “Black Ski Mask” is a fine, fine film – this is the line where you loose your argument (citation needed of course).

    Creed has said that he invented his trademark sound while trying to replicate the sound he heard in his head while “listening to Black Sabbath on LSD on headphones when I was a teenager.”

    So perhaps it was a bad night, perhaps after 35 years of being a total f’n nobody you get mad that a self-proclaimed music snob ripped your pathetic excuse for music – I don’t really know. This is what I will offer up to you. Find a fan and send them my way after they see you perform live. Have them write a review of your performance and I will happily post it/promote it and (much like when I entered the Greek Theatre on Friday night) keep an open mind to it.

    Reverend Justito

  4. Aleph

    Yes, “us” as in I’m Aleph the drummer that you saw that night.

    Again, I’m not trying to “convert” you, I’m just pointing out that a few of your “critiques” are bit off. But, then again this is your forum, and ultimately it’s all going to boil down to your opinion wins anyway.

    The whole point that I was trying to make by posting those links was so that you could actually check the timeline and realize that Chrome were around *before* Joy Division or Black Flag, (not quite so with Pink Floyd who ripped off the Blues just like Zeppelin, oh and every other rock band out there) so clearly us “biting” them isn’t the deal, sorry to have to disagree with you here man.

    And, no we’re not trying to get up there and play *pop songs* if that’s what you mean by “something that is listenable and considered music”. We’re playing the songs that *we’ve* written, that’s the whole reason that MGMT wanted us on the tour, because they’re fans of the music that we make.

    So your homework consisted of looking at 2 whole webpages?
    If I were teaching this class, you’d get a D for effort.

    It’s funny that you cite the Buttholes as being your heroes, does this mean that you consider their material to be “something that is listenable and considered music”?
    When’s the last time that you’ve listened to “Psychic, Powerless, Another Man’s Sac”? :D

    And, I”m not really sure what you consider to be my *argument* to be, so I’m really not sure how I “loose” it.

    And this..
    “So perhaps it was a bad night, perhaps after 35 years of being a total f’n nobody you get mad that a self-proclaimed music snob ripped your pathetic excuse for music”. :D
    Does the fact that you have a website make you right?
    Again, just because *you’ve* never heard of us, doesn’t exactly make us f’n nobodies, and I’m still trying to figure out why you’d think that I’m getting mad anywhere in my response.
    You’re the only one that seems to be angry and are calling people names here, how old *are* you anyway?

    It’s my job to find *you* a fan?
    Again, why don’t you sift through those links or listen to a couple of the songs yourself?
    Educate yourself in this matter, it’s a big world outside of your webpage, go take a look.

  5. Aleph,

    I will be the first to admit, I have no idea what which songs performed on Friday night were by Chrome, and which were Helios solo materials. Walking in, I knew about Chrome (A gal who I had a crush on/but she dug girls I later found out put Meet You On The Subway on a mix tape a million years ago) and truly walked in with an open mind. I just know I found the set painful on the ears. Clearly we could go back and forth for days on this topic, and no one would win. It’s music – it’s subjective.

    I will say, the fact that you came here at all (let’s be honest, I am small potatoes in the rock blog world so I am stoked that you found me) is awesome, and I respect you for the response. I have had my fair share of angry d-bag comments (check some of the Phish reviews) and I lumped you in as one of those, which perhaps was wrong of me.

    Now to answer your question, it’s probably been a year or two since I rocked out Psychic, Powerless, Another Man’s Sac (songs do come up on random on the old ipod) That was the second Butthole Surfers record I picked up as a kid (the first being Electriclarryland of course – hey I was like 15). At the time, I was like what the fuck is this shit, but as I grew I began to understand it more. I still think it’s a much easier listen than “piouhgd.” E-mail me at concertconfessions@yahoo.com if you want to see my ugly 31 year old self pose with the CD ;)

    My offer still stands – if you guys are playing more shows past this MGMT run and you know of anyone who wants to share their live tales – please send them our way.

    PS – Can I perhaps get raised to a C- as I did check out YouTube before the gig as well to get a feel for the music.

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