Saturday, January 19, 2008

MGMT / Yeasayer / Morning State

Last night, a group of four bright-eyed Paste interns made their way into the wilderness of East Atlanta to see a show. They almost got lost on the way in their excitement, but eventually made it inside The Earl, that friendliest of friendly Atlanta music venues. They were greeted by a half-empty room, as it was still early. The room was bedecked with its usual furnishings - brightly-colored merch in the back complete with sullen merch guy/band memeber, grumpy-looking bartender, viking hat, mood lighting, paintings declaring "Pabst" in scroll lettering. People milled around amid the sound tech's lovely choice of filler music, The Selmanaires' most recent album, The Air Salesmen. It was a good night to be at The Earl.

By "good" though, I do, at least in some part, mean "weird."

Atlanta's own Morning State opened, and though they play around here an awful lot, it was my first time seeing them. They're energetic, but they're not exactly up my alley. One of the final songs of their set really excited me (maybe "Spectacular"?), but I don't know what it was (being as I wasn't, for once, there to review the show!). As the room began to fill, we were a little put-off by the appearance of "those girls." You know, the ones who wear halter tops and spiky heels, pull their hair half up and dance around stupidly - the ones who cannot be old enough to be in this club legally. You don't often see them at The Earl. We were bewildered.

In due time, as the room filled inexplicably with every frat boy inside 285, it became apparent that MGMT (who was to go on second) had switch spots with Yeasayer (who was the original headliner) because of the local pull for MGMT. One of the co-founding members of The Whigs, Hank Sullivant, is playing guitar with MGMT right now, so a lot of folks from nearby came to see them.


Though I like MGMT's record better, Yeasayer definitely stole the night for me. Frontman Chris Keating has absolutely hypnotic stage mannerisms and his voice makes me swoon. We were commenting on how he sort of has a Thom Yorke thing going on, but more raucous and with more blood. (Yes, blood! He cut himself on the broken suspended cymbal he was beating on murderously from atop a speaker. That's carnage two weeks in a row at The Earl! If you have no idea what I'm talking about, go here.) He seems a man possessed. His hands rise to face level, one holding a microphone, one open, palm inward. He convulses toward the crowd or toward his synthesizer. He bobs. He raises his open hand in the air as if toward the heavens, pulling down music. He climbs. At one point, Keating, gripping the mic as if he feared it would fly away, held it away from his face for a moment. He looked at it. Turned it over for a second. Stared at it with puzzlement, seemingly astonished at its sudden appearance. Maybe for him there was no one else in the room and he was singing into a hairbrush in his bathroom until he realized where he was. (That is, except for the moment when the drunk dude that was high-fiving everyone tried to high-five him. He refused. Didn't want to get him all bloody, you know. Not sanitary.) I was enthralled.

We got to meet him at the merch table later, and he was all ease and friendly energy, none of the expected disconnect from social graces sometimes the hallmark of such bizarrely compelling performers. We asked him how his hand was. His shirt was bloodstained and his thumb was bandaged. Kinda hardcore. He blew off the question - these are the side-effects of the rocker's life. Before we left, he shoved buttons at us and smiled.

After Yeasayer's set, MGMT played to an absolutely packed room. The frat boy that stood right in front of our unfortunate spot in the crowd was at least 6'7". No joke. I got stomped on. My hand got burned with a cigarette (at a no-smoking show!!). It was weird. I had a really hard time paying attention to the music with so much annoyance flying around me. I learned to pay attention in time for "Kids," my favorite MGMT number. My sudden concentration was not to last, though, as Sara came running up halfway through the song, hissing "You will never believe who's here!"

"Who?!" I replied.


Holy. Crap.

She lead me over toward the bar to stare at him creepily (and as inconspicuously as possible) from across the room. There he stood by the merch table, white-jacketed and slumped humbly, watching the happenings.) Alone. Un-surrounded by an entourage as I, for some reason, expect someone I respect so highly to be.

Here's the kicker. After hanging out in the area while everyone thought about buying the CDs for a bit, I actually walked up to him. I said something blithering, to the effect of "Kevin. Hi. I'm a big fan. I love your work." To which he replied something and TOUCHED MY SHOULDER. I have no idea what he said. I do know he smiled, replied softly and nodded shyly. Who knew he would be so...unlike he is on stage. So un-sexual, un-glam, un-swaggering. Sweet, even. I think I babbled something else that included the word "awesome," to my complete shame, and bounced off toward the others. EEEE! So I was a stupid fan-girl. But I don't care.

We all left satisfied, I think. Everyone got to talk to those they admired. Sara was talking to another member of Yeasayer for a while (she loves them). Tiago talked to Barnes before I did. It was good in the end. And the t-shirts were cheap. I couldn't sleep for hours.

For your listening pleasure:

Yeasayer - 2080.mp3

MGMT - Kids (stream below - sorry no mp3)


Bradley said...

glad to hear you had a good time despite all the detractors. I had no idea that frats dug Electwee now...

Rich said...

Seen MGMT twice opening for OM, didn't like 'em either time. That was enough for me.

Kevin seems to be a nice guy. I've met him and about half of OM, and they've all been really nice and humble.

I went to Sharon Jones last night. Good stuff.

Juliar said...

Yeah, I have no explanation for that. At all.

I saw MGMT when they opened on Halloween and was underwhelmed then. I do like their record on a few listenings though. Maybe they just don't translate all that well live.

About Kevin. Man, I wish I'd been a little calmer and more articulate. I don't get it. I did an interview just last week with someone more famous than he is and I totally kept my cool. I don't know what came over me this time. Oh well.

How was Sharon Jones?

Rich said...

Sure, but was the other interview subject a SEXY BEAST?

Sharon Jones was really good, enough that I was quite satisfied that I drove over to see it. Very energetic, and the sort of soul/funk revue show that I don't see very often. Played most of the new record and a few oldies, although neither of my faves. Crowd-watching was fun, since it was very diverse in terms of age, race, lifestyle, whatever. Don't get that much from bands I normally see. It was a good time.