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MGMT & Yeasayer at 7th St. Entry (Minneapolis, MN)

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The Battle Royale’s frontman, Mark Ritsema, disclosed to me before the show that the group had almost gone into a panic mode when the recent blizzard-like conditions here in the Midwest left the state of half the band in limbo. “We were going to leave at 5:30 this morning and get them,” he said, speaking of Sam Robertson (keyboards) and John Pelant (guitar) who attend college in Milwaukee. Thankfully for both the audience and the band the charter delivered the pair to Minneapolis in time for the show.

The group performed in support of its most recent album Wake Up, Thunderbabe released locally on Afternoon Records, though occasionally reverting to songs from its 2006 debut Sparkledust Fantasy. Sticking largely to the electronic-based sounds that make up the first half of Wake Up the set list neglected the acoustic-driven songs that carry the album allowing a shift towards song-writing and structure. In the evening’s context however electronic music ruled the event and the Battle Royale easily paved the way as appropriate openers. “We begged to get on this bill” Ritsema told me, and his band made the most of the evening using their limited stage space to joke around, have some fun and even dance (though Ritsema teased falling over a few times as he struggled to move about in his roughly four square feet of stage space).

In approach of the show the only real mystery of the night focused on Yeasayer, the band still supporting last year’s highly recommended All Hours Cymbals. It was odd that a band as highly touted as Yeasayer would be playing second fiddle to any act on such a stage but given MGMT’s latest push which included a recent spot on the Late Show with David Letterman, it made sense. Within minutes of the group’s opening chords however it was clear that no matter the band’s slot, this was a Yeasayer show.

Coursing through the bulk of the band’s debut release, lead singer Chris Keating began to make use of the stage space that the nights openers failed to have the luxury of — he sashayed about in his stocking feet, smashing a tattered cymbal, pounding his shaker, and jarring his keyboard. The performance wasn’t focused solely around any given member though, as Ira Wolf Tuton worked his fretless bass as hard as he sung, while guitarist Anand Wilder and drummer Luke Fasano kept the flow of the set in check, creating a base for which the music could take shape from.

Again – despite the band’s slot for the night this was a Yeasayer show, and without compare on this evening the group delivered a phenomenal set that beautifully translated the depth and layered structure of its studio tracks.

The main attraction may best be summed up by How Was the Show’s Carl Atiya Swanson who bore great detest for MGMT’s set, condemning it as “a wall of noise that lost any of the clarity and verve of the recording.” Each of the group’s five members packed enough auxiliary tools into the already overcrowded environment to choke even the heartiest of avant instrumentalists and in the wake of such sound was a band that overshadowed the music it made.

Given the cramped atmosphere the justification for maxing out registers was both unnecessary and unfortunate as each member’s overwhelming levels tended to blend sounds rather than accompany one another, especially unfortunate was the tendency to blend during the band’s consistently enjoyable single, “Time To Pretend.”

Eventually, however, the set flat-out spiraled out of control. As various instruments changed hands everything concluded in a ridiculous rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean,” which came to a close with overzealous fans being invited on stage to dance and join in on the then-musicless festivities. The ending could have possibly been expected of the night’s openers, all college freshman and sophomores, rather than a major-label act signed to a rumored six figure contract. Everyone has their fun in different ways though, right?