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MGMT brings its sunny psychedelia to sold-out Artpark show

The new psychedelia came to Artpark on Wednesday. MGMT played a sold-out show at the Lewsiton venue, and an air of spacey euphoria prevailed. Interestingly, the night after classic rock band REO Speedwagon played Artpark, the youth took over the park. The majority of the crowd appeared to be 20 years of age or younger.

MGMT, a duo comprised of Andrew VanWynGarden and Ben Goldwasser, presided over what amounted to a celebration of the new hippie movement. Aided by a trio of backing musicians - drummer Will Berman, bassist Matt Asti and guitarist James Richardson - the MGMT crew brought a sunny psychedelia to Artpark, offering up a cross-section of its two albums, “Oracular Spectacular” and “Congratulations.”

Van WynGarden emerged first, dressed in loose white clothes, wearing sunglasses, and sporting a mane of long unkempt hair. He looked super-cool, aloof, as if floating above the proceedings. To VanWyngarden’s left, partially obscured by a bank of keyboards, sat Goldwasser, dressed in white and sporting a serious pair of shades. Next to Goldwasser sat a laptop, which seemed to be running sequences throughout the evening.

MGMT wants to be the Pink Floyd of its generation, Wednesday’s Artpark show made clear. But it’s not the Floyd of late ’70s arenas that the band is interested in. Rather, the late ’60s Syd Barrett-led version of the Floyd is MGMT’s primary influence. When the group kicked into “Let’s Pretend” early in the set, a massive screen behind the group offered trippy visuals that perfectly accentuated the music, and the crowd split the difference between a wide-mouthed stare and gyrations that would be more familiar at an EDM show. This lent an interesting dichotomy to the gig, as if a whole new generation of dance-party loyalists had encountered a tribe of hard-core music-heads and decided to party with them.

So the band, a rather sleepy lot, more than willing to let the light show do most of the work for them, took to the stage with a lovely blend of electronica and real-time musicianship in the form of “Introspection.” This was a richly-layered piece with plenty of harmony vocals, and it revealed MGMT to be its own generation’s version of Mercury Rev and the Flaming Lips.

“The Youth,” one of several brilliant post-modern observations populating “Oracular Spectacular,” was an early highlight, a celebration of the band’s marriage of neo-psychedelia and post-modern pastoralism. The sound was full, thick, rich in the bass region, and rather beautidully mixed, from beginning to end.

Not surprisingly, the uber-funk gem “Electric Feel” brought things rather decidedly into the party region. The mix of EDM and classy ’70s funk turned Artpark into a vibrant rave, as the masses bobbed and weaved, from the pit directly in front of the stage to the heavily populated hill all the way in the back.

The new psychedelia is here, it’s strong and MGMT is one of its leading lights. Wednesday’s show, the band’s first in Western New York, made it plain that the future of progressive psychedelic music is in extremely good hands.