The technical term for the ticketing process at the Village last Tuesday night is, alas, unsuitable for print, as it consists of the word “cluster” and a four-word epithet. A bad one.
The timeline before the MGMT show at the Village, an igloo-shaped former one-screen theater in a south Little Rock strip mall, was supposed to be doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m. Instead, doors opened at 7:50 p.m. with two lines outside, one for ticket holders, one for will call, the latter of which sprawled across the parking lot and around a bank. Some people, knowing the situation would be dire, had been standing outside since around 6 p.m. One daring lass made a quick tour up the ladder inside the vertical VILLAGE sign and loitered at the top, taking in the view from easily 50 feet up.
By 8:40 p.m., with the physical ticket holders somewhere inside, and literally hundreds of rock-ready, glam-loving kids still standing/sitting/moaning outside, the opening act, an electronic pop trio named Chairlift, could be heard through the lobby. People booed.
Sometime after 9 p.m., they started to pound the front windows. Someone in line said, “I’d rather be anywhere else than here right now.” With no explanation offered as to why they were still being held at bay, people begin to swear off ever attending a show at the Village. “They said doors open at 7,” a man muttered. “Damn. It’s 9:15.” Women began to wonder aloud where they might take a piss.
At 9:24 p.m., someone near the front of the line entered into what you might call a verbal altercation with a staffer just inside the door. They hurled F-bombs at one another. The staffer told the man, who was wearing a T-shirt with a peace sign on its front, to come here and say that. The man retorted that he will if he ever got to reach the door. The crowd cheered. Matters escalated. The men began what you might call a physical altercation: grappling, struggling, smashing bodies against glass. Two burly cops rushed in to break it up, putting the fan in a headlock and pushing him away and against a squad car.
With that ugliness, something finally snapped, and the staff allowed in the people who had paid $20 a head, plus taxes and service fees, to stand around for three hours. By the time Chairlift finished its downright lovely set, and were cheered as warmly as an opening act ever is, the last of the line had just about crammed inside.
Tuesday wasn’t the first time the Village had brought in a massive band with a terrific following (Queens of the Stone Age was another) only to enrage a line of fans outside the venue’s closed doors. It is a wonder that any place of business other than a junior high school can make so many people feel so dismissed and insulted, and still keep the lights on.
MGMT, then, had the pleasure of playing its first-ever Arkansas show to a hot, cranky, sweaty crowd that nonetheless hailed the band’s every note. This despite an obnoxious level of distortion that smeared the band’s glossy sound with a torpid sonic fog.
The night became a sing-along once the fivesome hit its stride with its fourth, fifth and sixth songs of the set: “Weekend War,” “Time to Pretend” and “Electric Feel.”
The only lyrics Andrew VanWyngarden sang all night that penetrated the instrument-fog were “shock you like an electric eel” (a pity that; “Time to Pretend” is a sublime marriage of melody and words). But at least when the band did freelance, as it did often, it did so with a funk-inspired, Bowie-esque nod to the parents of New Wave, indulging MGMT’s inner jam band.
The encore consisted of the title track of MGMT’s upcoming album “Celebration,” which was less exciting than it sounds, and a cover with Chairlift’s inimitable Caroline Polachek on lead vocals, and … that was it. No “Kids,” despite the consistent chants for such from the audience. Instead, kids spilled out to their hand-me-down sedans and cranked that most famous MGMT song from windows open to the cooling mid-night. Good thing it’s June. Otherwise there would’ve been school in the morning.