Backbeat: MGMT's Two Nights At The Guggenheim, Ace Hotel After Party
Backbeat: MGMT's Two Nights At The Guggenheim, Ace Hotel After Party

MGMT

MGMT spent two nights as the house band at the Guggenheim last week, in honor of the museum's retrospective on Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan titled All. On Friday night the five-member band played just under an hour of new material in front of a sold-out crowd. MGMT's instrumentals came in hazy electronic waves whose melodies traveled cleanly all the way to the top floor. The music's psychedelic effect was bolstered by vertical strips of blinking, colored lights positioned on the perimeter of each spiral level of the building's interior. But Cattelan's 128-piece installation out-tripped them all, thanks to the midair suspension of gangly, taxidermied horses, a kneeling Hitler and a reclining Pope.

"Look," said one crowd member. "It's a tiny Picasso." Perhaps a rendition of one of the artist's Blue Period paintings on a small canvas? No, it was in fact a petite-bodied, large-headed, striped-shirt-wearing Pablo Picasso hanging overhead with outstretched arms.

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Viewers craned their necks ceiling-ward and raced up the ramps to get a closer look at the exhibit. But those trying to guess at some overarching trend among the different parts of the collection were at a loss -- and for good reason, as the elements on display span Cattelan's career and weren't originally intended to match thematically.

MGMT

According to Columbia Records' Nikki Bennett, this hodgepodge of work directly inspired the music MGMT wrote and performed for the two-night gig. Guggenheim representatives had approached the band a while back about making site-specific music to run with the Cattelan exhibit. Then just a few months ago, MGMT, accompanied by video artist and frequent band collaborator Alejandro Crawford, headed to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to get a first look at the artworks. The music mostly served as soundtrack to the exhibition, and since MGMT was there as supporting band to the art, the guys didn't hog the spotlight by throwing "Electric Feel" or "Kids," from 2008's "Oracular Spectacular," onto the setlist.

MGMT

The band and plenty of its label friends headed to the basement of the Ace Hotel following the show for an after party. MGMT members took turns DJing, while past and present Columbia faces, including marketers Darby Moeller of Mom & Pop and Erika Alfredsen of Columbia, cut a rug to tunes like Fine Young Cannibals' "She Drives Me Crazy."

MGMT
Erika Alfredsen (left), marketing manager at Columbia Records and Darby Moeller, marketing at Mom & Pop.

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