June 2, 2009
Better than: Staying home and watching a cartoon or puppet show with a character whose voice sounds like Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos' vocals.
In today's fast-moving indie music climate, hype so often outdoes form, disappointment has seemingly become act after act's cliched finish. This is, for the most part, an ugly new era--one in which bands are remembered not for their one hit, but rather for their one buzz. And, as such, they come and go, first elevated by hype, later forgotten for an obvious lack of consistency.
It is what it is.
And, for better or, well, for much worse, Boston-based electro-pop act Passion Pit seems the current kings atop the buzzworthy throne. Surely, that's why the Granada Theater was sold out hours before opening its doors for its show on Tuesday night. Credit the head-spinning electro-pop earworm that is the band's "Sleepyhead."
So when the band performed its breakthrough and biggest blog hit to date just past the halfway point in its 50-minute set, no, it wasn't surprising at all to see more than a few pockets of group attendees gathering themselves to leave.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the exit doors: Passion Pit reeled the nearly departed back into the fold.
It's difficult, of course, to discern the motives behind attending a performance like the one, in which bands draw audiences of this size so early in their careers. Is it just for the scene? Is it because the band's future is so promising? Is it solely because of the excitement surrounding the hype? Is it simpy to catch a glimpse of a band in its moment?
Or, is it so much more basic than all of those reasons? As in: The music's so goddamn catchy and fun, so who cares?
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Seemed that, no matter why anyone had originally attended this show, that last reason was the only one that mattered once the performance was in full swing.
And of that performance: It started off a little slow, actually, slowly building to said full swing. As the band opened its set, there were visual cues of audible concerns: guitarist/keyboardist Ian Hultquist's mic and guitar amp were both too low in the mix; drummer Nate Donmoyer appeared to have trouble with his toms. And even though the early portion of the band's set deftly mixed songs from the band's recently released debut full-length (Manners) and the late 2008-released EP with which it made its first splash (Chunk of Change)--with songs like the infectious "Better Things," the sing-along "Little Secrets" and the toe-tapping "Cuddle Fuddle"--the band had trouble gelling, no matter the crowd's eager shows of support. Even at the half-hour mark, after frontman/brainchild Michael Angelakos dedicated the song "to everyone who came out tonight" and his band launched into "Sleepyhead," the band's performance seemed a bit off. Angelakos, too, though he impressed with his range, seemed to struggle with maintaining his signature, in-character falsetto.
But then something changed, an invisible switch flicked. The band became compelling. First, "I've Got Your Number" from the EP impressed; then another new track from the full-length; and then yet another.
And then: "The Reeling," which, the audience would learn at song's end, was the set closer. By this point, the sound issues were a distant memory. Angelakos' voice had fought through its struggles. The band let loose. The crowd let loose. Each played off each other during the song's "oh no-o-o-o-o, oh no-o-o-o-o" refrain. It was Passion Pit's finest moment, its last.
Proof that the band hadn't let its hype outdo its form? Not necessarily. But, at the very least, assurance that, as the band moves forward in its incredibly promising, poppy career, it should.
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Oh, the trials of being atop the hype chain...
Personal Bias: Yeah, I went into this show skeptically--but only because I adored Chunk of Change, and have enjoyed Manners on early listens as well. I'm just sick of fawning over these bands and seeing them disappear down the line. I'm pulling for Passion Pit, though. Which is quite obvious to anyone has heard me listening to music--in the office, at my home, at parties--in recent months.
By The Way: Seriously, Angelakos' vocals are ridiculous. But it's clearly such a strain on him to perform. I mean, you can see it--and it's more than just some "Oh, he's into the performance" junk. It'll be interesting to watch how he copes--if he'll be able to keep it up, or if he'll have to change directions.
Random Note: Opener Harlem Shakes impressed in its opening set with a pleasing set of indie art-pop. And frontman Lexy Benaim had the line of the night when he dedicated a song to "that hot dog place that closed that used to be across the street from here," memorializing the fallen Big D's Dogs.