10 Jan 2009: Terminal 5 New York
Before November 2009, I was fairly unfamiliar with Passion Pit and I held many misconceptions even up until the show. I thought their distorted electronic sound came from England, but it turns out they hailed from Boston. At least one female must be singing, but Passion Pit (PP) is really made up of five guys led by singer and keyboardist Michael Angelakos, whose helium-inflated voice probably was the source of my confusion. Ian Hultquist on keyboards and guitar, bassist Jeff Apruzzese, Ayad Al Adhamy working the samplers and synths and Nate Donmoyer on drums are the other four members. And only after gazing at their Terminal 5 setlist, for the second of a three-night stand, did I realize they had slightly more than eleven songs.
While the stage was being changed over for the main act, people, like me, were still arriving and so we had missed the supporting acts Joy Formidable and Arms; different openers were on the bill for each night. Finally inside, I could sense building anticipation had become practically tangible and when PP finally came out, the audience’s cheers became deafening. Making it an all-ages show certainly helped pack the venue; venturing both upstairs and downstairs, I can’t recall seeing every inch of Terminal 5 so teeming with young-uns.
For their first song, PP played “I’ve Got Your Number” from their EP Chunk of Change. The song is a catchy electro-pop number with Angelakos singing in his particularly high octave. This is where I will get my few complaints about PP out of the way. My first problem is the glaring shrill upper registers Angelakos’s voice reaches that after awhile can be painful. But primarily, I find some of the band’s songs barely discernable from one another, as I would never have realized “Number” was not from the album. My confusion is due to my lack of familiarity with the EP, as I had never heard it prior, but I tend to believe that the lesser songs on the album sound derivative and almost uninteresting in comparison to the hits.
But those hits are good ones. Their triumphant second song “Make Light” served as a better introduction to the band’s hyper-kinetic tempo and one that the floor audience couldn’t help but shake to. Soon after, PP really walloped the crowd with smash “The Reeling”, with its piercing cry to “Look at me” and its sing-along chorus. Angelakos, refraining from dancing, took to encouraging the crowd and raised the mic towards the audience who screamed “Oh no…”. PP followed with the comparatively buoyant and expansive “Moth’s Wings” and eventually got to the glitchy “Folds in Your Hands” which really tweaked the dance craze mode on in the audience. Finally, the children’s chorus infused “Little Secrets” became a chaotic closer to the main set, with Angelakos shouting “It’s cold outside but hot in here” and agitating the crowd, now awash in tremendous luminescence from the stage, into frenzy.
Passion Pit returned for their encore with “Eyes as Candles” before surprisingly going into a cover of The Cranberries’ “Dreams” that was both a curious and unconvincing choice. An overly bubblegum-pop song might have fit into their electronic style better. Saving their hotly desired standout for last, PP closed with “Sleepyhead”, an impulsive song that starts with a warbly vocal, slightly reminiscent of The Avalanches, before another sampled line and handclaps come in propelling the song into its oscillating melody. It was a great closer as the instrumental section parts were saturated with greater oomph and the LED screens behind the band reached warp speed, bathing everyone in a blinding light.
Playing just over an hour, Passion Pit’s passionate performance consisted of the entire 45-minute debut album Manners, three songs from 2008 EP, Chunk of Change, and the cover. But, unfortunately, the show felt too pre-formulated as the band was light on banter and refrained from noodling about with their own material. And when it was over, people hurriedly raced out of the venue into the cold night as if they had only come to see why the band is in vogue. As Angelakos had indicated, PP has made an uncharacteristically meteoric rise, going from playing Piano’s to selling out Terminal 5 in little more than a year. In the future, their fortunes may depend on allowing some breathing room to grow and mature. But in the meantime, they certainly have demonstrated their chops as entertainers and will continue to do so for the large world tour they are about to embark on.
Setlist: (About 10:45 to 11:50)
• I’ve Got Your Number
• Make Light
• Better Things
• The Reeling
• Moths Wings
• Swimming in the Flood
• To Kingdom Come
• Let Your Love Grow Tall
• Folds in Your Hands
• Smile Upon Me
• Seaweed Song
• Little Secrets
• Eyes as Candles
• Dreams [Cranberries cover]
• Sleepy Head