Concert Review: Passion Pit, Lee’s Palace, June 16

Toronto – So I didn’t know anything about Passion Pit until about 30 minutes before I went to their show last night but Ricky had an extra ticket and the only things I have to look forward to on most Tuesday nights are Seinfeld reruns.

No surprise then that the only track I recognized from them whilst doing my 15-minute pre-show research was their Sony PSP spot (Sleepy Head). Although I also liked the Reeling, I can see how Michael Angelakos has the sort of vocals you either love to hate or love to love. On the one hand it’s extremely distinctive, maybe even soulful. On the other hand this might be the sort of operatic sound a guy would make while his balls are being put through a woodchipper. Be that as it may, there’s no denying that the white marriage of catchy dancey beats + soul / funk rock is a great genre that is here to stay, and that these guys do very well with. But hey, what do I know. I just listened to the four songs they have on their MySpace page.

Passion Pit by allsongs.

The first thing that struck me when we lined up to get in was the amazing steam their hype machine has picked up. Whoever is representing them is doing an astronomical job because this show is on-par with being one of the most sold-out shows I’ve ever seen at Lee’s with scalpers reportedly selling for $40, $60, and in Chicago, $100. It looked like their openers Harlem Shakes attracted a massive audience as well, and good for them. We were late and missed their performance¬† but from the three tracks I listened to off their page they have the potential to be a rootsier pop version of Ben Folds Five and have garnered pretty good reviews from everyone who caught them last night.

Another effect of our tardiness: shitty viewing position. We stood at the bottom of the stairs surrounded by a bunch of bald guys wearing graphic t-shirts and were rightfully pushed around by people walking back and forth from the bar to reclaim their spots. Hey, I’d have trampled me too.

Trample-spots aside I have to say I’m kind of surprised as to how well the show was received. Angelakos pretty much botched their entire set with his off-key vocals and not only did the audience not seem to care, they begged for more, chanting their “Oh Nooooooooooo”s throughout their encore (the Reeling).

You know, I am sympathetic to the green performer. As someone who is terrified by the very THOUGHT of stage fright I can appreciate how someone like Robert Pollard (of Guided by Voices) struggled in his early performance days to find the perfect level of drunkenness just to get himself up there. While I’m sure inexperience and the jitters were factors here I’m going to go out on a sanctimonious limb and say the vocal talent just isn’t there without studio production. I know that there are a ton of indie acts out there who get away with bad vocals, but think about this genre they are going for and its demands, and then think about a distinctive voice gone wrong. When something status-quo is botched, we all go “Oh well”. When something unique is botched, we all go “WTF was that?!”. It’s just human nature. But then again, maybe it’s just that he sounded like a castrato being put through a Juiceman Jr. motor last night.

The band recouped quite a bit with their performance and I thought sampler guy Ayad Al Adhamy bore a lot of charismatic jib with his constant head bopping and gyrations. A run of friendly banter and some interaction with the audience would’ve made me excuse the rest. This is something I think a lot of new acts could learn from the older set. I know touring is an incredible way to burn yourself out quickly, especially when you’re blitzing through a major city every 1.5 days but a bit of cordial chat goes a long way in all walks of life.

Posted on by Allison in Concerts

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10 Responses to Concert Review: Passion Pit, Lee’s Palace, June 16

  1. Wade

    good insights

  2. Allison

    What is it about newer bands’ reluctance to engage with their audience? I would think chit-chat would calm your nerves instead of unnerving them.

    Of the shows I’ve been to recently, only the Pains of Being Pure at Heart saw fit to create any intimacy by talking to their audience. I don’t know. I guess I just think it’s like paying a hooker for sex (all biz) when bands blitz through their sets without so much as a nod. No intimacy in what I think should be an intimate act.

  3. Mark

    I can think of two possibilities regarding banter:

    1) Maybe not engaging with the crowd is a way to be all cool and hipster-aloof?

    2) Genuinely frightened. ;0)

    Too bad this show was such a disappointment. I had been really looking forward to it. I think it was the shortest set + encore that I’ve ever seen at a live show.

  4. D Rock

    Harlem Shakes are GOOD. Their early EP’s are stronger than the most recent full length. They’ll probably have more staying power than Passion Pit. Just watch . . .

  5. Allison

    Is that a way of saying hipster is code for asshole? I don’t think that is it–I am sure that everyone who stayed behind to speak to them at their merch table afterwards would confirm they’re “nice guys” happy to bask in polite chatting with their audience.

    Here’s what I think it is…they don’t see what a difference it can make to a show. I guess they are terrified out of their wits for one, and blitz through their songs making it another day at the office. To me the best shows imply there is some exchange between the act and its audience. Not just a barrage of WOOOs hitting a wall. There are exceptions of course – if a band gives me an outstanding 90-minute set I’m not going to whine about how they didn’t chat with me. But as you said, it was a short crappy set.

    And for the record, I haven’t ever paid for sex..yet.

    Dwayne: I wanted to see Harlem Shakes but we ordered another round and missed them.

  6. Josh

    Ricky doesn’t do openers

  7. Ricky

    ive never hi fived anyone at the show

  8. BK

    I liked your insight into his voice. Every blogger praises him as some amazing new talent but his voice sucks. His songs are filled with too many samples and synths and the only way for him to be heard is to scream through the mix in that obnoxious voice.

  9. Allison

    BK: Thanks for confirming I’m not the only one who thinks that. I imagine it’s the sort of sound an orangutan getting nipple electro-shock therapy might make. You’re right about the loud synths though–it would make sense that the volume required him to scream over them which is fixable in the studio but not live..that’s for sure.

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