Having never experienced an electronic concert before, I was curious to find out for myself how one would compare to traditional rock and folk concerts that I had attended previously. I finally got my chance on October 28, 2011, when Passion Pit, my favorite electronic band, came to Charlottesville for their first show of the touring season.
Before reviewing the concert itself, it is interesting to note the history of the band. Their first EP, Chunk of Change was actually a compilation of electronic songs written and recorded entirely by now-frontman Michael Angelakos, as an intended Valentine’s Day gift for his girlfriend. Still attending Emerson College in Massachusetts at the time, his tracks quickly spread to friends and acquaintances by word of mouth and subsequently caught the attention of many online bloggers. From there, record deals were signed, new members were recruited to play shows with Angelakos, and in mere months, what originally started as a one-time gift had quickly blown up into a full blown, successful electronic band.
After two opening acts of lesser-known electronic bands, Passion Pit finally came onto the stage, opening with the first track on their album Manners, “Make Light.” As the synths blared so too did the bright white lights on the stage, illuminating the entire venue in blinding intermittent flashes. It was the perfect way to open the show and really pumped up the crowd. Contrasting with the previous mediocre opening acts, they really set the stage (pun intended) and left no doubt in anyone’s mind that they were the real deal—a true triple-A act.
In fact, it’s hard to imagine a more engaging technosonic concert—especially for a mainstream band such as this one. Many of the songs seem as if they were written specifically for audience participation. For example, easy to remember, repeating background vocals are prevalent in many tracks such as “Little Secrets,” as well as harmonizing backing vocals in others such as “Eyes as Candles” and “Better Things.” Full of energy, their music had the crowd jumping, dancing, and singing along even when crowd participation was not designed.
Their hit song, “Sleepyhead,” actually features a sample from harpist/singer Mary O'Hara. The sampled song, titled “Óró Mo Bháidín,” is sung in Irish Gaelic; however, in “Sleepyhead,” the song is spliced and distorted adding eerie yet somehow fitting background vocals to the song; its higher pitch along with increased tempo and reverberation makes the original melody hardly recognizable. Combined with drums, bass, synths, and lead Angelakos’ impeccable falsetto vocals, it makes for a very catchy and original sounding beat. Passion Pit’s other songs follow a similar formula, although they are all quite different in texture and structure. The samples and synths may often repeat, but are of optimal length and have enough variation so that not one song is left with a dull moment.
With only one full album and one EP release so far, Passion Pit played almost every one of their songs—certainly all the songs everyone wanted to hear—along with a couple of new, never-before-heard tracks. Before coming to the concert, I thought an electronic concert, which is played primarily on keyboards and synthesizers may not be as exciting or fun to watch as show with traditional instruments; I could not have been more wrong. Although I may have walked away suffering slight hearing loss from the loudness of the speakers, I left having experienced one of the best concerts ever.