Passion Pit fans must be some of the craziest people on Earth. Glutton-for-punishment type of crazy. One day after spending an hour in line to see Michael Angelakos perform three songs on the stage at Waterloo, I spent another 30 minutes in line at Stubb’s waiting to hear Angelakos and Co. perform along with BRAHMS and Tokyo Police Club.
There were easily 250 people in front of me in line. People who had been there longer, sweating and getting strange looks from passing pedestrians and motorists longer than I. After striking up a conversation with an incoming freshman at UT and making sure he was as jaded as I am about the world, I crossed the threshold into Stubb’s.
I walked in and a guy with a ‘doo that would make Corey Haim jealous crossed my path, followed closely by two other dudes who looked like they belonged on the set of a John Hughes movie. I immediately suspected that no one with that expertly crafted hair could simply be an audience member and my suspicions were confirmed when the trio, that did, in fact, make up BRAHMS (pictured left and below), filed onto the stage in an all-black procession.
Aesthetically, the show was cool. Each of the three members, Eric Lyle Lodwick, Michael Cale Parks and Drew Montag Robinson, stood behind plexiglass triangles, occasionally illuminated by a lighting system.
Sonically, the set was a different story. The guys sounded good, but they seemed to suffer from the coolness complex that The xx suffers from. The band’s strongest assets are their melodies, but they were all delivered in a disinterested mope when a Bono yell or a Bernard Sumner croon would be the perfect shot in the arm for this snooze-fest of a trio.
The guitars and synths perfectly complemented each other, and although the electronic drums at times drowned out the rest of the music, my only beef was with the vocals. If singer Cale Parks, also of New York snooze-fest Aloha, would add some emotion to his delivery, BRAHMS could be more than the band with that guy from that one band and that bass player with the haircut I would kill for.
Tokyo Police Club (pictured below, right), a band with better music but less bodacious hair than their openers, was up next. Guitarist Josh Hooks walked onto the stage with a synth in tow and began simulating the noise that starts off the band’s latest and greatest album, Champ. Singer and bass player Dave Monks strolled up to the mic, Telecaster in hand, and began hammering away the chords to “Favourite Food” before trading the six-string for his normal Fender bass and finishing the song’s epic closing.
It sounds like Monks has finally stepped into his own as a songwriter. On A Lesson in Crime, the band’s occasionally brilliant debut EP, Monks sounded like a smart-ass teenager writing songs about robots taking over the world in the distant future (2009). On Elephant Shell, the band’s first LP for Saddle Creek Records, the music sounded like it hadn’t had enough time to incubate and it seemed like Monks’ inflections and melodies sounded like they did because he believed that’s what people expected. On Champ, Monks’ voice and lyrics have become another animal entirely, at times coming out in hyper-active shrieks and at others as a soft, boyish whisper. He sounds like a Canadian David Byrne at times, allowing his voice to quaver and inflecting at times that at first might seem wrong or weird, but become highlights after repeat listens. The effect is that the new songs have become Tokyo Police Club songs. Not just another collection of indie-rock songs. Monks and the band sound like they are ready to contribute to the canon of important 21st century indie music and he nailed each part as well or better than he did on the record, except one slip-up when the band performed the glitchy and sample-heavy “Bambi” from Champ for the first time ever live and had to start over after Monks missed his cue.
The band’s 50-minute set consisted of tracks from their EP and both LPs including “Nature of the Experiment,” “Citizens of Tomorrow,” “Tessellate,” “Your English is Good” and “Breakneck Speed.” Watching keyboardist Graham Wright freak out and flop around whilst trying to keep his glasses on was the icing on an already delicious set.
Passion Pit is a band that I have never connected with. Maybe it’s Angelakos’ chipmunk-on-Viagra squeal or my fear of alliteration but whatever the reason, I was not looking forward to sitting through an hour of their music. Fortunately, a gaggle of cute girls was standing in front of me and one of them “accidentally” bought me a vodka Red Bull, so that took the edge off.
When the band, filled out by Ian Hultquist, Ayad Al Adhamy, Jeff Apruzzese and Nate Donmoyer, took the stage under a barrage of flashing lights that would have obliterated anyone with a tendency toward epilepsy, the crowd, understandably, was out of control. It was the kind of “I’m just happy to be here” atmosphere I had only before experienced at an Andrew W.K. show. No one is there to hurt anyone or steal anyone’s spot or judge or be judged. They are just legitimately happy to be seeing one of their favorite bands, and maybe it was the vodka Red Bull, but the feeling was contagious. Before the first song of the set, “I Have Your Number” was over, I had my hands in the air and was singing along to the only part of the song I know (the admittedly infectious “Have you seen me crying? Tears like diamonds”).
The band sounded solid and although Angelakos utilized his other-worldly range on most of the songs, I wished I actually knew the words so I could sing along in my own, lower, pitch. The band closed the set after an audience member got on stage and asked his girlfriend to marry him (she said yes) and the crowd, already wise to what was going on, immediately began chanting for the band’s mega-hit “Sleepyhead.” Angelakos and the crew came out and finished the show with an encore that included “Little Secrets” and, of course, “Sleepyhead.”
As I admitted earlier, I have never been able to get into Passion Pit’s recorded material, but I’ll be in the crowd next time they come to Austin, as long as they bring the dance party and my new friends “accidentally” buy me another vodka Red Bull.
Passion Pit, Tokyo Police Club and BRAHMS played at Stubb’s on June 19, 2010.
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