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Passion Pit at TCF Bank Stadium, 9/27/13

Passion Pit
Passion Pit
Photo by Tony Nelson

Passion PIt
With Hoodie Allen
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
September 27, 2013

It's hard to think of a band better suited for a college show than Passion Pit. On the surface level, their energetic dance pop is the perfect soundtrack for a party with 10,000 people, which is basically what Friday's homecoming show was. They also have the advantage of having come to prominence while most of the current crop of students were in high school, giving them that aura of musical importance and emotional impact gained from getting to know a band when you're 16 that can't be replicated any other way.

See also: Slideshow: Passion Pit at TCF Bank Stadium, 9/27/13

Hoodie Allen
Hoodie Allen
Photo by Tony Nelson

They also capture something else about college: sometimes, it's really hard -- and I'm not talking about academics. As the first (quasi) independent time in most students' lives, college is filled with the stress that comes from realizing who you and how that person relates to other people. Though it sometimes really does feel like the best years of your life, it can also feel like being lost in the middle of the entire world. Passion Pit gets at this feeling too -- beneath the bright lights and colors of synth grooves, most of their lyrical content is profoundly sad, dealing with both internal turmoil and difficulties in finding connections outside of yourself. Friday's show at times struggled to express this duality, but on the whole Passion Pit give the U of M exactly what it needed to start the year on a good note.

Before Passion Pit took the stage to dance through sadness, Hoodie Allen got the crowd feeling like a frat party. Hoodie brings rap that is simultaneously very lyrical and very easy to understand. His flow is uncomplicated; his wordplay, though sometimes clever, is never cryptic; and his subject matter never veers far from that of your typical 20-something bro-about-town -- girls, parties, the occasional joint. Think Asher Roth and Gym Class Heroes. Though he isn't my red solo cup of tea, I have to give credit where it's due -- his music is a lot of fun, and he put on a great set.

The crowd either knew his lyrics much better than you would expect them to, given his status as an East Coast indie rapper, or were drunk enough to pretend they did. The "Cake Boy" line "Minnesota women show me Love like I was Kevin" went over particularly well for obvious reasons. At times, it seemed like the football game had started early, with Goldy Gopher hopping on stage and spinning his head and Hoodie leading chants of "We Hate Iowa." After leading the audience in throwing their middle fingers up to "the assholes you left behind in high school" during "18/cool," he ignored the cut-off and played all of "No Interruptions" after his set was supposed to end.

Hoodie Allen and Goldy Gopher
Hoodie Allen and Goldy Gopher
Photo by Tony Nelson

Passion Pit's stage and light show are still reminiscent of the cover of their first EP, Chunk of Change, with the geometric spheres and splashes of primary colors. The primary visual element of the show was frontman Michael Angelakos. What he did couldn't be called dancing, exactly, but it met dancing's goal of capturing the feeling of music with body movements fairly perfectly. You could see the power and emotion he was pouring into every note -- this was clearly not a phoned-in performance.

That's good, because sometimes it was difficult to actually hear him. Angelakos's vocals are somehow higher live than they sound on records, and though this worked well with the arrangements of synths and keyboards as a musical element, the sound mix made it difficult to make out the lyrics in many of the songs, strongly favoring the drums and bass. I understand the reasoning behind this -- it's homecoming and people came to dance and have a good time. Making sure the groove is right is probably more important than making sure the deep pain in a lot of the lyrics comes across at all times. Overall, the set was tight, coming in at just under an hour including encore and not deviating too much from album arrangements.

 

It was still possible to catch lyrical snippets, though, and the overall feeling of the songs was not lost by either the sound or the tailgate atmosphere of the venue. You could still hear the Passion Pit mission statement in "Carried Away," lines that would apply well to the typical college experience, too: "We all have problems / We're all having problems / And we've all got something to say." And though the arrangements didn't bring any huge surprises, they still upped the ante on the studio versions and were well-executed. A synth and talk-box solo from "Mirrored Sea" that's fairly forgettable on Gossamer was a show-stopper live, with Angelakos giving it everything he had.

Passion Pit
Passion Pit
Photo by Tony Nelson

Throughout the night, Angelakos would stop briefly between songs and ask the crowd "How are you feeling? Are you doing ok?" in a way that made it sound like he actually wanted to know, and wasn't just doing the requisite firing-up that all frontmen do. It fits with his well-known struggle with bipolar disorder, which led to a brief hospitalization and string of tour cancellations last year. Since then, he's gotten married, quit drinking and become an advocate for lessening the stigma attached to mental health. His turnaround really came through in this show. He radiated joyful energy throughout the set, jumping up at one end of the stage and then the other with a genuine smile on his face.

"Cry Like A Ghost" was the strongest performance of the night. Triumphantly bleak, it's about destroying a relationship through self-destruction, and was delivered exactly right. The build-up to the anthemic chorus took on new power every time, and lyrics like "And yes I drank all those drinks on my own / My life's become some blurry little quest" were given the quiet intensity they deserved. There didn't seem to be anything more that the band could have done. Angelakos hit an asthma inhaler on stage afterwards, which was appropriate preparation for the coming final act.

Passion Pit
Passion Pit
Photo by Tony Nelson
Passion Pit at TCF Bank Stadium, 9/27/13
Photo by Tony Nelson

Feeding off the energy of the crowd sing-along to the sardonic "Na Na Na Na Na Na / Hey Hey Hey" from "Eyes as Candles," Passion Pit finally launched into "Take a Walk" with the appropriate level of gravitas. After, Angelakos beamed up at the crowd and said "Thank you so fucking much! It's great to play in front of so many people that give a shit!" As he closed the set with "Sleepyhead," he held the microphone stand over his head as the energy of 10,000 post-adolescents buzzing with the excitement of the new year (and alcohol) washed over him.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: I'm in a very 18-year-old state of mind when it comes to Passion Pit, since my strongest association with them is listening to Chunk of Change on a road-trip to Boston my senior year of high school.

The crowd: It seemed to be almost entirely students -- which makes sense, given they paid $20 to the general public's $40. I couldn't peg anyone as over 25. And the selfies . . . so many selfies.

Random notebook dump: They played opera over the PA as they were clearing people out--it seemed to be very effective.

Setlist:

Make Light
The Reeling
Carried Away
Moth's Wings (?)
Mirrored Sea
It's Not My Fault, I'm Happy
Constant Conversations
Cry Like A Ghost
Eyes As Candles
Take a Walk
Sleepyhead
Little Secrets (Encore)

See Also:
50 cool facts about the Minnesota music scene
Top 20 best Minnesota musicians: The complete list
Top 10 must-see Minnesota music videos this week

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