Concert Review: Passion Pit and Tokyo Police Club at the Fillmore Miami Beach, June 13

Click here to view photos from this event.

Passion Pit
With Tokyo Police Club and Brahms
The Fillmore Miami Beach
Sunday, June 13, 2010

Better Than: Anything I expected ... and expectations were high.

The Review:

If you're reading this, I'll assume you're a Passion Pit fan. Either that, or just way bored at work today and fresh out of anything witty to say on Facebook. If it's the latter, aren't we all? If the former, well, then you probably already read my Q&A with drummer Nate Donmoyer last week, in which he told me he felt like the band you hear on the recordings and the band you see live are almost two separate acts.

After Sunday night's sold-out show at the Fillmore Miami Beach, the Boston-based band's first headlining gig in the 305, I'm inclined to agree. And I'm willing to bet so, too, is anyone else who attended. But more on that in a bit.

The show opened with Brahms, a Brooklyn trio who apparently don't sleep and harbor a penchant for neon gear (like drumsticks and maracas), instrument stands with trailing lights, and even blacklight. The lead singer-drummer, whom I'm guessing is named Eric Lyle Lodwick (their site doesn't identify who's who) offered a "new song" mid-set. Then he promptly -- and quite accurately -- quipped, "Well, they're all new songs to you, 'cuz you probably never heard of us."

Glad I did though. Brahms is pretty dope, producing an interesting blend of very heavy electro beats with (Lodwick's?) live drumming embellishments and alt-rock. The result is something like a distant cousin of industrial and New Wave's illegitimate child. Very cool indeed, even if the band did seem to lose the monitor at one point and go off key for a track.

Next up were Canadian indie rockers Tokyo Police Club, who received a raucous response from the audience in reaction to post-punk pop rock jams like "Citizens of Tomorrow" and "Breakneck Speed."

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But, let's face it, the Fillmore was a packed house for the electro-alt-pop outfit that's won over fans quickly and absolutely with ditties like "Make Light," "Little Secrets" and the instant cult classic "Sleepyhead." And they were not disappointed with headliners Passion Pit.

Donmoyer was 100 percent in our interview: The Passion Pit you get live is a very different band from the one you hear on a recording. A lot of what makes Passion Pit great in the first place, the expansive and ambient electronic soundscapes that serve as canvas to lead singer and all around mastermind Michael Angelakos' voice, which is practically a treble, and a natural sense of fluidity within their songs' pop structure, are very much as in tact in the live show as they are present on the disc. That smooth sheen that seems to make each track glimmer doesn't go anywhere. But there's something entirely new, an inventiveness and an energy wholly unexpected, and Angelakos' voice not only holds up during the endless barrage of high notes, it actually even sounds better.

And that newness, that inventiveness, it doesn't just come in the way of makeovers for songs the fans know and love. Sure, "To Kingdome Come" got a stripped-down finish, with the drumming and guitar riff standing out front and center and "The Reeling" benefited from way-heavy synth work churning out the rhythm in almost gabba fashion. But even tracks that were performed true to form, like the opening song "I've Got Your Number," off Passion Pit's debut EP Chunk of Change, "Swimming in the Flood" and "Let Your Love Grow Tall," still featured an energy you'd never have expected, regardless how upbeat they sound on the record. 

The crowd began to chant for the hit single "Sleepyhead" midway, and after politely asking fans to be patient (Angelakos said, "oh, no. Don't do that." Then promised, "we'll get to it."), the lead singer confided that they were looking forward to playing the 305 because they "like to play dance music, and Miami's a dance town." Then they ripped into a very techno-heavy rendition of Chunk of Change's "Smile Upon Me." But the dancing took place throughout the show, from beginning to end and from the packed standing room seats on the floor where inflatable pool toys made the rounds to the mezzanine, where fans crowded the edge of the balconies.

Angelakos eventually did make good on his promise, and the band whipped the fans into one final frenzied crescendo with the original version of "Sleepyhead," not the acoustic bonus track off their recently re-released Manners. But not before giving fans that shimmering Cranberries cover "Dreams," which also features as bonus material on the re-release.

As I said in the opening "Better Than," expectations were high. I'm a big fan of this band's music, and I'd already read and heard some good things about their live shows. But even still, I was pleasantly surprised. Never would I have thought such a young band, comprised of a group of kids fresh from college who've got one full album to their credit and less than three years' experience playing together, to exhibit such a mastery of their own live show. They interacted with the crowd continuously, not just through polite onstage banter, but musically, seeming to know exactly what the masses needed next to keep the energy high, and when to give an oh-so-brief lull for them to catch their breaths. But those lulls were indeed very brief, and high energy was the common currency of Passion Pit's live show. In three words: fuckin' awesome show!

I seldom say this, but I hope someone is recording these shows for them, because if they can manage to catch that energy on a recording, they've got the makings of one hell of a live disc to hold fans over between now and when they get the new material they'll be recording early next year to press. And if this first headlining tour is any indication, you can continue to expect very big things from Passion Pit.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Really? The two Q&As (the other during WMC) and the print Live Wire piece I wrote don't all give it away?

Random Detail: What were multiple 40-something year old men who look like my gardener doing trying to procure last-minute tickets to this show?

By the Way: Creepily enough, I think they may have been spurred on by the sight of all the teen and twentysomething hipster girls congregated in one area.

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