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Passion Pit @ Vibe Club, London


15 July 2009

Tonight feels very much like an industry bash, everything’s just that little too perfect. The people are on the flawless side of beautiful, the barmen know all the glass throwing tricks and the venue feels more exclusive than Tom Cruise’s social circle.

The Vibe Bar is an old brewery. A congregation of so tomorrow indie adolescents line the Brick Lane side streets on the approach to the venue. Groomed and dressed for the occasion they sit, stand and slouch, suffocating in a cloud of self-appreciation and nicotine.

It’s fine though, this is Shoreditch. This is what you should expect. If you don’t look like a Topshop model you should feel out of place and your place is to feel inadequate. It’s almost a trend in itself, we brave few are trailblazers in our own right.

Tonight is the second of five Levi’s OnesToWatch Revue shows this week so it’s probably fitting that London Fashion Week has spilled over outside. American indie-dance outfit Passion Pit are tonight’s headliners: one of the most talked about bands of the moment and we all know how the dying music press likes to talk.

Tonight they’re playing for a small crowd in a small room but they’ll soon be headlining sunny stages soaked in cider. But for now the opening bars of the first song are missed as a very non-apple based beverage in the VIP lounge is picked up and necked. From now on the night will be full of imperfections. Glorious defects and blemishes that make the Massachusetts boys live set so much more compelling than their studio work.

Every live song is a very different beast to its recorded counterpart. Partly down to the high production value of their material and partly down to the effects applied to singer Michael Angelakos’ falsetto vocals. There’s not a better example of this than when you hear ‘I’ve Got Your Number’, the song is a set favourite by a Massachusetts mile, the beeps, clicks, rattles and synths of ‘Chunk of Change’ EP’s second track almost sound acoustic.

With a semi-electro group the expectation is for tight and precise performance that mimics the records without deviation. But tonight it quickly becomes apparent that the five members of Passion Pit are comfortable to let their instruments bang and twang. This allows the songs to be shown in new and different ways, giving the tracks an intended amateurish box-fresh feel that melts the room. Listening to ‘Manners’ in your bedroom scrawls images of five guys playing with knobs and buttons rather than strings and skins, the latter is definitely preferred here.

Other ballistic beat brothers are far too clinical when you see them live. The dog-eared, coffee stained, scruffy execution of their songs makes each one new and fresh as well as grimy and naughty. It is this new naughty sound that fills the room and soon strips the crowd of its pretentiousness - now people are enjoying themselves a little too much. With guitars high on their chests, fingers bashing keys, sticks flailing and bodies sharply convulsing in time it’s clear the band want to promote the gritty grinding bursting out in pockets of the crowd.

As the songs continue to pop and whiz it’s apparent Passion Pit have unapologetically stolen The Beach Boys’ sunshine, the beats of Justice and Simian Mobile Disco, the groove of The Avalanches and the march of Arcade Fire. These unlikely ingredients should be impossibly ill-fitting, and yet the joins are miraculously smoothed over the equally misplaced high-pitched warbling of Matt Bellamy. Mixed together it shouldn’t work and too many times it probably doesn’t. Looking around high handclaps and ecstatic expressions it appears to be going down pretty well here.

As the set is dragged kicking and screaming to its finale you realise a very distinct difference between the older tracks of the EP and album’s newer offerings. The bric-a-brac approach and the randy innocence of ‘Cuddle Fuddle’ and ‘Better Things’ is lost in ‘Make Light’ and ‘Let Your Love Grow Tall’. There’s pessimism in the performance of ‘Manners’ as if the band has been mutilated since its infancy by their swift shove into the limelight. Not that they seem particularly bothered tonight.

For now the joy remains and it is this the crowd have been feeding off tonight and from this showing the smiles will remain on the Americans’ faces for a long time to come. Tonight has been perfect.

By Dean Samways

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