Kristen Durbin | Monday, February 25, 2013
Passion Pit has peppered the soundtrack of my college career ever since I first heard their hit “Sleepyhead” at the end of my freshman year. Now the friends I made as a freshman while listening to the band’s 2009 full-length debut “Manners” have become fellow members of a post-graduation bridal party, and Passion Pit’s infectious falsetto hooks and beats will forever evoke happy memories of dorm parties in 133 Duncan Hall.
In the nearly three years since, I’ve seen Passion Pit live at two different campuses of the University of Illinois, the most recent experience last Friday at UIC Pavilion.
Compared to Champaign’s cavernous Assembly Hall, the midsize arena was an ideal venue for the band’s dance-inspiring set and colorful backdrop, although the all-ages show attracted fans from just about every demographic possible, from 14-year-old girls donning braces to middle-aged patrons of Chicago’s alternative rock radio stations.
Friday’s performance was a far more enjoyable and entertaining concert experience than my first Passion Pit show due in part to a more varied setlist, better seats and a group of friends who love dancing.
In typical Passion Pit fashion, singer Michael Angelakos led the sold-out crowd in rousing renditions of the band’s lyrically depressing yet sonically stimulating material, beginning with the darkly reflective but highly upbeat “I’ll Be Alright.” Throughout the show, I was reminded over and over of the band’s impeccable knack for getting people to dance along blissfully to some of the most self-analytical, gloomy music in rotation right now, but that didn’t mean I didn’t stop dancing during the entire 16-song set.
To my satisfaction, the band split their setlist between tracks from both “Manners” and their second album, 2012’s “Gossamer,” including the crowd-pleasing (though no less emotionally dark) Taco Bell jingle “Take a Walk” and the quasi-hip-hop inflections of “The Reeling.”
Some of my favorite performances of the night were new tracks, namely a rollicking rendition of “Carried Away” that turned the crowd into a giant choir and a slightly toned-down, clap-along version of “Constant Conversations.”
Since I don’t dislike any song on either of Passion Pit’s albums, I thought I’d be hard-pressed to choose a favorite track of the night until the band began the swelling guitar and synth intro to “Moth’s Wings.” The moment attained epic proportions nearly on the level of Coldplay’s live intro to “Yellow,” albeit before a much smaller audience than at the British group’s massive Lollapalooza set in 2011.
Passion Pit closed their set with arguably their two biggest hits, ending the main set on a high note with “Sleepyhead” and returning for an encore with the anthemic “Little Secrets.” Years of listening to those songs on repeat made the concert’s conclusion one to remember.
But Passion Pit wasn’t the only reason for the show’s success in my book. As an avid concert-goer, I’ve seen my fair share of mediocre-at-best opening acts, but Friday’s show had easily the most stacked single-concert lineup I’ve had the opportunity to see. Swedish DJ duo Icona Pop’s brisk, beat-heavy set, concluding with the current Finny’s favorite “I Love It,” prepped the audience for the immensely fun second opener – and equally deserving headliner – Matt and Kim. The Brooklyn indie duo (and couple) delivered the most spirited set I could have imagined, complete with raunchy jokes, Kim’s yellow zebra-striped pants and a good deal of standing on drum sets and keyboards while somehow still managing to tear through bouncy hits like “Daylight” and “Let’s Go.” With a high-energy lineup like this, I’d have a hard time finding a better way to spend a Friday night.
Contact Kristen Durbin at firstname.lastname@example.org