I have always been cautiously optimistic about Passion Pit's debut record. I had the album on non-stop when it came out--I'm sure others relate as the music is very simple and catchy and touches on some familiar ground that is inherently easy to listen to and in many ways gratifying. However there was always something that irked me about the album that I could not quite put my finger on.
When I saw this band on the Glastonbury bill I knew I had to go and see how these young guys from Cambridge would pull it off. I got to the stage 2 hours before the show, sat through a relatively entertaining set by the Gaslight Anthem, and then squeezed my way to the barrier at the John Peel stage.
When Gaslight was done, Passion Pit set up their equipment (mostly keyboards) in a tightly wound fashion, not taking much of the available room on the stage. I understand they are most likely accustomed to playing very small venues and this was probably their biggest show yet. Subsequently, each member of Passion Pit sound checked their instrument and microphones, however not once did they test everything together. Both of these I attributed to inexperience at the time, however I didn't know how this would affect their show.
The band huddled, got pumped up, and then came on stage to impress a 20,000 odd crowd:
When Michael Angelokos first walked on stage I immediately noticed how nervous he was. He couldn't really look at the crowd and if so for only a second. No jokes and nothing to get the crowd cheering. He was not charismatic, he just looked like he didn't want to be there. Along with the cramped setup on stage, there was nothing really to keep us engaged.
As difficult as this was, it was not the main setback of this performance. The sound was terrible. The instruments overpowered each other, much unlike the album. The main keyboard players output was set way too high and every time he would play it would overtake the drums, the bass, the guitar, and most importantly Angelokos' voice. None of the songs sounded like they did on the album, more like a fuzzy unsynchronized demo tape.
To add to this, they messed up playing I think I counted 5 times. By messing up I mean the band was off for a beat or two. I think this was the drummer's fault; aside from not looking like a drummer at all (rather an elongated Rivers Cuomo) he didn't seem to play with much finesse, implying that he doesn't have that much experience. However with the sound being as bad as it was these hiccups might have just been because they couldn't hear each other.
Bad sound, bad execution, bad charisma. This was quite a painful experience, and by the end I wasn't even moving to the music anymore, I wanted it to end.
The one thing I can respect about these guys is that they did look like a genuine indie band. That can even be proven by the fact that they put on such a terrible performance. Maybe they got too famous too quickly? Maybe this venue was too large for them and they couldn't handle the pressure?
In any case, I am a firm believer that a band should be revered because of how they perform their music live, not by how they put it together in a studio. I think subconciously I knew this when listening to the album, and that's why the album irked me.
Passion Pit lost a fan.