At the end of his nearly two hour set at the Santa Ana Observatory, Michael Angelakos stood at the edge of the stage beaming brightly, high-fiving screaming fans as he walked above them. Standing there in the afterglow of an insanely raucous performance, the 27-year-old artist and creative demon behind synth-pop outfit Passion Pit seemed ten-feet taller–and after show he had just put on, it wasn’t too surprising.
There’s a beautiful contradiction in the sunshine pop melodies of Passion Pit’s infectious hooks and choruses, one that is highlighted in their music but stems directly from the engine of emotion that is Angelakos. Onstage he brings a hurricane of uncontrollable fervor; flailing his arms wildly, swinging his microphone in the air, tongue-out belting in that helium croon the disguised dirges of his troubles and pains.
Disguised in explosions of synths and inane percussion thunderings, camouflaged in the brightly painted cuts of electric guitars and shimmering keyboards. For all intents and purposes, Passion Pit set the fully-packed Observatory ablaze; and as fans danced to the deliciously sweet synths, some had tears in their eyes.
“But we all have problems/We’re all having problems/And we all got something to say,” Angelakos sang cathartically on the bubbly lines of “Carried Away.”
On the twinkling and sensual piano melody of “Constant Conversations” Angelakos serenaded the crowd with an imagism of fractured self-confidence and character flaws that resonated with every soul in the room. An upbeat version of “Dancing On the Grave” was an emotive eruption of danceable synth that ruptured ear-drums and walls alike; while the hammering beat of “Take A Walk” pushed the crowd into a frenzy.
Suddenly in every song sung we found ourselves handing each other every tragedy and heartache we’d been shouldering, emptying them into the air to be obliterated by the bursts of light and sound detonating behind Angelakos. Passion Pit has perfected pop; combining its universality with the deeply personal grief’s we face everyday as human beings. Live, Angelakos embodies every bittersweet passion of life, and his high-pitched croons cut you to your core.
One of the night’s highlights included a rare performance of “Moth’s Wings,” and as Angelakos navigated the song’s gorgeous lyricisms with a guitar on his arm, quaking shudders of percussion roaring around him, it was hard not to let his words saturate you in a simple hope.
Passion Pit returned to the stage for a volcanic rendition of “Sleepy Head,” the song that started their haphazard tumble towards indie-stardom.
Growth is something people like to talk about when a band hits that pivotal third album, and indeed the Boston-born group has grown exponentially. But live, Angelakos and company retain that same innate intimacy and zeal that’s kept fans hooked since day one–as humble as ever, its lead singer displays nothing but gratitude for their love, and he returns that favor by giving one hell of a show every time he steps into a stage.
Atlas Genius opened the night with their indie-rock tenacity, pumping up the crowd with their upbeat tunes and crowd favorite “Trojans.”
Words & Photography: Steven Ward