Passafire have always been known for their spirited, feel-good music and their set Friday night at the Iron Horse in Northampton was no exception. From the moment they stepped on stage to the final resonating strum of guitar, the band played a breathless and exuberant show that not only kept the crowd dancing but was also reminiscent of all four of their albums.
Passafire, which got started in 2003 while the band members (Ted Bowne, Will Kubley, Mike DeGuzman and Nick Kubley) were still students at Savannah College of Art & Design, is an ever-changing and maturing group whose sound is a decidedly motley conglomeration of rock, reggae, electronica and funk. None of their albums sound blatantly similar, which made for a distinctly memorable show.
The show, a stop on the band’s Start From Scratch tour, was mostly designed to exhibit songs from their newest album by the same name (released in September of last year). However, Passafire did not forget to play fan favorites from their three previous albums.
Passafire went onstage shortly after an equally lively and intense set was played by opening band the Dukes of Funk (side project of Mike Najarian, drummer of State Radio), who managed to successfully rouse the crowd with their grungy, Nirvana-esque anthems that melded classic grunge rock with more exotic elements, such as bongo drums.
Without a word, Passafire came on stage amidst raucous applause and began playing the twangy chords of “Kiss My Head,” a track off “Start From Scratch.”
From there, the band moved on to play songs from their previous albums. A moving rendition of “Feel It,” one of their earlier songs, melded perfectly into the upbeat “Carouser.” They then returned to “Start From Scratch” with the songs “Shapes and Colors” and “Winter Wren,” and the already charged atmosphere in the Iron Horse turned more and more animated.
To boisterous shouts and whistles, “Mr. Massive,” a request via Twitter, was performed. Their Twitter shout-out highlighted part of Passafire’s charisma and appeal – a more personal connection to their fan base than many other artists. Their willingness to get up close to their audience and even stay after the show to talk with fans was a remarkable act that really tied the show together and brought it to a more meaningful level. They were willing to take requests during the show, and they refused to stick to a completely set program. A jolly sense of camaraderie between the band and their fans pervaded the general mood throughout the whole show and only grew stronger as the night wore on.
One of the most memorable moments of the show came when they played a soulful acoustic rendition of “Dimming Sky,” which included DeGuzman on a melodica and Kubley on a flame-decorated ukulele. The whole room erupted into song as the audience huddled closer to the stage and joined in.
The buoyant mood persisted as “Who You Know” filled the air. Crowd favorite “Bad Taste,” a track from their first album, came up afterwards, and its smooth, mellow riffs and lyrics caused the audience to sway happily and sing along, promising whoever was on their minds that “I adore you.”
The funky “Rubber Bands,” another crowd favorite from “Start From Scratch,” reinstated the jaunty mood which continued on throughout “Animal” and “Barcelona,” during which Bowne called upon the audience to “dance so hard they’d break down the entire building.” Per his request, a small mosh pit did indeed form towards the front of the stage.
The last song, “Submersible,” one of the band’s funkiest and most reggae-influenced songs, left the crowd singing its uplifting lyrics and shouting for more. Passafire humbly and swiftly returned for an encore amidst deafening shouts from the crowd, with Bowne telling the audience that the band would play a couple more songs if they promised to sing along. The tour’s titular track, “Start From Scratch,” was performed as a kind of call-and-response between the band and the audience, with Bowne pausing after every line for the crowd to shout the lyrics back to him.
The show ended with “Kilo,” a track off of 2007’s “Submersible,” as Bowne promised the audience that “Tonight, we’re gonna sing with the power of a thousand tongues.” And Passafire truly had done what they pledged to do that night: play an unforgettable, high-energy show for the crowd in Northampton.
Adriana Lasso-Harrier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.