Passion Pit packs Pearl Street to party capacity

By Acacia DiCiaccio

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The sweltering heat of Patriots’ Day continued on past sundown as throngs of eager students lined up to see Passion Pit at Pearl Street. Soon, dancing bodies packed the ballroom tight with heat-fueled, rhythmic hysteria.

Opening act EMEFE piled on stage with their massive horn section and promptly unleashed a set full of groovy jams. The impressively well-staffed band covered the entire ballroom stage, but the singer only appeared for the very last song to get the crowd involved with a series of call-and-response verses. Trumpet and bongo solos filled out a sound that felt like big band mixed with jam band, making for a sweet, brassy culmination.

Passion Pit entered to a roaring crowd and led off with “Moth’s Wings.” The audience participation increased when lead singer Michael Angelakos teased a new track, requesting in turn that the concertgoers bounce their hands to the beat. This was a simple task, considering the bass maintained a satisfyingly heavy thump through the chorus.

Pearl Street warmed up to sauna temperatures as the band as well as the entire crowd bounced around to Passion Pit’s thrilling tunes. After the band performed “Better Things” (off of their first EP, “Chunk of Change”), Angelakos removed his suit coat and remarked in his usual, endearing way that his mother would be disappointed in his undressing.

Angelakos also recounted that the last time Passion Pit came to Northampton was a few years ago. He admitted that at that particular show he forgot his own lyrics while the crowd earnestly sang every word.

In keeping with Passion Pit’s tightened sound, not one song fell to a gentle swoon or even to a quieter dance beat. Angelakos continuously belted astounding notes, occasionally puffing on his inhaler. Asthma appeared to have no effect on his vocal talent.

Passion Pit debuted another new song, titled “Carried Away,” which was so fresh that Angelakos assured the audience – with rather ambiguous implications – that if they posted a video of it on YouTube, he would find it. He also announced that the new record will be released this September – welcome news and a relief to fans who have waited since 2009 for a new release.

Closing the main set, the band performed their biggest hit, “Sleepyhead,” before exiting the stage. Chants and synchronized applause at long last heralded the band’s return to the stage. Even then, they continued to build suspense by slowing down one of their songs before providing more jaunty tunes for dancing. Strobe lights meanwhile made a glistening foray that kept the crowd enthralled.

The finale came as no surprise when the band performed “Little Secrets,” and the audience members jumped up and down during the chorus line “No one needs to know we’re feeling higher and higher and higher.” The verdict? Passion Pit concerts do not discriminate against careless dancers, only against those who stand still.

Angelakos effused that this Northampton crowd was “the best ever.” While perhaps he says this at every show, one hopes that Angelakos’ Boston-roots played a part in the strong connection made that night between audience and performer.

The concert was on the shorter side, clocking in at just about two hours, all told – including the opener and set change. Still, it felt like the perfect length. Sweat poured off of everyone in the club, but the faces glowed with satisfaction. Or maybe patriotism.

Acacia DiCiaccio can be reached at adiciacc@student.umass.edu.