Wednesday’s Levi’s Ones To Watch show was, for me, an evening of counfounded expectations. I didn’t like what what I thought I might, and I really liked what I expected not to. More of that later though.
I had no expectations whatsoever regarding the first band of the night, Apples, because I didn’t know they existed. Now I can report that they are a jaunty little outfit full of ‘09-issue plaid shirts, shaggy side partings and post-Vampire Weekend rhythms.
Fewer African influences here though – if anything, you’d swear Apples have been taking cues from Alphabeat. Which is no bad thing in my book, but while I enjoyed their summery jangle-pop I did get the sense that if I was exposed to them on a regular basis familiarity would soon breed loathing. Perhaps that’s down to my low boredom threshold rather than their abilities as a band though, I dunno.
Apples ended their set with a saxophone making an unexpected appearance, which led nicely into Fanfarlo’s multi-instrumental approach. I spied a mandolin, a clarinet, a violin and a xylophone onstage at various points during their burst, but sry2say the band came off as considerably less than the sum of its parts.
While their Arcade Fire/Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!-style earnestness has won them a decent following, I was singularly unmoved. I’m not especially familiar with their catalogue but was probably looking forward to Fanfarlo more than I was Passion Pit; sadly I came away with the impression of them as drearily precious.
None of the melodies stayed with me, and I was unable to make out a single lyric throughout the set.
Why can’t these youngsters enuncate properly these days? In mitigation, I’m not the ideal audience for fey-mopped, swell-packed nu-folk.
So at the end of Fanfarlo’s set I was expecting the night as a whole to be a bust, seeing as there was no way Passion pit could live up to the buzz surrounding them (a point I’ve made previously).
And yet… Passion Pit were brilliant.
Let’s start with singer and main chap Michael Angelakos’s voice. I was convinced that in a live setting its apparent fragility would be cruelly exposed. It wasn’t – the guy really sings in that register, for a whole set, without his voice cracking. It’s very odd, and confusing, and, I suppose, unique.
Also, kudos to him for managing all this while resembling Rory McGrath.
The rest of the ‘Pit combined various accoutrements of hipsterism – Mozza specs/hair, those fucking checks again; but the main element they brought was a kinetic presence which propelled the songs to a pulsating, hitherto unexpected – oh yes – “next level”.
Take “Sleepyhead”. Probably still my favourite song by the band, on record it is nevertheless a dozy, psychedelic marshamallow of a tune. Here, though, it grew and grew until, with synths and drums buzzing and pounding, I was ready to break out a glowstick.
Likewise with the rest of the set, really. The keyboard player was covered in sweat before he took to the stage, and his enjoyment of the night was evident in every song as he bounced around before crashing back into his bank of equipment to set off another fizzing synth section.
During an instrumental section halfway through, the keyboardist and bassist locked eyes, with the pale, clammy-looking latter shaking his head slowly and seemingly preparing to collapse. Then it all kicked off again and he was airbound, as were the Vibe Bar’s small but devoted crowd. Not bad going for a Wednesday night in what likes to think of itself as the coolest part of London.
I can’t remember the last time a band’s live show has so confounded my expectations, and while I’m still not sure they have the depth of material to justify their current status, I’d recommend seeing Passion Pit live ASAP just in case they do become as massive as people seem to expect.