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Passion Pit / Harlem Shakes – Live @ Empty Bottle

Date June 22, 2009

After spending the day in uptown Chicago, we arrived at the sold-out Empty Bottle for Passion Pit and Harlem Shakes. The hipsters were out in full force to see the bands, which have been two of the most heavily buzzed new artists of the year on the back of two fantastic debut albums. I’m of big fan of both Manners and Technicolor Health, and was anxious to see if their live shows lived up to the hype.

MP3 Cale Parks – One at a Time

After a short and sweet performance from electronica multi-instrumentalist Cale Parks (Aloha frontman gone solo artist), Harlem Shakes took the stage. Technicolor Health is one of the most jubilant and upbeat albums of the year, and the band did a great job of translating the enthusiasm of the songs to a live setting. It was apparent that the band were great instrumentalists as well as pop-songwriters from their set. The group utilized a mixture of  guitar, keyboards, saxophone and flutes during their set and at times they would all be on percussion.

The band seemed to be having a lot of fun on stage, smiling at each other and trying out a number of rock star moves (Todd Goldstein, the guitarist, was particularly fun to watch). Each song came off wonderfully but “Strictly Game”, “Sunlight”, and “Natural Man” were my faves and judging by the crowd bouncing and singing a-long, the band’s infectious pop tunes are finding an increasing number of fans.

MP3 Harlem Shakes – Strictly Game
MP3 Harlem Shakes – Sunlight

Passion Pit have proved with their debut album Manners to be one of the most exciting new bands in the indie scene, from what I saw of their set at Empty Bottle last weekend though, their live show could use some work. The first problem I noticed was their stage set-up. Lead singer Michael Angelakos had his keyboard set up in the middle of the stage facing the wall, essentially alienating half of the crowd. (the half I was standing in). If you’re just there to jump around and get down then I guess that’s fine but some people, myself included, actually like to watch the singer while they perform. The sound wasn’t great either. Too bass-heavy for my liking and Michael’s vocals weren’t nearly as strong as they are on record.

If you were only judging by crowd participation though, the band killed. The place was bumpin’ off the hook. If you’re looking for a pure club-style dance party, you aren’t going to be disappointed with their show. My opinion is probably also tainted by the fact that I was only able to catch half their set and had to miss my favorite of their songs including “Moth’s Wings” and “Sleepyhead”.  All in all, the show is a fun time I just hope that as Passion Pit continue to fine-tune their live show, they’ll work on some of their sound and performance issues.

MP3 Passion Pit – Moths’ Wings
MP3 Passion Pit – Little Secrets

View some more of my pictures after the jump (all the pictures + setlist are here)…

Cale Parks

Harlem Shakes

Passion Pit

View the entire set of pictures at the musicforants.com flickr page.

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6 Responses to “Passion Pit / Harlem Shakes – Live @ Empty Bottle”

  1. chriskalani said:

    I saw them in Portland. The first show on their tour. PP was amazing. The Harlem Shakes were extremely boring. I usually enjoy any band and try to get into it and just have fun but I was so bored with them, I wish PP was touring with someone who complemented them a little more.

  2. Linds said:

    I’ve seen both and pretty much found the same thing as you Taylor. Loved Harlem Shakes, loved Todd Goldstein especially. I want to see him play with in his other project The Arms. But Passion Pit definitely needed a little work. I saw them before Manners came out and wanted them to be a little more upbeat and for Angelakos’s vocals to stop going off on their own little vacations.

  3. Taylor said:

    Glad you agree with me Linds. I’m not sure about the show Chris saw, but it was pretty apparent to me that Harlem Shakes was the better live band.

  4. Linds said:

    they just seemed to gel with with one another more on stage. It was less Angelakos and some other guys and more about the band as a whole.

  5. Jeremy said:

    Same scenario at Bimbo’s in San Francisco – Harlem Shakes gave an awesome show, but PP was just “off”. Great album though…

  6. Tif said:

    Saw them @ Schubas (PP), saw them hear. Both shows were great, even if they were short. It will be interesting to see what they do for Lolla.