Friday, May 29, 2009

Passion Pit, Harlem Shakes @ Troubadour (5/28/2009)

Passion Pit

Expectations exceeded.

I've always been ambivalent about the Troubadour. Wherever I've lived in LA has been within walking distance, so I've never had to drive there, and that's a nice perk. And the venue is set up wide, instead of long, so you can get close. But I think the stage is too low or something to that effect, because it seems like at the Troubadour, more than any other venue I can think of, it's really easy for someone to get in your line of sight, even for someone like me who's over 6 feet tall.

But after this show I'm ready to say that I really like the Troubadour, but probably more for the quality of bands they book to play their small venue more than anything else. Seeing Passion Pit and the Harlem Shakes at the Troubadour was a great experience; definitely one of the best shows I've seen all year. And seeing these bands in such a small venue would never happen in New York, where The Shakes are locals and Passion Pit is just up north, so score one for LA.

The Shakes were scheduled to go on at 9:15, so, thinking that the place would soon be packed and wanting to reserve a good spot for the rest of the night, I showed up at 9. The place was practically empty, which surprised me. It might have also surprised the band as well, because they didn't go on until 9:30, when the place was leaning towards half full.

I've loved The Shakes since I heard the first 30 seconds of "Niagara Falls" on their Myspace page in March; they can't do wrong in my eyes. They're even better live than recorded, and they did not disappoint this night. I thought their set was great, even if the sound was a bit off (there was an echo-y quality to it) and the vocals were a little low, so I took out my earplugs. The first time I saw them at SXSW the vocals were so low that I don't think anyone could hear them; it wasn't nearly as bad this time but I was concerned for a minute or two. I definitely appreciated that they played a track or two off their EP. They covered all the hits, with the exception of "Niagara Falls" and "Sicko." Judging from the applause at the end of their set they earned many new fans.

The Shakes' set would have been enough to make it a great show. But no. Less than half an hour later out come Passion Pit. I wasn't into it for the first minute or two, but once I adjusted I was blown away. So much fun, so much energy, and the crowd was loving it. They almost turned the Troubadour into a dance floor, albeit a dance floor where everyone is facing forward and trying not to get in each others' way. I had thought some of the tracks on Manners, their new album, were a little on the slower and on the more boring side, but live they pulsed with restraint, and made for excellent foils to the more blatantly dance-y songs. And they even made the songs sound as much as they could like they do on the album. When they played "Little Secret," for example, they played the shouting sample from the album, instead of the bandmembers just doing the shouts themselves.

If I had one criticism I'd say they played one song too many; after the first song of the encore my ears began to hurt (partially my fault because I didn't use my earplugs) and my feet started to hurt as well. I can't think of anything else. The band played like they loved it, and despite the small size of the Troubadour they acted as though they were genuinely grateful for us even being there. But after a performance like that, it was us who were grateful to them.

I can't wait to see this tour again tonight at the Echoplex. It will be different, but I know it's still going to be amazing.

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