Passion Pit pull it off

Passion Pit live at the Powerstation in Auckland.
Passion Pit live at the Powerstation in Auckland.

American indie-pop band Passion Pit played Auckland’s Powerstation this week and the gig was a raging success. Frontman Michael Angelakos has recently spoken out about his battle with bipolar and how it almost meant the tour didn’t happen. But unless you listen closely to the words of each song you wouldn’t know the latest album Gossamer is a tale of testing times, because the man who appears on stage seems as happy as can be.

Passion Pit burst onto the scene in 2009 with their hit album Manners and quickly picked up a large following in New Zealand thanks to a high placement in that year’s Big Day Out lineup. Their gig at the festival, however, left me somewhat uninspired for the first 40 minutes until sound troubles were sorted out. So with only 20 minutes of Passion-flavoured-mayhem under my belt I knew I needed more and got very excited about their return to New Zealand.

I wasn’t disappointed. Not only did the crowd get to hear all the goodies from the first album, they got to hear the even better, more defined and crafted songs from Gossamer. This album isn’t all the screeching falsetto the band is well known for – that’s still there but now it slots in nicely beside some more mellow tones from Michael Angelakos. It was these songs that really came to life at the gig and I’m sure will attract a wider following.

The album’s first single Take a Walk had the crowd marching and stomping on the ground like a stationary army, while catchy tune Carried Away had everyone immersed in a singalong, turning to their friends to scream the words in their direction like they might actually stand a chance of hearing them.

Then came Constant Conversations and that’s what had me giggling excitedly like a 14-year-old girl at One Direction. The song has a bit of everything and when tied together it was musical heaven. A matured chipmunk-sounding line loops in the background while a repetitive rambling of the simple yet effective lyric ‘oh’ has the crowd singing in perfect unison and actually sounding like it’s hitting the notes. Then they throw in fantastic lyrics like “now I’m drunker than before they told me drinking doesn’t make me nice” and get every person in the crowd to carry out a perfectly timed side-to-side wave as the song builds to a stunning culmination of all factors. In my mind, it was four minutes of pure joy.

The band’s first big hit Little Secret finishes the gig with the whole puppet-audience jumping “higher, higher and higher” as instructed. Then back for a short but effective encore with number one hit from the first album, Sleepyhead. I think it’s safe to say everyone in the crowd was the opposite of sleepy after that. (Pity it was a Thursday night.)

Overall, it was a fantastic gig. A glorious combination of modern music technology pulled off seamlessly thanks to good performers and a grungy bass beat. It’s one of the best dance parties I’ve been too. I even have the sore calf muscles to prove it.

It’s a glorious day – Big Day Out is returning to NZ

The main stages at Big Day Out 2011 at Mt Smart Stadium
The main stages at Big Day Out 2011 at Mt Smart Stadium.

Neil Young, The Killers, Muse, LCD Soundsystem, The Violent Femmes, Iggy Pop, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They’re just a small selection of the world’s most famous bands I’ve added to my ‘Seen in Concert’ list thanks to Big Day Out.

When it was announced last year that the 20-year-old festival was no longer going to be held in New Zealand, I stood up and kicked the wall while screaming “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” (no exaggeration). The pain I was experiencing was made three times worse a couple of weeks on when the line up for the Australian shows was announced. I’d been to every Big Day Out since I turned 15 and my mum finally gave into my begging. But this, this was the best line up yet and I wasn’t going to get to go!

I couldn’t hack it, I got on the phone to friends straight away, found one willing to splash a bit of cash and within weeks we’d booked our tickets and flights to Brisbane for the Gold Coast concert in January. The experience was great! We had a blast at the Aussie gig but the state of my bank balance afterwards told me I couldn’t do this every year.

So you’ll imagine my relief when it was revealed Big Day Out was making a return to New Zealand in 2014. Today brought the best news of all – a venue change from Mt Smart Stadium to Western Springs has been given council approval. This one small move is going to make the concert an even better version of itself.

The key to a festival with many stages is access between the different areas. I went to Wellington’s Homegrown in its first year, excited at the prospect of the water front gig showcasing Kiwi artists. But after missing the start of every band’s show by at least 15 minutes because it took so long to walk between each stage, I never wanted to go back. Logistically Homegrown was a nightmare.

In comparison, Big Day Out was much better but there were still a few issues at the previous venue of Mt Smart Stadium when it came to entering and exiting the main stage. It was set up on the rugby field and only accessible by stairs, which overflowed with fans pushing to get to the next act. Considering myself a bit of a ‘BDO regular’, I always attacked the stairs with my elbows out and ready to push. But if you were unaware of how to tackle the crowd, it could become an almighty struggle.

At this year’s Gold Coast Big Day Out the venue, Parklands, was fantastic. The three sets of stages were a close distance to each other and on the same level of ground thus avoiding the awful stairs. Yet the sounds didn’t overlap and food stalls and toilets were nicely scattered in between. The park setting worked perfectly, as will Western Springs, which is of a similar layout. I’m even prepared to push aside my fear of birds to dance with the swans if it means five more minutes with my favourite band. So sayonara Mt Smart.

Not to mention that by taking the festival away from the industrial part of Auckland with little public transport in place, bringing it to the city and it’s the perfect recipe for happy concert-goers. No more waiting in the rain for 45 minutes to get on the train feeling like your feet are going to fall off at any minute and your eyes physically can’t stay open. Now for most, it will be an easy walk home or an easy walk to a number of methods of transportation.

It’s a good day for Kiwi music junkies like myself now that we’re welcoming the return of Big Day Out and a revamped version. Organisers have figured out how to make the concert a logistical success so now we just have to hope the line up of acts is just as good.