Passion Pit Finds Nemo at Madison Square Garden

Concert totally worth blizzard’s wrath
by Sofi Munoz

Despite loads of homework, unreliable public transportation, and our dear friend Nemo, on February 8 I found myself battling through the snow and ice to experience the musical bliss that is Passion Pit, Matt & Kim, and Icona Pop at Madison Square Garden. Though traveling through a blizzard was no cakewalk, Nemo turned out to be a blessing in disguise: I was able to move from section 226 to 10 because several ticket holders couldn’t make it through the storm. Despite the storm, 18,000 tough New Yorkers eventually made it to MSG, and by the time Icona Pop took the stage, the floor was crowded and the energy high.

The Swedish duo of Aino Jawo and Caroline Hjelt, better known as Icona Pop, burst onto the international stage last year with dance hit “I Love It” and are gaining fans worldwide with their catchy house-and indie-influenced pop/dance music. Though they have only released a few songs, concertgoers reacted well to their upbeat sound, despite the fact that the two have yet to develop a strong stage presence; they are newcomers after all, and MSG is a challenging venue. After running through a quick set, Icona Pop closed with “I Love It,” performed with just the right amount of punchy girl power.

Matt & Kim’s startling entrance to the thumping bass of French Montana’s “Pop That” set the tone for the rest of their energetic performance marked by their exuberant style of music. After introducing themselves as “partners in music and in sex,” the duo burst into classics such as “Cameras” and “Daylight,” as well as newer favorites, notably “Let’s Go,” punctuated with rap transitions by artists such as Big Sean and 2 Chainz. It was hard to not get caught up in Matt & Kim’s dynamic performance–the two just radiate so much joy, and put tremendous effort into the danceable beats and catchy lyrics that have become a hallmark of their music.

Friday marked the first time the Brooklyn-based duo of vocalist/keyboardist Matt Johnson and amazing drummer Kim Schifino have performed in MSG, and they held nothing back. Kim’s audacious crowd surfing, despite her broken ankle, was particularly memorable and characteristic of a band that proudly declares, “Shouting out/Of my windows, rolled down/Cause I don’t care/Anymore, said ‘I don’t care.’” The two have great stage presence and personal chemistry, which translates to a better overall experience for the crowd.

After Matt & Kim’s exuberant performance, Passion Pit slid into a compelling combination of songs from their latest album Gossamer and older hits, captivating the crowd with the sheer depth of the material. The instrumental complexity coupled with lead singer Michael Angelakos’s breathtakingly high vocals made for aural bliss as well as quality dancing. The performance was enhanced with lovely Japanese lanterns that alternated colors based on the mood of the song, complementing rather than competing with the music. Angelakos was particularly on point, alternating between grooving to upbeat tunes like “Moth’s Wings,” and songs that touch on darker emotions, such as “Take a Walk” and “Carried Away.”

Formed in 2007 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the band consists of Angelakos, Ian Hultquist (keyboards, guitar), Xander Singh (synthesizer, samples), Jeff Apruzzese (bass, synth bass), and Nate Donmoyer (drums).

Passion Pit
Passion Pit

Angelakos told the crowd, “Seven months ago, they told me I wouldn’t tour again. And now we’re here on stage at Madison Square Garden…thank you,” referring to his ongoing struggle with depression and bipolar disorder, a struggle that prohibited the band from completing their July 2012 tour and delayed the release of Gossamer. How many of us can relate to Angelakos’s situation and struggle with a mental health issue, or know someone who does? Hearing a frank discussion of these challenges through lyrics like “We’re all having problems/And we all got something to say/I get carried away, carried away, from you/When I’m open and afraid” is refreshing in a time when we are constantly told to “Shine bright like a diamond” and to “Make ‘em go, oh, oh, oh/As you shoot across the sky.”

After wrapping up the set, Passion Pit thanked the crowd and wished everyone a safe night…but they had yet to perform “Sleepyhead,” which is arguably their most famous song and one of the reasons for their catapult to fame a few years ago. We all knew it was coming, but Passion Pit literally brought the house down when they came back for an encore of “Sleepyhead,” accompanied by a magical flurry of confetti. As the opening strains wafted over the arena, Angelakos said, “Let’s cut to the chase,” and MSG agreed.

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