Passion Pit played its first official show in 2008 in Allston, Massachusetts, at Great Scott, a bar with a checkerboard floor that serves up live music seven nights a week, $3 Narragansett tall boys and a Friday night dance party called The Pill. It was there that the songs on Chunk of Change, including their signature hit “Sleepyhead,” came to life in front of a room full of people dancing to Passion Pit, even if they couldn’t necessarily peg the sound by genre. Was Passion Pit an electronic act? Was Chunk of Change just a straight-up dance record? Maybe this was just pop-rock in disguise? Whatever happened at Great Scott that night, a seed was planted, and Passion Pit – in a very short amount of time and only a couple of album cycles – became the modern poster child for Boston music, a band that escalated from the basements of college kids’ apartments to the biggest stages in the world.
Fast-forward to this past Sunday in Boston’s City Hall Plaza, where Passion Pit closed out Boston Calling, the rapidly developing big-scale festival franchise that’s set up shop just steps from where they met and went to school. This was the festival’s second installment, the first taking place Memorial Day 2013 Weekend with fun. and the National as anchors. Passion Pit was a no-brainer of a headline attraction because of the band’s local ties and stadium prowess.
For Passion Pit’s frontman Michael Angelakos, this timely return to their stomping ground was one they’ve been looking forward to, especially as they continue to tour behind 2012’s Gossamer. Passion Pit’s Boston Calling set list drew heavily from Manners, their 2009 debut LP that serves as a collection of the last songs they wrote as Bostonian residents. They’ve moved on – Angelakos resides in Brooklyn now, as do most of the band’s members – but the singer maintains an intimate connection with Passion Pit’s Boston fanbase, one that’s intrinsic to their identity. “I wrote Manners while I was still living here; I just recorded it in New York,” he says. “We lived in Boston up until halfway through the Manners tour, which was a year and a half after the record came out. There’s a sense of ownership. We always introduce ourselves as a band from Boston, Massachusetts. When we’re in Boston, it reminds me of when we started playing shows in 2008. It feels like less has changed in that capacity. Kids are more up for it here; in New York they’re a little more self-conscious. Boston’s a very proud city. We get that, and that feeds into the energy of our live show.”
While Angelakos revealed little about future release dates and plans for their next record, Passion Pit are keeping busy: they’re touring behind Gossamer through November, and recently celebrated the release of Hello Everywhere, the Taco Bell-produced rock documentary that follows them and Wildcat! Wildcat! to 2013’s South by Southwest. As they look forward to a future that grows brighter with each passing tour, this return to Boston was a familiar feat, one that reminded them of where they come from and how far they can go.
“From the children’s choirs on ‘The Reeling’ and all the choruses with the super-stacked vocals, it’s almost as though we’re conducting a choir, and it’s been like that since day one,” Angelakos says. “That’s the one thing that blows our minds, that we get that same kind of response. From the basement of the Middle East where people were dancing and not giving a shit, that’s never gone away. And that’s what keeps us doing this. We didn’t have to get on the radio to play Boston Calling. Boston is a great example of a city that never gave up on us.”