Live Shots: Passion Pit, Icona Pop, Matt and Kim at the Bill Graham

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Swedish duo Icona Pop made the typical announcement about being really happy to finish up its tour in San Francisco, last Thursday at the Passion Pit/Icona Pop/Matt and Kim show at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.

Things likely have changed for Icona Pop, which specializes in bouncy, dubstep-inflected pop about “heartbreak,” particularly since the song “I Love It”* was appropriately included in the episode of HBO’s Girls where TV’s most self-centered character** goes on a coke binge.

Icona Pop received its biggest, swelling crowd response closing its set with the track, essentially the millionth song to say YOLO in recent memory. I’d say it has the potential to be the “song of its generation,” but only if we can all agree that that whole concept needs revising.***

Matt and Kim played Girl Talk (or at least a mega-mashup-mix of Black Sabbath, Timbaland beats, Jay Z 1.0, etc.) while warming up. Matt wore a Big Freedia t-shirt. Just a couple clues that the pair is similarly oriented towards audience response.

Snippets of familiar hits – Alice DeeJay's “Do You Think You’re Better Off Alone” comes to mind, as well as Dr.Dre and Snoop**** – were occasionally mixed in with their own music, which most often has the same twinkling piano and rudimentary drum beat. Fun often came at the cost of sticking slavishly to trends, which would explain the “Harlem Shake” section of the show.

I want to dislike the duo, but somehow the two members remain really shiny, seemingly unpretentious musicians who have done their best to scale up from fine china-shattering house parties to festival sized performances and still be engaging. (The equipment mounted cameras they use make them seem slightly less like rockstars and more like contestants on a reality TV show, still slightly shocked by the exposure.) Even slightly criticizing them makes me feel like the time I tossed a kitten down a staircase. (I was 6.)

The last time I went to see Passion Pit – at the Warfield during the Manners tour – well, it was on what would retroactively be a first date, and in part because of the lame soul revue opener and my general nervousness, I drank way too much alcohol and ended high up in my balcony seat, where the show on stage seemed to consist of firing strobes lights directly at the audience. So, yeah, it was a lot of fun.

And, of course, I was very interested to see what a Passion Pit concert is actually like. Well, things started off maximally with “I’ll be Alright,” Manners single “The Reeling”, “Carried Away,” and the pretty “Moth Wings.” Then singer Michael Angelakos moved into a slight lull of twee balladry with “Love Is Greed,” a potentially devastating song for anyone that grew up on watching too many Disney movies*****, and “It’s Not My Fault, I’m Happy”, eventually rising back up to peak with the two best songs from sophomore album Gossamer, the R.Kelly-esque “Constant Conversations” and the politipop masterpiece “Take a Walk”******. It was a good performance, with Angelakos stalking the stage throughout and the band actually jamming a little bit on “Mirrored Sea.”

Passion Pit ended with “Sleepyhead” and “Little Secrets” as the encore. There were bubbles and confetti, but ultimately it all may not have been as memorable as forgetting.

*I like to imagine this song is borrowing the chorus structure of 10cc’s “Dreadlock Holiday,” but somehow I doubt it.
**Besides maybe Walter White.
***How can someone three years younger than me not know of Mr. T?
****Or David Axelrod/David McCallum.
*****At one point in the night, Angelakos began singing slowly and for a split second I was expecting this.
******Also on Girls, last night.