In different ways, Hot Chip and Passion Pit have both developed unique musical vocabularies in the realms of dance and electronica. While Passion Pit is more of a gussied-up solo experiment for leader Michael Angelakos, Hot Chip is a fully collaborative unit that writes and produces albums with an almost democratic division of labor. Both groups benefited from a healthy dose of industry buzz early in their careers and are now household names both in the United States and internationally.
In a somewhat surprising move, the KCRW World Festival chose Hot Chip as the headliner for Sunday evening’s performance at the Hollywood Bowl. Clearly, Passion Pit is the more powerful commercial force in the United States — recent album “Gossamer” debuted at number 4 on the Billboard 200 — so it was a bit strange to see them defer headlining duties to the respected, but lesser-known Brits. Still, the theatre was packed for both bands till the very end of the night.
After an abbreviated performance by Syrian dance auteur Omar Souleyman, Passion Pit began its set by establishing its relentless, synth-drenched pop sound with the epic hum of new track “Take A Walk.” Angelakos’ voice is as divisive as it is stunning to behold — a helium-soaked sonic weapon that is frequently pushed to the very apex of its register. On this evening, he was in top form, hitting notes with precision and infusing his melodies with a desperate emotional intensity. On stage, the group members remained fixed behind individual synthesizer stations while Angelakos paced nervously around the stage.
Older tracks like “The Reeling” and “Moth’s Wings” elicited strong reactions from the crowd, but overall the band struggled to get the audience to participate and dance along to its hyperactive brand of pop music. This was partly due to a bare-bones light and stage show that hardly accented the grandiose qualities of the songs and made for a less-than transportative experience. The set lasted for an hour and was highlighted by “Gossamer” stand out “Carried Away” and the group’s first major single release “Sleepyhead.”
Thirty minutes later, Hot Chip took to the stage with each band member stationed behind an incredibly elaborate set of keyboards, guitars and percussion instruments. Frontman Alexis Taylor was perhaps the busiest performer of the evening, switching between a vast array of synthesizers, pianos, modulators and guitars. Tracks “Shake A Fist” and “Don’t Deny Your Heart” were played with a trance-like fervor that extended the dense musical arrangements well beyond the concise limitations of the recorded versions.
The set was relentlessly upbeat and the audience responded wildly by dancing in the aisles and twirling glow sticks throughout the theater. Imaginative, house-influenced reworkings of “One Life Stand” and “Boy From School” were testaments to the band’s appreciation for the Detroit-born sub genre and its tenets of melodic minimalism and rhythmic power.
Due to the sheer quantity of instruments on stage and the endless multi-tasking by each performer, there were a number of feedback-related sound problems that marred a few of the tracks, but these were brief and hardly diminished the performance.
The show closed with a trilogy of the group’s most beloved songs, which included an excellent reading of “Ready For The Floor” that seamlessly stitched a pulsing rework of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere” onto the end of the tune. The frantic rush of “Hold On” soon followed, giving way to the group’s best-known track and set finale, “I Feel Better.”