Passion Pit turned in one of my favorite performances of 2012 at Bumbershoot, so I was excited to see them three months later at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland.
The band’s dance-friendly sound seemed tailor-made for the Crystal Ballroom, with its springy floor and cozy interior. Naturally, I hoped for another transcendent show and showed up ready to dance until my legs gave out.
It was not to be. We learned shortly before Passion Pit took the stage that they came down with food poisoning and were under the weather that evening.
That led to an abbreviated set — about 40 minutes — and no encore.
Very little betrayed the band’s under-the-weather status. They opened with “Take a Walk,” an enthusiastic romp that had the crowd bouncing off the floors — and each other — in short order.
The rest of the 10-song set featured an even mix of cuts from the band’s latest release, “Gossamer,” and its 2009 full-length debut, “Manners.”
Plenty of highlights dotted the brief-but-subdued performance. “Eyes as Candles,” with its made-for-concert “nah-nah-nah” chorus and bouncy keyboard lines, provided one such delight. Similarly, concert staple “Sleepyhead” sent the crowd into fits of spastic euphoria. Lead singer Michael Angelakos clearly struggled by set’s end to muster the energy that the song evokes, but the band connected with the crowd through the track’s trademark swirling synths and swelling beats.
With that, Passion Pit launched into the set-closing “Little Secrets.” Angelakos, with a glazed-over look in his eyes, struggled through the song while bassist Jeff Apruzzese incited the crowd during the chorus, anchored by a (recorded) children’s choir singing “higher and higher and higher, higher and higher and higher.” Apruzzese’s encouragement had the intended effect, as fans bounced several feet in the air, as if they were playing inside the world’s most fun bounce house.
With that, the song — and the show — ended. Angelakos thanked the crowd, the band shuffled off stage, and the house lights turned on. Fans clapped and chanted “One more song!” for about five minutes, hoping for one last shot of sonic adrenaline that never came.
I walked out of the ballroom with a mix of emotions. I found myself excited by the brief but fun show I’d just seen, confused about the abrupt ending, and frustrated with my fellow fans.
Before the show, my friend and I opted for the 21-and-older section, separated by a barrier from the more buoyant all-ages crowd. The choice led to a better vantage point, but it came at the expense of any sustaining enthusiasm from those around me.
While those on the other side of the all-ages barrier bounced ever higher on the ballroom’s resilient floor, my fellow elders did little more than nurse their beers and nod their heads. Only occasional swaying broke out, even during the band’s bounciest moments. I can scarcely listen to Passion Pit in my car without tapping my feet and nodding my head, so the set felt like being stuck in a phone booth.
As I walked into the cold December night, my enthusiasm gave way to a nagging question: When did adults forget how to dance?