Passion Pit plays electro-pop at Grand Sierra Resort
Passion Pit, which takes the stage May 29 at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, is known for serving up a rich musical feast.
Add to that a crowd-pleasing opening act in thoughtful alt-rockers Young the Giant, and fans had better bring their appetites.
Indie electro-pop is an unwieldy moniker, invented on the fly to explain a sound in which techno and New Wave join hands with disco and funk.
It is a print-ready appellation for likeminded musicians such as Foster the People, which performed to stirring effect at the Grand Sierra earlier this month.
But many say Passion Pit did it first and best, or at least set the bar. The group — led by frontman Michael Angelakos — is credited as being the first to sell the masses on the genre.
When it comes to recording, Angelakos likes to go solo, punching buttons and depressing pedals until he has strung beats, choruses, samples and effects around his buoyant keyboard riffs and easygoing falsetto like tinsel.
As if to underscore the singular nature of Passion Pit, the wunderkind, who just turned 29, parted with his old bandmates after wrapping up a 2012 tour in support of Passion Pit's second album "Gossamer."
He has gathered a new batch of musicians to accompany him in his latest tour, which will see him traverse the United States and Canada in support of his latest album, "Kindred."
Regarding the personnel dust-up, you can't blame him for wanting to travel light. For more than a decade, Angelakos has faced a bipolar disorder so debilitating that at times, he has found his entire body locked up or descended into a dissociative state.
After having a breakdown in the middle of the "Gossamer" tour, Angelakos had to cancel all of his July shows.
Three weeks later, fresh from a stay at a mental health clinic, he gave an interview to Pitchfork magazine, taking readers inside what the music magazine described as his "brilliant and troubled mind."
Describing his lowest ebb, Angelakos said, "Everything was a blur. We were doing promo appearances, and I didn't even know who I was talking to. No one knew me well enough to say, 'There's something wrong.' They just thought I was drunk."
Angelakos' intention was to proffer an "I'm sorry" note to fans, explaining why he shut down the gigs, but he had a wider aim: to put a face on mental illness, an often-hidden but rampant problem the world seems loathe to discuss.
He has since become involved with the organization BringChange2Mind in the hopes of making the conversation public.
He is featured in the #StrongerThanStigma campaign, aimed at men because they tend to soldier on rather than getting help. He is joined in the public education effort by the New York Jets' Brandon Marshall, NHL goalie Ben Scrivens and comedian Wayne Brady, each of whom either live with mental illness or are in open support of those who do.
It's a nice move, considering how much Angelakos has on his plate between writing music and touring while keeping close tabs on his mental state. He says his wife, Kristi Mucci, is invaluable when it comes.
Passion Pit's third album, "Kindred," which was released just last month, begins with a love letter to Mucci. In the celebratory "Lifted Up (1985)," Angelakos avers, in breathless understatement, that the birth of his wife marked "a good year."
To look at Angelakos, it would be easy to see a man who has it all — good looks, family and success. Passion Pit's first full-length album, "Manners," was lauded by critics as ranking among the best of 2009.
His sophomore album, "Gossamer," featured radio-friendly hits like "Take a Walk" and "I'll Be Alright." It reached No. 2 on Billboard's U.S. Top Rock Albums and Top Alternative Albums charts.
The truth is that Angelakos' talent is accompanied by — and perhaps even fueled by — an uneasy chemistry that leaves him "on suicide watch all the time," as he told Pitchfork.
The dance of depression, equilibrium, creative fervor and mania adds some dark threads to the tapestry that is Passion Pit's music.
Overall, however, Kindred is an ebullient record, with songs like "Until We Can't (Let Go)" evoking an almost carbonated optimism. Angelakos' ability to lift a listener's mood is remarkable, given his history.
Critics have acknowledged that the album, as always, shows technical near-perfection and applauded Angelakos for his willingness to put his heart on his sleeve and his ability to sound hopeful.
While the general consensus is that not much new ground is paved by "Kindred," it is also drawing praise for showing greater conciseness and cohesion.
The average listeners are easier to please, though, and Passion Pit's latest record offers plenty of pleasure. It's the kind of album you want to take on a car drive so you can listen to it in its sweet entirety.
It's a heady time for indie electro-pop, both for pioneering talents like Angelakos and for music fans who like to dance while having their heart strings plucked.
In lifted up, Angelakos asks, "What does it take to make good?" In his case, the recipe seems to be cautious self-awareness mixed with flights of creative fervor. And a growing fan-base has developed a taste for the dazzling dish the dichotomy had yielded.
If you go
What: Passion Pit, with opening act Young the Giant
When: 7:30 p.m. May 29
Where: Grand Sierra Resort