Passion Pit brought energy and volume to spare to the Houston Field House at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Monday night.
Before a packed house that filled most of the front of the giant arena, the five-piece electronic/pop hybrid proved that you don’t need guitars to rock out — at least not all the time. Although the instrument did make a few well-placed appearances throughout the evening, the synths reigned throughout most of the band’s 90-minute set. At times, the only organic sounds coming from the stage were from drummer Nate Donmoyer and vocalist Michael Angelakos.
The band set the mood early, taking the stage at 9:30 and barreling through the pounding “I’ll Be Alright” and “The Reeling,” while the audience began furiously dancing. Things got a little too crazy even for Passion Pit at this point — before tearing into “Carried Away,” Angelakos had to stop the band and calm the crowd down a bit.
It was smooth sailing from here on out, with the band ripping through “Moth’s Wings” and the grooving “Love is Greed.” By “It’s Not My Fault, I’m Happy,” the continued pounding of the drums and synthesizers was beginning to sound a bit same-y, but Angelakos was just getting warmed up. “Constant Conversations” let the band really dig in for the first time in the set, with the song’s relaxed R&B groove finding a perfect counterpoint in Angelakos’ hammy vocal performance.
Things just got better from here. “Take a Walk” seethed with an energy only hinted at on last year’s “Gossamer” album, with Angelakos again turning in a stunning vocal performance to close the song out. Other highlights included “To Kingdom Come,” the only song of the evening that featured Angelakos playing keyboards rather than running about the stage like a madman; and the slow-burning “Mirrored Sea” toward the end of the set, which built to a fever pitch with Donmoyer slamming out the beat.
Hyperactive Brooklyn duo Matt & Kim hit the stage at a quarter after 8, pumping the already large crowd up with a chipper set of their electro-pop. If you’ve seen these two do their thing at PearlPalooza last year or LarkFEST, you got basically the same show here, albeit slightly truncated. Keyboardist and vocalist Matt Johnson and drummer Kim Schifino kicked off with “Block After Block” and didn’t slow down at any point during their 45 minutes, jumping all over their seats while bashing at their instruments and grinning ear to ear throughout. At one point, Schifino stood up on the hands of the audience in the front row, dancing as Johnson played back a beat.
Highlights included the frantic “Let’s Go,” which got the audience shouting along the title in unison, and “Now,” which flipped back and forth between a galloping punk beat for the verses and a slow burn chorus that pushed the energy in the room even higher. Best of all though was “It’s Alright” close to the end of the set, with the two musicians pounding the song’s hypnotic, heavy bass beats home.