Have you heard of Microsofts KIN a new family of phones that are centered around social networking? Neither have I! Hot off the phones releases this past week, Microsoft is trying to get the word out about its latest line of mobile devices. And whats the best way to get people familiar with your new handsets, you may ask? The answer, my friends, would be to throw a free concert, of course! In a campaign that seems more Apple than Microsoft, the Redmond, WA based company has run with the concert idea, throwing free events throughout the country featuring the likes of Yeasayer, N.E.R.D., The Ting Tings, The Black Keys, and The Dead Weather, among others. As part of the concert series, this past Friday New York City was treated to Microsoft shameless (but satisfying) self-promotion set to the sounds of Passion Pit.
When a Facebook event page for a secret show featuring Cambridge, MAs Passion Pit surfaced last week the social networking site became atwitter with speculation and debate. Some people believed the show was a hoax, trying to rationalize their skepticism by telling themselves that Passion Pit was playing a sold-out DJ only gig at The Museum of Natural History on Friday evening, and that there was no way the band could do both. Others took it upon themselves to comment on how Passion Pit had officially sold-out and lost any indie-cred they may have had left by playing this corporate event. A third group took the shows announcement at face-value and expressed their excitement at getting to see Passion Pit play a special event in an intimate setting. My guess is that members of the former two groups were not among those present at show, which was a good thing, because with only 300+ available tickets and over 2,00 people confirmed on Facebook, space was at a premium. Those who did manage to secure a spot, however, were treated to an awesome night of music and fun (and free drinks!), all on Microsofts dollar.
Passion Pit and KIN did a great job at controlling the secrecy of their event, with fans postulating on the location right up until Friday when the Classic Car Club (an actual club where people with exorbitant amounts of money go to rent expensive cars) was revealed as the location. Within a half hour of the announcement a line had begun to form, and within a couple of hours the line stretched on for more than a city block. With such a large turn out, the efforts of many on the line were in vain, and many more fans opted to stand outside across the street from the venue, hoping to watch (or at least hear) the show from afar.
The Classic Car Club, being itself an unconditional concert venue by New York City standards, actually served as a nice locale for the KIN event. The classic cars were removed in favor of a small stage, a DJ booth, a decently stocked open bar, and plenty of KIN signage. In addition, the garage bay doors were opened with a section of the street corded off, allowing concert-goers to escape the at times stifling heat inside the venue.
Passion Pit was the only band on the bill and, with the aforementioned DJ set at the Museum of Natural History at 11, the group ran a tight ship, taking to the stage just around the 9:30 scheduled stage time. With limited time to work with, the quintet opted to forego much stage banter in favor of a diverse, ambitious set list that spanned both Manners and Chunk of Change (and they still had to cut part of the encore in response to time constraints). Lead singer Michael Angelakos did, however, make it a point throughout the night to express both how happy the group was to play one of these KIN shows and how bad he felt for all those fans stuck outside.
Performance wise, Passion Pit was on top of its game. Angelakos trademark falsetto sound was spot on and the band, in general, played a tight set. Angelakos remarked that the group picked the Classic Car Club because of its acoustics and, while the comment may have been said in jest, the boys from Cambridge sounded superb. The sound, combined with Passion Pits frenzied pace (that saw Angelakos bouncing around the stage from one second to the next), made for a great concert-going experience. In addition, the crowd, composed mostly of die-hard fans (many did, mind you, wait for 4+ hours for a chance to gain admittance) did a commendable job matching Passion Pits energy, doing their best to turn every song into a sing-a-long (which was no easy task). The obligatory crowd surfer or two did surface throughout the night, although their appearances were short lived.
By the end of the night Angelakos was reduced to a sweaty mess, a product of both Passion Pits high-intensity performance and the venues soaring temperatures. The band took a quick thirty-second breather before coming back to the stage to close out the evening with fan-favourite Little Secrets, a tune that had all in attendance fervently jumping up and down as the chorus rang throughout the venue.
For a corporate rock show the Passion Pit event was a success by all accounts. While there was plenty of KIN signage and advertising (plus free t-shirts to all at the end of the night), none of it was overbearing, and the night was truly centered around the band instead of the KIN. Will Passion Pits concert cause KIN sales to soar higher and higher? Probably not. But still, overall the night seemed to be less about selling phones and more about building a relationship with fans through music, and in the end isnt that all that really matters?