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VIDEO: WFNX's Miracle on Tremont Street 2009

The lead up to the recent Miracle On Tremont show at the Orpheum found us chasing pop stars around Boston, blindsiding them with stupid questions and cornering ‘em for their precious insights. Two of our hometown Passion bros dropped truth on “homo-erotic frat boy” fans, Phoenix chalked their success up to a serious list of studio snafus and the drummer in Spoon regurgitated PR dribble about a “dirty” new album.  (Said one of our editors: It was like talking to a puppy about how he liked his food.”) We had a day of looking in on the lives of over-pressed buzz bands and boy did we exploit them for it.  

Our day began with a Murphy’s Law scenario outside the Fourth Wall Gallery next to the Phoenix’s (newspaper) office. Phoenix (band) intended to perform a secret acoustic set for a few lucky WFNX listeners. Instead, thirty minutes prior, they got a little primadonna on us, cried voice issues and held an impromptu Q&A. (As it turns out, voices are still used for talking. Singer Thomas Mars sounded fine.)

Phoenix were humble in their reception, attributing their newfound success to ““an amount of mistakes that eventually comes to something.” And after some goading from a crustpunk stow-away in the gallery (“Do you have any specific talents?” he said), they explained their latest release as a coalescing of forces.

“I think we are very bad individually but together we are kind of good,” said guitarist Christian Mazzalai. “It’s like the way we construct a song, when we put it together we make something more complex and mysterious.”

Look, we understand humility, but “very bad” and “kind of good?” Give us some credit. During their performance of “Lisztomania” that night, “exceptional” and “tight-as-fuck” came to mind. Every palm-muted pop of their guitars, every high-end pitch-bend to Mars’ voice and theater shaking bass-drop was reproduced in crystalline quality, clearly the product of a polished craft.

Hyperbolic humility apparently carried the day, as Michael Angelakos and Nate Donmoyer from Passion Pit later sat with us at Kennedy’s pub downtown, denying the existence of rabid, screaming fans and describing their meteoric rise to fame as “slow.”  We have evidence to the contrary.

During their opener “Make Light,” the screams of a thousand odd fans filled every instrumental pause to the point of obscuring Angelakos’ melody. Before they even appeared on stage, as a series of dreamy chimes clocked in the beat, madness filled the house as people writhed in confinement of their chairs, desperately attempting to flail down the aisles in spasmodic dance.

“We definitely do have an interesting fan base,” said Angelakos. “My favorite are the frat dudes jumping in circles screaming the lyrics to Sleepyhead, it’s the most homoerotic, beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”

On record Passion Pit is bombastic and borderline guilty pleasure in it’s bouncing synths and oh-my-dear-god-that’s-addictive melodies. Live, they’re like watching Sisyphus finally push the boulder over the hill, a realization and confirmation of talent speckled with noodly guitar lines and a punishing rhythm section.  And after seeing them at nearly every venue in Boston over the last few years, the Orpheum was their trial by fire. They passed.

Given the crowds attempts at clamoring from chairs, cries from the rafters for Passion Pit to bear anonymous woman’s children and the fact that Phoenix’s Mars entered the crowd to cure the lepers and turn water to wine, (to manic yelps of “falling” during “1901,” no less) it’s hard not to wonder if Spoon was misplaced on this bill.

What Spoon lacks in infectious dance-hooks I was sure they could make up for with rock abandon, maybe pull out some early hits and ride the momentum built by the previous acts. But even old stand-by’s like “I Turn My Camera On” and “The Way We Get By” failed to maintain the vibe.  To Spoon’s credit, Passion Pit and Phoenix are tough acts to follow for a straight rock band, but the Orpheum was literally begging for fulfillment, sonically or otherwise and Spoon couldn’t deliver.

Considering our lack of Spoonthusiasm, we dropped out early to meet some of the Passion bros at Great Scott in Allston for The Pill.  As will happen at any dance night in Boston, “The Reeling” dropped and Ayad and Jeff were swamped with high fives from randoms in the crowds. Watching them react in this situation, with veiled hesitation and near awkwardness, was hysterical, like after all this time they still don’t realize they’re hometown heroes.

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