Project Pabst, Day 2: Passion Pit, Buzzcocks, Weezer

Live Reviews
Jacob Webb
photos by Matthew B. Thompson (view set)

When Passion Pit broke through at the end of the '00s, they were a band bristling with potential, but still discovering how to follow through as a live band. Although frontman Michael Angelakos' health struggles gave the touring cycle behind their sophomore effort Gossamer a rough start, by the end of the touring cycle, Passion Pit were the best they'd ever been as a touring band. Fast forward 18 months, and even after replacing most of the live lineup, Passion Pit is reaching another peak as a live band. Led by Angelakos' stronger-than-ever voice, the Boston sextet's onstage strategy is so brilliantly that there's no way it couldn't work: stack layers of synths over each other while the drummer bashes the shit out of the drums. The band has anywhere between two and four members playing keyboards at any given moment, all while Angelakos and drummer Chris Hartz take turns trying to outdo the other's explosive performance. Buoyed by an increasingly large slate of hits both new and old, it felt like a succinct run through Angelakos' musical and personal journey from chaos to control. As it did at the Showbox not too long ago, the new material went over well, although the crowd showed, and will probably always show, the most love towards the songs from the band's debut, Manners, still one of the most singular debuts of the last decade. And considering how beloved (and influential) that album is was pointed towards the best thing about Passion Pit's set at Project Pabst: that the band has transcended the hype to become the consistent, thrilling band they seemed they've always hoped to be.

When the key figures of English punk were leading a musical revolution in 1977, it's unlikely they had an endgame in mind. But now that the '77 era is nearly forty years behind us, most punks now face a challenge just as intimidating as breaking through the social and musical barriers of the day: aging gracefully. Thankfully, more than a few of them have, and Steve Diggle and Pete Shelley, the two core Buzzcocks members still playing under the moniker, are among their ranks. It's hard to screw up a show when your band is able to draw from one of the definitive documents of punk rock, but the pair, along with drummer Danny Farrant and bassist Chris Remmington, are hardly coasting. While there weren't going to be any scissor kicks or stage dives from the duo (they're both 60), they didn't leave any room for questioning whether or not the band still had a non-financial purpose for playing their wealth of classic material. Diggle, in particular, was explosive, moving up and down the stage with the same demeanor he did when the band were putting out 7"s to magazine hype rather than playing them as hits to an enraptured crowd. They say that if it's too loud, you're too old. And even though that's a goofy turn of phrase, it was loud as hell at the Buzzcocks' subheadlining set at Project Pabst, which makes the colloquialism a perfect illustration of the English punk legends current status: booming, fun, and definitely not too old.

In 2015, there are two possible Weezer sets at a festival. There's the Pink/Blue show, where the band play their two undisputed classics (1994's The Blue Album and 1996's Pinkerton), and the hits show, where the band plays, well, the hits (some of which are off of the two aforementioned albums). Although Weezer's early work is more or less universally beloved, the band's other eras aren't. The post-reunion albums (2001's The Green Album and '02's Maladroit) are generally viewed slightly favorably now, but at least in part because of the four that followed, the reactions to which range from contemptuous disgust (2005's Make Believe) to genuine bewilderment (2008's Red Album) to actually questioning the purpose of band's continuation (2009's Raditude). However, it should be noted that those albums all achieved a greater degree of commercial success than those of their contemporaries (save for the Foo Fighters), which is the dilemma of Weezer in 2015: do you play to the diehards or do you play for the masses? The answer, it turned out, is both. Kinda. Weezer maintained their status as a reliably enjoyable live band throughout all of those years – maybe no one outside of the band was interested in hearing "Who's Your Daddy?" but damn it if they didn't try to make people like them – so knowing that they can bash through "Buddy Holly", "Hash Pipe", "El Scorcho" and other classics with gusto means that the set, at the very least, will be solid. Rivers Cuomo and co. opted for the hits set to close out Project Pabst, and while that might have seemed disappointing at first, it ended up being a surprisingly persuasive argument for reevaluating Weezer's past decade. Not unlike the self-aware, redemptive themes of their last LP, 2014's better-than-expected Everything Will Be Alright In The End, the setlist played like a case for the songs that more or less aren't on Pinkerton or Blue Album. Regardless of one's opinion of the quality of "Beverly Hills", a lot of people really like that song and it showed. The same thing goes for "If You're Wondering (If I Want You To)". And "Pork And Beans". And "Perfect Situation". (People also still love "Undone – The Sweater Song" and "Island in the Sun", but that's not surprising.) Listening to Weezer play Weezer's Greatest Hits and have every song except one (Everything album cut "Go Away") be met with huge applause ended up being more interesting of an experience than hearing them play it safe with Pink/Blue – which is, as cool as that setlist is, undeniably a calculated nostalgia move – and painted Weezer not as a band that failed to make a consistently good record for over a decade, but as one that went for an even more difficult task: walking the line between commercial and critical success. It's a hard path to go down – ask pretty much any band – but it's the one Weezer chose, and all things considered, they made it out okay.

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