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Fans work up a sweat over Passion Pit

NIAGARA FALLS -- Electro pop act Passion Pit's show Sunday night inside the Rapids Theatre was a jubilant, espresso-fueled but, above all, sweaty affair.

The exhalation of 1,650 gyrating bodies working up pure kinetic energy inside the venue met the chill and dampness on Main Street outside leading to a well-lubricated event. The walls filled up with condensation, the balcony's mirrors fogged up and the video card in the board controlling the LED lights -- what Buffalo-bred lead singer Michael Angelakos called "our fancy lights" -- called it quits.

Blame the manic group from Boston for working everyone up into such a frenzied mass of humanity with its keys, synth and hand-clap-heavy juicing of sine waves. It was a science lesson on the states of matter with electronic impulse as the catalyst.

The sold-out-crowd's ability to contain itself was on a precarious perch from the first strains of "I've Got Your Number" from 2008's "Chunk of Change" EP. After a half-dozen more songs, including the Duran Duran-ish "The Reeling" from 2009's debut LP "Manners," the saunalike atmosphere was more than the light board could handle.

So the band -- just returned from a European tour -- took five while technicians worked furiously to fix it. (And, indeed, they got it back up and running in time to flash pink for the band's encore cover of "Dreams" by the Cranberries, which Angelakos said his parents requested.)

Passion Pit's much-anticipated appearance was the newly renovated venue's third sell-out since opening its doors in December. Originally planned for Buffalo's Town Ballroom, the show was moved north to the former Dome Theatre to make room for an additional 650 fans, which included Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster, who was spotted in the balcony with his son.

Indeed, the city has a lot riding on the space's success with $250,000 in public money invested in it, according to Dyster. With plentiful parking nearby, the venue should continue to be a draw and help revitalize that stretch of Main Street near the Whirlpool Bridge.

And the ensemble of five lads barely of drinking age was certainly a huge draw. A married couple from Erie, Pa., made the trip to dance freely in the balcony. The encore's final song -- a fragrant ditty called "Sleepyhead" that showcases Angelakos' falsetto in its best light -- is the consensus' choice for catchiest tune and drove the crowd predictably wild.

The night's opening act took a little bit from Smokey Robinson, Sam & Dave and the Jackson 5, dressed it up in a cardigan and spit it back out on stage in the form of R&B aficionado Mayer Hawthorne. These guys might just be huge William DeVaughn fans, too, which isn't a bad thing at all. Most of their songs, though, were begging for a horn section.

Second only to "Sleepyhead," the crowd responded in a big way to Passion Pit's set closer "Little Secrets," which features a chorus that's a dead ringer for "Once In a Lifetime" by Talking Heads. It capped a moist night of mirth and merriment that got even the rhythmically challenged moving.

Indie-rock same as it ever was? Hardly.


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