On a breezy September night, accompanied by Passion Pit and Omar Souleyman, Hot Chip headlined the Hollywood Bowl and didn’t disappoint. The sprawling seventeen thousand-seat venue presented a challenge for three electronic, get-off-your-ass-and-dance acts.
Since around a quarter of the venue is comprised of boxes (outdoor loges), where regulars bring full-fledged picnics, and the rest being bleachers, the Bowl doesn’t exactly resemble a club. (After all it’s home to the LA Philharmonic.) But if an act could conquer the crowd and get them out of their chairs, wine glasses in hand, they had to be doing something right.
Before the sun started to set, the Syrian musician Omar Souleyman kicked off the concert, accompanied by a fellow musician. Souleyman sang his native Syrian melodies for around thirty minutes, as people continued to trickle in.
As the sun started to set, Passion Pit took the stage. Hailing from Cambridge, Massachusetts, the electropop band came out swinging. Lead singer Michael Angelakos, who has struggled with some mental-health issues, showed no signs of strain as he dove into “Take a Walk,” one of the hits off their sophomore album Gossamer.
Passion Pit sounds like MGMT and M83 on ecstasy and helium— in the best possible way. Angelakos’ falsetto can hit notes that lead you to question if his voice is manipulated. He often meshes in with the other instruments, creating a unique harmony. Passion Pit’s tracks offer more of a journey than those of MGMT and M83 do, showcasing additional evolution throughout their songs. Angelakos ran the show, constantly moving across the stage, while the other members held their ground behind him. The band played an hour long set, raising a good chunk of the Bowl to their feet, accomplishing something that their predecessor didn’t.
As refreshing as Passion Pit was, it was only the beginning, because this night, show, venue and crowd belonged to Hot Chip. Strutting on stage past dusk, sporting what looked like the remnants of Burberry’s rejected fall collection, Hot Chip sprung right into “Shake a Fist,” off their 2008 album Made in the Dark. The track starts off with low, punching beats suggestive of a drumline, accompanied by lead singer Alexis Taylor’s unsentimental yet harmonic lyrics. (Taylor also sported a t-shirt with hot (potato) chips arranged in a tic-tac-toe like board, driving home the band’s acute fashion sense that parallels their songs disco influence.) The track was an introduction to Hot Chip’s beautifully repetitive and evolving beats, which laid the foundation for a showing of the annals of electronic music.
The show continued with their addicting and water-therapy like “Boy From School.” With the prevalence of electronic synthesizers replacing traditional instruments, there is a tendency for the music to sound like a cluster of technically perfect sound waves straight out of the computer they came from. But Hot Chip successfully adds in the human element that is often missing with electronic music, creating unexpected harmonies out of everything at their disposal. The artistry and conscious thought process is clear throughout their songs. They understand the rules so they can break them.
It’s also evident that the bands seven members are real musicians. Even though everything emanating from the speakers could be pre-recorded and easily queued up, everyone who worked on the track was on stage. They also flawlessly juggle multiple instruments, with Taylor moving between a guitar and multiple synths and lead guitarist Al Doyle frequently trading his guitar for synths, bongos, steel drums and other percussion.
But most importantly, the majority of the crowd was out of their seats dancing, which could only mean one thing: Hot Chip brought the club to the bowl. It’s also worth noting that the crowd wasn’t necessarily young. Even attendees whose social security soon kicks in were on there feet dancing away.
As they transitioned from between songs, Hot Chip displayed the cool and progression of a band that’s been around for decades. Their transitions echoed the unmistakable flow of their melodies, sometimes feeling unguided, but always staying in time and moving forward. The bridge between their cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere” and their own “Hold On” led the entire Bowl to rise to their feet as the band became lost in the music, with everyone else following suit.
After stretching “Hold On” out as long as audibly possible, Doyle walked to the mic and decided that instead of wasting time leaving stage then coming back, with the Bowl’s curfew looming, everyone would pretend that the encore proceedings happened so Hot Chip could make the last one count. The crowd agreed and the band launched into their final number, “I Feel Better.”
The track begins with an orchestral like synth, with Taylor’s long, reflexive lyrics winding in with the melodies amid a little help from some vocal modification. The song is reminiscent of an anthem, Nothing is wasted and life is worth living/ Heaven is nowhere, just look to the stars. Taylor fades out, the synth takes control, and then the track drops into another infectious grove as the lyrics kick back in. You could call this a formula but there is really nothing formulaic about it. Hot Chip just knows how to find a grove and let it flow.
In a time when it is incredibly easy to assemble and publish music, it’s refreshing to know that there are still bands churning out quality music. Electronic music often gets a bad rap but artists like Hot Chip are proof that the genre is full of innovation and musicality. Hot Chip is producing some of their best work yet, over and over again.