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Passion Pit singer Michael Angelakos strikes back: interview

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Tampa-bound Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit performs on Day 3 of the Firefly Music Festival at The Woodlands on Sunday, June 23, 2013 in Dover, Del. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP)

Passion Pit concludes a tumultuous fall tour, a tumultuous 15 months, really, by headlining the inaugural Coastline Festival. It will spread across the MidFlorida Amphitheatre in Tampa on Saturday before wrapping up Sunday in West Palm Beach. There will be two stages, 11 bands, ample food trucks, more than 25 craft beers plus a bunch of regionally renowned artists displaying their wares. It is going to be a good time.

Michael Angelakos could use a good time. He’s the leader of Passion Pit whose skyscraper falsetto vocals and highly danceable synth compositions largely obscure his brooding lyrics. While most any other 26-year-old would be overjoyed to talk about his songs on the radio, his songs on numerous television spots and performing those same songs on “Saturday Night Live” — not to mention getting ready to headline a festival at a pair of 20,000-capacity sheds in the Sunshine State — Angelakos sounds understandably defensive during a recent phone interview. As noted, it has been a rough year or so.

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Tampa-bound Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit at The Woodlands on June 23, 2013 in Dover, Del. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP)

Passion Pit’s struggles started, at least publicly, last July when Angelakos cancelled a bunch of shows to seek treatment for bipolar disorder. Incidentally, around the same time, Passion Pit’s second full-length, “Gossamer,” debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200, a career best. This fall, Passion Pit embarked on an extensive North American tour, and all was going well, until more dropped dates. Passion Pit posted a lengthy letter, in all likelihood penned by Angelakos, about why bands cancel shows and then Spin magazine slammed the letter for being, among other things, condescending to the fans. Passion Pit posted another letter defending its position Oct. 10. Angelakos is on the phone with me five days later.

“When we cancel shows and apologize profusely there’s a very serious reason why and we feel terrible every time we have to do it,” Angelakos says. “Pretty much if I didn’t explain - most bands don’t and don’t even really have to - people are going to say, ‘That’s the guy that’s bipolar and having an issue.’ But that’s not fair. My goal is when something happens is to be very open about it.”

Angelakos goes on to explain that recent cancellations were because of stormy weather at venues that didn’t provide proper cover for his band, crew and equipment. Angelakos says he feared a crew member would be electrocuted. He also reiterates the part in the letter posted on Passion Pit’s website about most concertgoers being oblivious about what goes into presenting a show. Angelakos ends his lengthy response, he’s quite the talker, with a comment about his love for the fans.

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Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit performing at The Masquerade Music Park on Thursday, October 10, 2013, in Atlanta. (Photo by Robb D. Cohen/Invision/AP)

It’s tough to determine how any recording artist really feels about his fans, but it’s especially difficult with Angelakos. After all, it’s not like he woke up one day with the goal of standing on stages in front of thousands of strangers. In fact, all he wanted to do was impress a girl, giving her a recording of original songs that became the “Chunk of Change” EP, which, thanks to support from musicians in the Boston area, became the catalyst for Passion Pit. Ask Angelakos about being on stage, though, and he sounds sincerely moved by the experience, the give and take he shares with the fans.

“Technically, it’s a tough life, in the van, in the bus, I don’t care, it’s not healthy,” he says. “When we get on stage, though, and do what we do, do that we love so much, it comes full circle, it really does. You’re in the studio for nine months and then there’s this emotional connection. It’s fantastic.”

COASTLINE FESTIVAL
with Passion Pit (9:40-10:55 p.m.), Two Door Cinema Club, Matt & Kim, Fitz & The Tantrums, Blondfire, The Joy Formidable, The Neighbourhood, The Mowgli's, Surfer Blood, St. Lucia, and local favorites Zulu Wave and Poyensa.
There will also be a Craft Beer Cove featuring more than 25 different selections - both sampling and full glass servings - from Florida's craftsman and craft beers from across the country; a Food Trucktopia lineup featuring eclectic cuisine including vegetarian dishes; and an Isle of Art that will allow festival-goers to engage with artists from around the region.
Noon Saturday; MidFlorida Amphitheatre, 4802 U.S. Hwy. 301, Tampa; $30 (reserved); $45 (reserved); (800) 745-3000; coastlinefestival.com.

COASTLINE FESTIVAL
with Passion Pit (9:40-10:55 p.m.), Two Door Cinema Club, Matt & Kim, Fitz & The Tantrums, Blondfire, The Joy Formidable, The Neighbourhood, The Mowgli's, Surfer Blood, St. Lucia, and local favorites Zulu Wave and Poyensa.
There will also be a Craft Beer Cove featuring more than 25 different selections - both sampling and full glass servings - from Florida's craftsman and craft beers from across the country; a Food Trucktopia lineup featuring eclectic cuisine including vegetarian dishes; and an Isle of Art that will allow festival-goers to engage with artists from around the region.
Noon Saturday; MidFlorida Amphitheatre, 4802 U.S. Hwy. 301, Tampa; $30 (reserved); $45 (reserved); (800) 745-3000; coastlinefestival.com.

Wade_Tatangelo_by_Mike_Lang_HT_06212013 Wade Tatangelo has been an entertainment reporter, columnist and reviewer for more than a decade at publications nationwide. He is a Hershey, Pa., native who grew up in Tampa and graduated from the University of South Florida. Wade joined the Herald-Tribune in 2013. He can be reached by email or call (941) 361-4955.
Last modified: November 10, 2013
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