While big-name rockers were playing their arena-ready anthems for thousands of festival goers at Life Is Beautiful, something a bit more intimate was happening right down the street.
That’s because a few of those big names had signed on for Studio X Live, a string of stripped-down performances at Downtown’s Brass Lounge put on by CBS Radio’s local rock affiliate, X107.5.
The two-day event featured acoustic sets by 10 LIB acts, which included The Killers, Imagine Dragons, Passion Pit, Vampire Weekend, Capital Cities, Twenty One Pilots, Portugal. The Man, The Joy Formidable, Youngblood Hawke and Andrew McMahon. Each set was followed by meet-and-greets with fans and some included short interviews with the artists.
Perched on a stool with an acoustic axe in his hands, Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos took the stage solo around 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Only around 40 people gathered for the pared-down performance, giving the set a singer-songwriter-at-Starbucks kind of vibe—only instead of mochas and lattes in their hands, audience members were clutching mimosas and Heinekens.
Passion Pit is known for their synthy, electronic sound, but their indie dance tracks translated beautifully to an acoustic style with Angelakos’ superior vocal skills—the vocals on “Take a Walk” took on a rich, raspy quality, and his falsetto on “I’ll Be Alright” was flawless.
Angelakos was great with minimal stage banter, too. The frontman shared that he started with “Take a Walk” because it was a track “people might like,” joking “it was in a commercial,” and nervously encouraged attendees to drink up: “It makes it a lot easier for me, so please keep drinking.”
Later that same day Welsh rockers The Joy Formidable played the Downtown Lounge, starting with rocking uptempo track “Little Blimp.”
“We weren’t sure we were going to be loud enough,” said front woman Ritzy Bryan. “We hate being f*cking background music.”
And they definitely weren’t. With great guitar-bass harmonies, solid set work by drummer Matthew James Thomas and Bryan’s powerful yet relaxed pipes, the room was definitely watching. The trio followed “Little Blimp” with something slower, “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade,” which really showed off Bryan’s ability to produce warm, gentle vocals. While it was only two songs deep, it was a great set nonetheless.
While it was great to catch these acts rocking out on the LIB stages, it was nice to see them show a different side of their musicality. And in the intimate Brass Lounge (which surprisingly provided decent acoustics for these acoustic sets), it was even more special. Here’s hoping it happens again next year.