Active Child @ Larimer Lounge (an opening act review)

Curtis Lane is at the top of my favorite 2010 releases.  It brings together the best aspects of electronic music and ups the ante with Pat Grossi‘s personal lyrics and choirboy vocals.  Wilderness brought me in, Your Love Is Safe hooked me and the rest of the 6-song EP brought me back for more over and over again.

Because of my connection with the music on this album and my complete ignorance of the person making it, I was a little nervous about seeing Active Child in a live setting.  Their opening set for School of Seven Bells at Larimer Lounge was one of my most anticipated shows of the year, but not because I thought it was going to be one of the best. I was just so sure I was going to be disappointed.  I was scared it would ruin the album for me.

My fears were illogical and unfounded.  I have a history of walking blind into shows at Larimer Lounge.  I thought Neon Indian would be some high school kid with a laptop and I ended up being pleasantly surprised by an energetic Alan Palomo ripping the stage up.  I thought Here We Go Magic just might end up being one of the most boring shows I had seen, only to be surprised by a full band that sounded more l0-fi rock than electronic.

Now it was time for Active Child and I expected the music to sound good, but I really expected a lack of stage presence.  A guy with a keyboard, Mac and a great voice.

We were out back when the music started.  Determined not to miss out like I did at the Tennis show a couple weeks back, I rushed into the main room and got a spot front and center, where I was stopped in my tracks by a guy sitting at a harp.  If I would have done my research, I would have known Pat is a harpist and actually IS a ex-choirboy, but sometimes coming in blind really is the best.  The live version of She Was A Vision and I’m In Your Church At Night were even more powerful in a live setting. Just a guy with a voice on harp and another guy on guitar.  A classy, simple setting that couldn’t have been more perfect.  Well, unless those guys behind me could’ve shut the fuck for a minute…that would have made it more perfect!

The second, unnamed man, stayed on guitar through the set while Pat rotated through a variety of instruments including his harp, keyboard/synth and even guitar, proving that this kid is more talented that I originally expected.  Sometimes I erroneously write off electronic musicians as lazy.  For some reason I can’t get that ‘recluse in the basement with a laptop’ image out of my head.  But as Active Child, along with Neon Indian and Here We Go Magic have proved, sometimes there’s more than meets the ears. In fact, this guy that I pictured as a geek was referred to as ‘hot’ and ‘sexy’ by a couple women in the crowd…including my wife.

It was nice that Active Child got a full 45-min set.  At the Tennis show it seems like they kept everyone to a half hour or less, including the headliners.  But with a full 45-mins, they were able to cover all 6 songs from Curtis Lane along with an unknown song (at least to me) and even bring out a drummer for a full-on rock cover of New Order’s Ceremony.  A song that made one of my friends lean over and say ‘kinda Depeche Mode like, huh?’.   Yeah, at that point, we could have been watching an early DM or Erasure show.  How’s that for unexpected?

The set ended with When Your Love Is Safe.  A song that brings me back to those awkward Jr. High years.  The lyrics as well as the instrumentation just bring me back to a simpler (if not more painful) time.  It was a excellent ending to an unexpected and enthralling set from an up-and-coming artist who will live above and beyond the chillwave subgenere that some have slapped upon his unique work.

On a sidenote, School of Seven Bells put on a great show, but from where I was standing I just couldn’t hear or see very well, so I don’t feel comfortable commenting on their set.

Active Child Setlist Larimer Lounge, Denver, CO, USA 2010