Photo by Bebe Besch
It seems to me that much of musical proficiency today (at least in the spheres that we tend to cover at The Astral Plane) is measured in an artist’s ability to produce bangers. You’re familiar with the kind I’m talking about; the type of song that can get a crowd jumping and screaming with up-tempo (or half-tempo) heaviness, a catchy rhythm and sonic depth. It’s sometimes hard to remember that not all good music has whomps or snare rolls. I became reacquainted with that important fact at Sasquatch this weekend, most notably after experiencing the ethereal miracle that was Active Child’s Sunday evening set.
The sun was just beginning to set behind the modest crowd at the Yeti stage as Active Child’s Pat Grossi appeared. Grossi exemplifies one of my favorite musical phenomena: an individual who doesn’t visually fit their musical sound. Grossi looks a little like a combination of a California frat bro and a Northwest hipster (think black wayfarers and khakis). However, that image was in stark contrast to the beautiful wooden harp placed casually on the left side of the stage, behind which Grossi immediately sat and began to perform. As we mentioned in our Active Child feature back in April, Grossi was trained in a boy choir and as a classical harpist, and both of those skills served as the pedestal onto which Grossi sculpted his set.
The first half of the set involved Grossi playing harp and singing in his signature falsetto, backed by his touring drummer and guitarist/bassist. The tone was calm and melancholy. Highlights of the first half included “You Are All I See” and “Hanging On,” both harp-heavy tracks featuring electronic drums and subtle bass, adorned with Grossi’s harmonious crooning. Halfway through the set, Grossi switched from harp to laptop, showering the audience with some of his more electronic and rhythm-heavy tracks, such as “Playing House,” with deep ’80’s dance drums in perfect contrast to his smooth vocals and echo-y synths.
The crowd was clearly a blend of first-time listeners, looking for a new discovery during a break in the schedule, and die-hard fans who knew every lyric. Both groups were equally entranced, swaying with eyes closed as the incredibly unique sounds washed over them. The set was a beautiful respite from the performances over the weekend that could be so easily placed into one distinct genre, and Active Child surely garnered many new fans after the set was over. Perhaps Active Child doesn’t make you bang your head up or flail your limbs around as though you were having a seizure, but that’s not always the point. Here, the intention is clearly the conveyance of pure and delicate emotional sound, a concept that is astoundingly rare but especially poignant. Looking back at the faces in the crowd after the set was over, it was clear that a connection had been made between artist and audience, and that is all any musician can hope for.
Photo by Bebe Besch