Active Child in Rotterdam
We’ve been pretty enamoured with Active Child’s music since we first heard them a couple of months back, and so we were super excited to get to see them play live today.
Active Child – who we think have one of the best band names we have heard in a long time – is technically the stage name for American musician Pat Grossi, but he works with two other talented musicians on stage (and a few more in the studio) and together, they form an incredible band. They make the kind of music that is has a depth to it, both through the pure, warm sound and through the words, and together this makes music that ensconces your ears and has the ability to take you to another place.
The deluxe edition of the first full-length Active Child album (You Are All I See) has been on high-rotate in our home for the past few weeks, filling our rooms up with richly layered sounds and beautiful melodies. We could only hope that they’d be that good live in concert.
Without a doubt, they were. At today’s Metropolis Festival in Rotterdam, we were treated to a near complete set of the tracks off You Are All I See, and the way in which the band reproduce their studio sound whilst playing live is pretty amazing. And yes, before you ask, this band does include a harp. Yes, a harp! And it’s not just for show – the harp is an integral part of the makeup of Active Child’s music (how many other bands can you say that about?!).
Grossi – who remarkably taught himself to play this complex instrument – plays it beautifully, and his voice sweeps and soars above the beats and rhythms of the various other instruments and electronic samples. We find it pretty fascinating that he originally sang as a choirboy as a child, and that this classical training comes through in the ethereal sound his voice carries on many tracks, with an incredible range.
When Grossi and the bass player join forces on the microphones, the harmonies are sublime.
For a great live set (and one which showcases these harmonies, and gives a glimpse into what we got to see today, check out this recording from Radio Sation KEXP).
Active Child have been recently touring playing some shows of their own, as well as playing as the opening act for bands such as M83 and Bon Iver. For us though, Active Child deserve main act status, and we are sure this will be a matter of course for them soon enough. Whilst we both agreed that an outdoor music festival (let alone one in Rotterdam, in the midst of a huge rain storm) was not the prime venue for Active Child to play, we know that seeing this group play in a smaller, intimate venue would be something really special. This being said, we were pretty amazed – and happy – that Active Child shared so many tracks today, in their spot at this free annual festival (which incidentally we thought was pretty well organised). They totally owned it though, and had the crowd mesmerised with their unique and distinctive material. The Dutch press pack seemed to be digging them too:
Active Child is certainly the most refreshing musical act we have come across in a while, and seeing them live today only cemented even further our appreciation of the music that Grossi and his fellow musicians are making . They also looked great on stage (the addition of the harp makes for some added drama!), and stand out tracks were High Priestess, Hanging on, Playing House, and See Thru Eyes. Sure, Active Child’s music is not, in the main, music that you can really say is upbeat or makes you want to dance. But it is music with true depth and honesty, from the lyrics to the instrumentation, and the heart and care with which it is played.
Photos by CIA, Metropolis Festival, Zuiderpark, Rotterdam, 1 July 2012.