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Active Child and JMSN @ The Church.

November 14, 2013

ActiveChild (6 of 21)Text by Kyle Bagenstose. Images by Grace Dickinson.

It was a performance fit for a church – the falsetto voice of a former Philadelphia Boys Choir member, the enrapturing pluck of harp strings and the emotional pull of drawn out synthesizer.

Those are the signature sounds of Active Child, a.k.a. Los Angeles-based artist Pat Grossi. The former South Jersey native took the stage in the First Unitarian Church basement Tuesday night and played an hour-long, emotional performance for the half-full room.

The first half of the set featured Grossi seated at his harp, mainly working through material from his 2011 LP You Are All I See. With a drummer, guitarist and keyboardist joining Grossi, Active Child’s music invoked almost earthy qualities: the sparkling sound of the harp reminiscent of snowfall on opener “You Are All I See,” the occasional tom drum roll like thunder on “Johnny Belinda” and airy, soaring synths on “Hanging On.”

It was about midway through the set that Grossi first spoke to the crowd.

“It’s good to be back in Philly, my old stomping grounds,” Grossi said, likely referencing his time in New Jersey, where he lived until he was 13. “I have a lot of history here.”

However, apparently Grossi had become accustomed to the warmer climate of southern California, later remarking in the show that temperatures outside had dropped considerably since his show in D.C. the night before.

“It’s fucking cold here,” he said to laughs.

Grossi then ditched his harp as he dove into the second part of the set, moving onto material from his newly released EP Rapor. What was once a contemplative audience quickly became dancey, as Grossi took his place behind a second synthesizer and launched into “Calling in the Name of Love.”

If the lack of harp disappointed some of his fans, they weren’t in the majority, as the front of the audience began swaying to the almost 80s-era synth sounds, punctuated by a rhythmic snapping on the snare drum.

The peak of the performance came during “Feeling is Gone,” when a picked-up drum and synth tempo combined with a catchy chorus from Grossi to have a good portion of the crowd actively moving to the music, if not all-out dancing.

The set scaled back from there, hitting a darker sound with the moody synths of “Subtle” before concluding with “Silhouette,” a song that featured the vocals of Ellie Goulding on the studio version. Starting slow and thematic, the song built to an enveloping, emotional climax that featured the return of a thundering drum accentuating Grossi’s falsetto.

JMSN_opener (6 of 8)Prior to Active Child, Detroit-native Christian Berishaj, or JMSN (pronounced like the whiskey), played an energetic set with the help of a guitarist, bassist and drummer. Sporting long hair, plenty of tattoos and unassuming clothing (Berishaj wore an off-white shirt under off-white overalls), the band had a hard rock look to them and started off loud.

As the instruments peeled back on choruses and slower songs, Berishaj’s soulful voice and R&B-style delivery became apparent. The group would hover between the genres throughout the set, to the audible approval of the audience. The set closed with the song “Love & Pain,” for which a small contingent of seemingly die-hard  fans had been calling throughout the night. JMSN delivered and left the stage to a healthy applause.

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