"They heard me singing and they told me to stop. 'Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock.'"
The first time I heard Arcade Fire was over six years ago. My friend Nick Cline sent me a link, over MSN, to a video of them playing "Laika" on Conan. I wasn't blown away, but I loved the setup they had, with a string duo, accordion, and two guys wearing motorcycle helmets as percussion. I was especially intrigued by the frontman, Win Butler, as he played a Fender Jaguar, the same guitar that I owned (and still play in every show to this day). Arcade Fire was the band that I had wanted so badly to make for years. But I was only 17 at the time so they easily beat me to the punch.
Nick sent me a few of their songs. I still had a hard time getting past Butler's voice, but I really enjoyed it overall. I downloaded their entire discography. (Only the self-titled EP and Funeral at that point.) After I graduated high school, I spent much of Summer 2005 lazily hanging around my parents' house in Los Alamos, New Mexico. For my 18th birthday, I received an iPod. I mostly used it when walking my dogs, and Arcade Fire quickly became the number one band for me to listen to. Songs like "I'm Sleeping in a Submarine" and "Crown of Love" constantly bounced around in my head. I hadn't fallen so in love with a band since first discovering Sonic Youth some three years before that.
When I moved to Provo that August to attend BYU, I even started the "Arcade Fire group" for BYU students back in Facebook's early days. (I don't think it ever got past 60 members at its peak.) I was just completely enamored by them and must have listened to Funeral dozens of times that year. They were the band that I wanted to start, and they did it a thousand times better than I could have ever imagined. I thought that as soon as this band had a few albums under their belt, they would be my favorite band.
I wanted to see them live so bad, but they never came anywhere close to me. I left for my mission in 2006, only to discover (to my chagrin) on my return that Arcade Fire played at Thanksgiving Point in 2007. "Oh well," I thought, "they will come back to Utah shortly." Two years went by, and it seemed that they only played dates in Europe and big cities along coasts. Was I doomed to never see my favorite band? It was killing me. But then, fresh off the success of winning the Grammy for Best Album, they announced a new tour. And they were playing in Orem! I didn't even have to drive an hour to Salt Lake - only the ten minutes to Utah Valley University! I purchased my ticket as soon as possible, and anxiously awaited for a month and a half for April 11 to arrive.
Ladies and gentlemen, my life may be complete and I can finally die in peace. I have seen Arcade Fire, my favorite band, live, and it was magnificent. I have never been to such a big concert before, packed tightly like an anchovy in a tin box, but Arcade Fire has become the biggest Alternative Rock band in the world and the crowd inside the UCCU Center proved that. I knew so many people around me at the show, like it was a culmination of all my show-going over the past couple years. People I've reviewed in this blog like Jenn Blosil, Cody Taylor, and even the guys from The Angel Murkurker were up in the front with me. The Brothers Cisneros, who have done so much to help Muse Music, were against the stage. Former and current bandmates of mine, members of Shark Speed, Jacket Weather, and Fictionist, and so many other friends all came to the show. And we were all there to enjoy the world's greatest band.
Local Natives, from LA, opened for Arcade Fire. They only played for half an hour but they really blew the audience away. I hadn't heard them before, but my friends told me they were good and now I respect their opinions even more. Their mix of noises, vocal harmonies, and great energy were a wonderful way to pump up the audience. They most definitely made at least one new fan last night.
Once they finished, the insufferable pushing began. People who don't hang out in line for an hour and half before going in prefer to fight their way to the front, but what happens is a lot of rather aggressive pushing back and forth that becomes impossible to control. It wasn't too bad for me, but we had a lot of rather small young women in our group who were getting crushed. These people came so close to completely ruining the entire concert, and they are everything that is wrong with humanity and should be punched in the face.
When Arcade Fire came to the stage, things only got worse. And they started with "Month of May", the hardest song in their entire catalogue. An audience full of hipsters don't know how to mosh though, so it just turned into a lot of passive-aggressive pushing. I was singing along to every single word, but I had gotten completely separated from my friends and was basically forcing myself to enjoy the show. The highlight of the beginning of the show was when they played "Rococo". It's a great song, but it's also one of my least favorites from The Suburbs. The song is about hipsters, and the repeated chorus of the word "Rococo" is about how they "use big words that they don't understand". The grand majority of the audience was not singing along to the verses, but everyone was singing that word over and over, and I wonder if that's a joke on Arcade Fire's part. Much of The Suburbs is them digging at the sort of people that listen to them because it's "cool", and they crafted a song that would go over the heads of anyone not paying enough attention. Win Butler kept smiling during the chorus, and I wondered if that was because he understood the irony or if he just enjoyed having people sing his song. I loved it either way, as smug as that makes me. I got to laugh to myself as I hated every single person around me.
But then suddenly, the anger stopped, and we were were all just enjoying this wonderful band together. The audience was one. The pushing and crowding continued, but smiles replaced frowns. People were holding each other and singing together. If you haven't chanted the chorus of "Wake Up" in an arena of thousands, you have missed out on a vital experience of life. During "Haiti", I may have been the only person in the audience who knew every word (including the French ones) because as I was singing along, Régine was looking right at me, which melted my heart. We had a duet. They played so many of my favorite songs... songs that I've listened to dozens if not hundreds of times. The band was just happy to be playing music, always smiling and just glad that so many people enjoy their hard work.
They played a three song encore: "Ready to Start", "Keep the Car Running", and "The Sprawl II". All fantastic songs, the second was my favorite from Neon Bible and I was so happy when Win pulled out the mandolin. They ended "Sprawl II" with Régine's big ribbons, like she did on Saturday Night Live. It was this wonderful celebration of music and life. We were all disgusting and sweaty and thirsty and hungry and bruised and broken and no one cared. They could have played for another hour. They left the stage, and I've never seen an audience so blown away. Everyone I talked to said the same thing: "That was the best concert ever."
And it was. I have seen the world's greatest band live and up close. They are an inspiration to artists of any kind everywhere.