Monday, August 9, 2010

arcade fire just slapped some sense into me

It'll probably come as a surprise to you that I was once cool. And once you stop laughing, I'll explain why.

Ready? Good.

I used to spin indie-rock tunes at my college radio station; I wrote for all its indie-rock publications and even edited one; and I was friends with a bunch of kids in bands. I, myself, even ended up joining a band after I graduated and moved to Russia. Of course, that band wasn't so much "cool" as it was "a total joke." (Although, once they kicked me out for what I can only assume was me being too professional, they improved exponentially and even released an album. Hmph.)

Anyway, what I'm getting at here is that when it came to music, I was that asshole snob in 2001. And if I wasn't a liberal arts kid who wore her pajamas to morning classes or, later in Moscow, a dabbler in Euro-trash who wore "outfit inventions" to parties that started at 2 a.m., I probably would've been one of those new-school dipster types who wore ironic T-shirts on their torsos and "Don't you just want to punch me?" expressions on their faces.

But that was then. Upon returning from Moscow in 2004, I had become more of a bona fide nerd. I went from hanging out with MTV VJs (albeit the Russian versions) and meeting bands like Blur to hanging out with graduate advisers and meeting things like research deadlines. The change of pace was shocking and traumatic and I went into a deep depression.

Just kidding. I didn't really go into a deep depression, but I did exhibit some disturbing signs, such as losing touch with everything that I used to care about to concentrate solely on school and work. I stopped listening to music that wasn't on the radio; I ceased reading books that weren't on a required list; and I put a moratorium on watching things that didn't involve VH1's Celebreality. My 2001 self would've hated my 2004 self.

So, when indie-rock darlings Arcade Fire released Funeral around that time, I didn't even notice despite that it would wind up being ranked by many as one of the top albums of the decade.

By the time I did emerge from my post-Russian dark years (read: when I finally finished my MA), I directed my browser to Pitchfork just in time to see a glowing review of Arcade Fire's second LP, Neon Bible. I promptly gave it a listen before just-as-promptly shutting it off. I thought it sounded less like a rock band and more like a bunch of hippies who found an organ in the woods, confused about what to do with it.

I didn't like it.

And after that, I never gave it much thought until one day not long ago, my apartment buddy got ahold of Arcade Fire's new album, The Suburbs, and decided to blast it nightly from the stereo's speakers. I was less than impressed. I thought, "Great, these hippies found a drum machine..."

However, despite my skepticism (and mostly because of a free ticket), I decided to venture out to the Merriweather Post Pavilion on Friday to catch Arcade Fire's live set. I arrived with low expectations. I expected to just sway back and forth, probably checking my Twitter updates most of the time. But then the show started...

I forgot everything bad I had ever thought about Arcade Fire. I forgot about my Twitter account. I was awestruck. Arcade Fire was a rock band. And not just any run-of-the-mill rock band, but one with heart, sweat, and TWO DRUMMERS! The above video, which I found on YouTube, doesn't do the explosions of sight and sound Arcade Fire provided for its audience any justice at all. It was so much more fantastic than what can be captured on someone's shaky digital camera.

Really, it's not often you find a band whose live shows put their records to shame, but in the case of Arcade Fire, that's exactly what happened. Their live set made me feel like I was discovering them for the first time on Friday and I was impressed.

Now, as I sit here typing this review, I find myself poring over their discography with a new appreciation. I finally get what all the fuss was about and I take back every bad quip I ever said about them. Arcade Fire is a band worthy of praise, not only for their musical ability (seven out of Friday's eight members traded instruments throughout the show and, save for one f*ck-up -- ironically, because of a drum machine -- they did so flawlessly), but also for their authenticity. In a world filled with so many other staged theatrics, Arcade Fire's love of their craft seemed so real, so untouched by their growing popularity (they sold out Merriweather's 19,000-plus venue, a venue that I might add, is near-perfect in its layout, especially compared to the Nissan Jiffy Lube Pavilion, which may forever burn in hell).

From my view, which was pretty sweet as you can see from the picture that follows this paragraph, they seemed to realize that anything less than truly spectacular would not only be a failure to the audience, but also to themselves.

It's like the cute boy in school finally talked to me and he went from being a douche to dreamy. I'm f*cking cool again. But not as cool as Arcade Fire. If you weren't there on Friday, check out what you missed here:

Video via YouTube user "Paciorka."


Allie said...

When Arcade Fire first came out, I too was involved in less cool things and they didn't blip on my radar. Neon Bible came out and I just didn't understand the fuss. Over the past couple of years I have been getting back into music and starting to appreciate this band. And then The Suburbs came out and I became a fan... and sad I didn't have tix for Friday. Fab post and review!

Celia said...

I was there too...It hard to be snobby even though Win Butler's haircut is ricockulous.

Marissa said...


I'm with you. I have Rococo on repeat. Thanks for the compliments!


All their haircuts are art-school haircuts. I loved his shirt, especially because he sweat through it in a second. Ah, passion for his craft. Lovely!

Greg Szeto said...

my digital camera is NOT shaky, and I think I captured Win's sweat pretty well:

jheisel said...

saw Arcade Fire at the Empty Bottle around Thanksgiving 2003 or 2004 (whenever Funeral came out, too lazy to check), having not heard their music. Best. Gig. Ever.

I came home so jazzed that I emailed all the Moscow promoters I knew, demanding that they work their ass off to bring the Arcade Fire to Moscow. Needless to say, it never happened, but (insert random second-tier indie act and/or dinosaur rockers) has been five times since!

Now Moscow has its own Arcade Fire rip-off, Krasnoznemenaya Diviziya Imena Moei Babushki. They are without a doubt, the crappiest and most pretentious band in Moscow. When I saw them, they at least covered some Arcade Fire songs, which just made me go put those albums on, so that is the one plus.

Daniel said...

Further proves my point that Montréal rules. The Suburbs is killer, and I am pissssed that I missed this show.

Marissa said...




Maybe Moscow will come around now that AF has run into some fame. They can open for Deep Purple. :/


Having now listened to all their albums lots and lots of times, I gotta say The Suburbs is their worst. However, The Suburbs is still better than 99.9 percent of most band's best, so...