On January 16th, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Arcade Fire got together to pay tribute to David Bowie in New Orleans with a Pretty Things parade in New Orleans. Standing on the balcony in New Orleans’ Preservation Hall, overlooking a massive crowd of Bowie fans gathered to pay tribute to his life, Win Butler and Régine Chassagne of Arcade Fire, along with Ben Jaffe, the creative director and musician in Preservation Hall Jazz Band greeted the crowd on St. Peter Street.
“We are here today to celebrate the life of David Bowie,” proclaimed Jaffe. “There are few artists that could possibly bring together this incredible group of people,” Jaffe went on to say. Butler weighed in “God Bless David, wherever you’re at.” Continue reading →
It’s Carnival season, meaning two weeks of worldwide festivities leading up the Christian season of Lent. In 2014, Canadian art-rock juggernaut Arcade Fire was on tour during Carnival and found themselves in Haiti, performing a stripped-down “Here Comes the Night Time” from Reflektor while surrounded by costumed revelers. A video of the performance appeared today care of Artists Institute of Jacmel, Haiti, and it gives both a candid, fly-on-the-wall view of the celebration as well as the band’s low-key performance. Watch it below. Continue reading →
Every year, the Roots Picnic inches closer to Philly musical utopia. The pre-summer day fest is curated by local hip-hop heroes The Roots, the self-proclaimed hardest working band in America. True to their own innovative and barrier-breaking approach, the lineup is always a unique, eclectic and interesting trip. The setting and its vibe has historically been a bit rockier, beset by exponentially swelling crowds and typically sweltering heat beating down on the minimally shaded asphalt of Festival Pier.
But the eighth annual installment of the Picnic yesterday, while not perfect, was a tremendously positive event, with major improvements in the layout and organization of the festival and a trimming of the musical fat (for the most part). Continue reading →
The 8th annual Roots Picnic is headed to Festival Pier this Saturday, May 30. Major names are set to perform at the all-day festival (The Weeknd and Phantogram, anyone?), but the lesser known artists will undeniably rock Penn’s Landing just as hard. The Questlove-curated lineup includes longtime Philly favorites and emerging young artists. Here are five not to miss. Continue reading →
The Indie Rock Hit Parade returns tonight with a smattering of brand new tracks for your ears and brain. Tune in to XPN starting at 11pm for a full two-hour show featuring, among other things, a spotlight on the solo debut from Arcade Fire’s Will Butler. We’ll also hear some of these smashing new tracks in the mix:
A blueish grey three-piece suit with hulking obtuse triangles of lapels hung from a hook at my desk yesterday afternoon. It’s a wardrobe ensemble I hardly wear enough, one I picked up from Philly AIDS Thrift years back and mostly use for Halloween or otherwise ostentatious dress purposes. In other words, it’s ridiculous and fun to wear, and I’ll wear it when there’s an excuse, but it would not be my everyday outfit – even if I did work somewhere where suits jackets were the prescribed attire.
My coworkers walking past my desk yesterday had a similar reaction as I did when I spotted the suit on the rack. “This is sharp! Why is it not on you right now?” But when I explained – it was my outfit for last night’s Arcade Fire concert – I was met with cynical grumbles.
Back in November, the Montreal art-rock band somewhat infamously issued a caveat with the tickets their first-ever arena tour: “NIGHT OF SHOW: Please wear formal attire or costume.” This request was subsequently picked apart and dissected in a blogosphere firestorm of vitriolic screeds. Quoth Slate:
Asking attendees to dress up might seem to restore an air of specialness to unspecial tour stops at unspecial concrete behemoths that double as ice rinks and basketball courts—but nothing about a routine date in an arena decked out in corporate branding is arty. And demanding that fans old and young scale many flights of steep stairs in ball gowns only to sit in seats possibly soaked with overpriced Bud Light from last night’s hockey game seems less than thoughtful.
Demanding that 23,000 Kentuckians dress up like an extra in Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby to see a rock band at the KFC Yum! Center? I dunno.
Some of the response I encountered yesterday was equally angry – “How dare they etc. etc.” – like as if it was some sort of grave demand on the part of egoistic musicians. Like there had to be some sort of conversation a la Stereogum’s about how it’s not okay for artists of any stature to ask their fans to dress up, how there needs to be some sort of moral outrage here.
Meanwhile, my view was – and continued to be – look, guys. It’s just a rock band. Telling me to wear a costume to a show. I mean, really? Costumes? You think this is actually serious? (As the band said on Facebook, it wasn’t, and folks need to chill.)
And let’s say that wasn’t the case, and I was going to be denied admission to see one of the best musical acts of the past decade had I shown up to the Wells Fargo Center in a hoodie and jeans. Either way, it’s a fine (and, for me, rare) excuse to have some sartorial fun and break out this thrift store outfit. Thankfully I was far from alone. Continue reading →
Could they pull it off? That seemed to be the question on the minds of the music community when Arcade Fire announced a winter arena tour in support of its 2013 double LP Reflektor. Could musicians that got their start ten years ago as a small-scale indie art-rock band with massive ambition finally bring their show to an arena-sized audience? Was the group ready for a production of this scale? Were that many people willing to travel with them down the heady rabbit hole of Reflektor, a surrealist patchwork commenting on modern life in a disconnected world?
Despite an initially positive critical reception to the album’s release, there was a noticeable backlash – Arcade Fire and frontman Win Butler were dismissed in some circles as pretentious. Their SNL appearance had viewers scratching heads. Their tongue-in-cheek “formal attire required” caveat for the tour was viewed (by evidently humorless commentators) as a serious demand. And ticket sales proved slow in venues of this size, with several markets (including Philadelphia) resorting to a Groupon campaign to urge them along.
But when Arcade Fire took the stage at Philly’s Wells Fargo Center last night, all that baggage went away. The band’s two-hour set was compelling, sharply executed and endlessly creative. And the crowd, though not a sellout, was a strong turnout, filling the arena up through the rafters with many taking part in the masquerade ball / formal attire end of things. (More on that later.)
Arcade Fire took advantage of the full span of the arena’s floor, with Butler emerging on a mini stage near the soundboard for a sparse rendition of Neon Bible‘s “My Body is a Cage” (illuminated with a human disco ball, the Reflektor of the album’s title). As the full band kicked in on the final crescendo, he scurried around the arena’s perimeter and hit the stage to the disco bump of “Reflektor.” From there, it was a strong opening sequence, with the groovy dub of “Flashbulb Eyes” leading into back-to-back jams from 2004’s Funeral, “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” and “Rebellion (Lies),” with thousands of voices singing along to a euphoric conclusion.
A pause for band and crowd to catch their collective breath gave us a chance to reflect (har, har) on what we’d seen. When he wasn’t playing guitar, bass or piano, Butler was working the crowd, grasping hands – but also snatching the smart phones from the outstretched arms of fans attempting to capture the moment. “What if the camera really do steal our soul?” he sang staring straight into someone’s screen during “Flashbulb,” and the point was clear. Put away the phones, put away Facebook; unplug and be here in the moment. Continue reading →