Arcade Fire: They’re In Ur Base Killin Ur D00dz

Last night Arcade Fire won International Group and International Album at the Brit Awards, making it a Very Jolly Week for a band a lot of people still haven’t heard of.

So it seems like a good time for some final thoughts on Arcade Fire’s stunning Grammy win on Sunday.

I didn’t watch the Grammy’s because I don’t give a poop about the Grammys. The Grammys don’t help me, a not-knowledgeable-about-music guy, learn about interesting and fun new artists. I take my directions from prairie dog writers, informed friends, people who work in coffee shops and various online newspapers and magazines.

Frankly, I didn’t even know Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs was up for Grammy awards until I read an online publication’s Grammy Awards preview Sunday afternoon. And I only did that because it’s my job to not be totally clueless.

I was surprised — really surprised — Arcade Fire were nominated for Album Of The Year but reckoned they’d lose to Lady Gaga or maybe Katy Perry. But at least, I thought, they’d be the favourite for Best Alternative Music Album. (Which the band didn’t win, it turned out.)

Sooo, when I learned Arcade Fire had actually won Best Album (around one a.m. Monday), imagine my surprise. Or better yet imagine the sound of my jaw bouncing off my desk in shock. Sort of an arthritic “kluhp-whoomph”.

After about five minutes of reading about their win and feeling reprehensibly smug because I liked Arcade Fire years ago, I remembered that, back about five and a half years ago, Arcade Fire were available for a Regina gig but the cost was too high for local promoters: $30,000, if I recall.

Nobody here wanted to book the band and lose 30K. Nobody had faith in Regina’s audiences to support the gig, it seemed (at least that was the sense I got from two promoters I talked to about this).

And at the time I was a bitter, surly troll about that. So I wrote a snarky paragraph into Chuck Molgat’s prairie dog preview of the Saskatoon show. From the  Sept. 30, 2005 article “No Fire For Regina”:

Why no Regina gig for Canada’s hottest up and coming band? Well, don’t go pointing fingers at the Arcade Fire’s egos. The group was available for a show here but local promoters who looked into booking the band concluded it was a high-risk investment. Given that one of Regina’s few live-music venues closed in the past year partly due to poor turn-out at shows, you can’t really say promoters are being overly-cautious wimps. Nope, chalk this one up to well-founded fears that cutting-edge acts don’t play well in this town. So there you go, Regina music fans — if you want the hot shows get out and support the scene so the people who book acts in this town won’t be punished for taking risks. Alternately, we can sit back and let Saskatoon continue to kick our concert butts. Your call.

A couple of weeks later, we got a letter to the editor. It was long and about a lot of things but here’s an excerpt with the pertinent part:

Having been an avid reader of prairie dog since its inception, and also having written freelance for your publication in the past, I have always held your paper in very high regard. That is, until the most recent issue. What I read truly shocked and concerned me. For starters, there was an article on a band I have never heard of, called the Arcade Fire. Apparently, according to your writings, this is a band that is huge. As a writer, songwriter, and someone who appreciates music, I try to keep up on current trends in the industry, but this is apparently one that escaped me.

Well.

First off, the letter writer proved my point. In 2005, Regina audiences couldn’t be trusted to embrace amazing new bands. Here was a guy who described himself as “someone who appreciates music [who tries]  to keep up on current trends in the industry.” And he’d never heard of Arcade Fire. In the immortal words of Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Second! Well, letter writer, it’s five and a half years later and I think I can now say with confidence: I WAS RIGHT AND YOU WERE WRONG AND ARCADE FIRE IS AMAZING AND IT SUCKS THEY NEVER PLAYED A SHOW HERE AND IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT. CONGRATULATIONS! YOU’VE RUINED EVERYTHING!

(And yes, it is hypocritical of me to hold up a Grammy Award as proof of a band’s magnificence when I like a band, and to say the Grammys are a huge, stinking and stupid turd-pallooza when bands or musicians win that I don’t care about. Deal wif it. Life isn’t fair.)

The full article and letter, including the letter writer’s secret identity, appear below the jump. And for the record I really do appreciate letters to the editor, even when I make fun of them half a decade after they’re submitted. I’m sorry I’m mean.

Music

No Fire for Regina

Queen City concert moguls pass on buzz band

by Chuck Molgat and Stephen Whitworth

ARCADE FIRE (w/WOLF PARADE and  BELL ORCHESTRA), SUNDAY 2, THE ODEON (SASKATOON)

While we don’t usually preview Saskatoon shows in this space, this one is significant enough to warrant a trip to the Bridge city — assuming you can get your mitts on tickets.

Artsy Montreal pop band Arcade Fire’s star just keeps on rising. The unit enjoyed its latest shot in the arm a couple of weeks ago at New York City’s CMJ music conference and festival — more specifically at Central Park’s outdoor Summerstage. That’s where the band was performing an early evening show to a sold-out crowd when none other than ageless rock icon David Bowie sauntered onto the stage in the middle of the Arcade Fire’s first encore. The group immediately launched into a rendition of Bowie’s “Queen Bitch”, before segueing into their own song “Wake Up”, which Bowie reportedly handled the first verse of. Bowie’s cameo must not have come as a complete surprise to everyone in attendance, though. Just a week earlier, he had joined the Arcade Fire on stage at the annual Fashion Rocks benefit at NYC’s vaunted Radio City Music Hall, where he also helped out on “Wake Up”.

The Arcade Fire also appeared on the David Letterman show during the same Big Apple stay, putting in what some critics declared one of the best live performances that program has ever witnessed. Both Letterman and musical director Paul Shafer’s gushing reactions to the performance seemed to back that suggestion up.

The Arcade Fire was also recently fingered to be the opening act for U2 on a number of the popular veteran Irish band’s upcoming North American concert dates.

Why no Regina gig for Canada’s hottest up and coming band? Well, don’t go pointing fingers at the Arcade Fire’s egos. The group was available for a show here but local promoters who looked into booking the band concluded it was a high-risk investment. Given that one of Regina’s few live-music venues closed in the past year partly due to poor turn-out at shows, you can’t really say promoters are being overly-cautious wimps. Nope, chalk this one up to well-founded fears that cutting-edge acts don’t play well in this town.

So there you go, Regina music fans — if you want the hot shows get out and support the scene so the people who book acts in this town won’t be punished for taking risks. Alternately, we can sit back and let Saskatoon continue to kick our concert butts. Your call.

*

THE ARCADE WHO?

Having been an avid reader of prairie dog since its inception, and also having written freelance for your publication in the past, I have always held your paper in very high regard. That is, until the most recent issue. What I read truly shocked and concerned me.

For starters, there was an article on a band I have never heard of, called the Arcade Fire. Apparently, according to your writings, this is a band that is huge. As a writer, songwriter, and someone who appreciates music, I try to keep up on current trends in the industry, but this is apparently one that escaped me.

That, however, is not my major concern. In the article, the author goes on to talk about the lack of live music venues in Regina. I did a serious double take. Lack of live music venues? In Regina? Who exactly was doing the research for that particular piece of journalism? Was it someone who was so devastated by the closure of The State they’ve taken to hibernation?? There are countless live venues in this city. There are the large-scale ones (Brandt Centre, Centre of the Arts); there are the medium-sized ones (Casino Regina Show Lounge); countless bar and nightclub types (The Pump, JD’s, O’Hanlon’s, The Exchange, McNally’s, etc, etc.); and there are unique, non-traditional performing spaces that have proven their ability to host musical acts that any group or artist would be honoured to play in (Wascana Park, Victoria Park, Cornwall Centre, among others).

That is a short list.

For some time, I have found prairie dog’s penchant for dwelling on the negative quite alarming. It’s always easy to report on the negative in any situation. However, like any media, perhaps that what sells best. For a magazine that sometimes claims to be the “life of the city”, it sure does rather like to focus on the death. As a free paper that relies solely on advertising to pay the bills, you might want to try a little more accurate, upbeat reporting to attract more sponsors and advertisers.

That statement brings me to my next point. On page 18, you feature two ads that are obviously religious in nature. There is one for Converge, a church group, and another one for a Pro-Life Association.  I can’t say for sure, but I’m sure these groups pay the same as any other type of group for their space in your paper. Well, if either of those groups read your paper, and flipped over three pages to page 21, I would hope they would immediately pull their advertising dollars from your coffers. To me, this is akin to your paper putting an ad in for “Just Say Yes” to drugs, while then having an article on the crystal meth crisis. It’s that absurd to me.

As a believer in God, I was very offended to the point of disgust. Since when did it become a movie reviewer’s place to use their spot as a place to slam the Lord? And why was it ever allowed to go to print?? It didn’t even read well as the darkest of comedy. In several spaces, this reviewer pokes fun at, insults, and at one point, even tells God to “shove it”. Then he states that being a “fairly decent human being” should get him into Heaven. Upon further perusal of the Bible I (and most of the world) reads, at no time will one gain admission into Heaven with blasphemy and telling God to “shove it”.

I am all for free speech in the press as a basic tenet of our society. But in this situation, I sat down to read some reviews of movies because I wanted to go to one. I usually find your reviews alternately humorous and informative. Instead, I was subjected to a religious tirade that was most unwelcome and unnecessary in that particular forum.

In my opinion, if you wish to offer prime space in your paper devoted to this touchy subject, then do that. Title it accordingly, and have knowledgeable, informed people write the pieces.

Johnny Slastukin

Regina

Author: Stephen Whitworth

Prairie Dog editor Stephen Whitworth will never, ever pass up a chance to make a Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo pun.

15 thoughts on “Arcade Fire: They’re In Ur Base Killin Ur D00dz”

  1. In his defence he’s a guy who’s had the courtesy to actually write us thoughtful letters. I do appreciate that quite a bit. And I’m being mean to him.

  2. I don’t like Arcade Fire. You know what’s nearly as bad as the manufactured gloss of mainstream American music? The insufferable smugness of Canadian indie music.

  3. you are all missing the whole point of this entire blog post: Stephen has been hating on Christians for YEARS!!!11!!!

  4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJAIZnyzvK4

    Perhaps ‘smugness’ wasn’t completely accurate. Pretense perhaps? The best part of the above link (just the first one I found by the way… I wasn’t being picky)is the irony of Will talking about if you find out an author is an asshole, you’ll read his/her book differently.

    True that.

    Aside from the fact that lots of music in the ‘scene’ doesn’t completely float my boat, the fact of the matter is any enjoyment I might get out of, say, Metric’s music is sabotaged by the fact that I might have to listen to Emily Haines talk. The self-congratulatory dance of figuring out which Toronto-Montreal band is now hip enough to win a Polaris award is really, really exhausting.

  5. Okay, I understand that!

    I’m playing-up the awards in my post but I really don’t care what Arcade Fire won. It’s an excuse to say something about a band I like, and also to be snotty and hopefully entertaining. There’s so many good bands with so many different sounds and there’s so much stuff already recorded, how can any band be the “best”?

    I watched the interview clip and to me, Arcade Fire seem like genuine people who get excited about their inherently ostentatious jobs. Art’s just hard to talk about.

  6. I only mentioned the Polaris Awards they pretend to be some sort of celebration of independent spirit but really are just a cliquey orgy of hipster self-congratulation. That, and the weird celebration a year or two ago of Fucked Up as if hard political punk never existed in Canada before (coincidentally, Propagandhi wasn’t even long-listed for their last album).

    My grumpy-old-man tangential rambling aside, you’re probably just more tolerant of artsy talk than I am (though I should be clear I speak as a staunch supporter of the arts).

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