Of all the bands to come out of the scary blog hype monster, The Arcade Fire is really not so offensive. They are, though perhaps irritatingly quirky, a pretty damn decent band, and they certainly do put on an enthusiastic live show. But a recent article in The Guardian suggests that at least one member of the band still doesn’t have his perspective screwed on quite right.
Randall’s Island sits in the middle of New York’s East River, a vast, characterless, landfill-augmented field, surrounded by straits given the kind of alluring names that New York’s outer boroughs seem to specialise in: to the east there’s Hell Gate and to the north, Bronx Kill. If it’s not quite as ghastly as the waters around it suggest, Randall’s Island certainly doesn’t exude much in the way of charm, even in the sunshine of an unseasonably hot autumn afternoon. It is, concedes Richard Reed Parry – Arcade Fire’s affable red-headed multi-instrumentalist sometimes known to play a crash helmet with a drumstick onstage – a far cry from the venues at which the band are renowned for performing: the churches that seem to echo the quasi-religious fervour in their music, the “aesthetically inspiring” spaces in which Parry has claimed they play their best. “We wanted the whole place hung with carnival lights,” he sighs sadly, “but the city wouldn’t let us do it.” Instead, for the event they are headlining, Arcade Fire have attempted to stamp some quirky personality on the field by erecting a small stage to its rear on which a mariachi band play unamplified. Alas, the mariachi leader ends up singing his heart out and talking about how grateful they are to be here to a scattering of nonplussed punters, pausing only momentarily on their way between the hot dog stands and the Portaloos.
Maybe affable red-headed multi-instrumentalist Richard Reed Parry is being misrepresented in this article, but it seems kind of like he’s whining about how mom and dad want to cut down his awesome tree house to put in a swimming pool. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly tragic that The Arcade Fire no longer have total control of the preciousness of their venues, but the sad-eyed lament of New York City’s strict anti-carnival light policy is just a bit much. And what’s more, they’ve dragged an innocent mariachi band into their futile attempts to quirkify Randall’s Island. Tweeness is not a victimless crime!
The audience thronging Randall’s Island, meanwhile, is conspicuously light on the kind of whey-faced indie-kid blogger whose early support earned Arcade Fire that most noughties of labels, the Internet Phenomenon. Instead, there are baseball caps and shorts and Gap casual wear in profusion: this is very much a mainstream American rock crowd.
The horror! Regular people instead of blog zombies! Luckily frontman Win Butler has enough good sense to recognize that he’s got to at least pretend to appreciate the Gap casualwear crowd:
In an air-conditioned dressing room backstage, however, Butler is inclined to disagree. Slumping his 6ft 5in frame into an armchair – somehow he looks even bigger in mufti than in his onstage costume – he protests that there has been little hand-wringing about Arcade Fire’s burgeoning mainstream success: for one thing, he says, success means it’s easier to refuse to do things you don’t want to do. Nor is he particularly sorry to see the back of playing small venues: indeed, he prefers playing Randall’s Island or the Hollywood Bowl to the euphoric, wildly acclaimed performances they gave at London’s St John’s Church and Porchester Hall in January. “This tour is the opposite of the sell-it-out hype thing. It’s more about letting people who want to see us, see us. That feels really good. A lot of these shows have been more intimate than the warm-up shows we did in the churches because they were so overwhelming and press-centered.”
Now if he would only put a muzzle on this mofo…
…they’d really be in business.
Arcade Fire discuss the bitter taste of success [The Guardian]