Arcade Fire 1/21/2005

posterized n  - 1. North American slang derived from an action in the game of basketball in which the offensive player “dunks” over a defending player in a play that is spectacular enough to warrant reproduction in a printed poster  2. to be humbled, shamed, and exposed as an inferior athlete   3. a blog series on that revisits various concert posters collected over the past ten years by contributor Android50

When talking about music with friends, a common question that comes up is “What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?” Many shows come to my mind (Elliot Smith, Propaghandi, Sleater Kinney, Bonnie “Prince” Billie, Man Man, HEALTH, Death From Above 1979, Jay Reatard, Times New Viking, Sufjan Stevens), but the concert that almost always pops up first is when I saw Arcade Fire in January of 2005.  Three months earlier the band’s path was altered forever when the influential deemed their album Funeral a 9.7 out of 10.

I’d been listening to the album for several months when my friend Paul called to inform me about the show he’d caught the night prior (November 29, 2004) in Omaha, Nebraska. Not to mis-quote him, but his message was something along the lines of “I saw Arcade Fire last night at the SoKol Underground, and it was one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen. They are in Austin in January. You have to go.” I remember confessing that I wasn’t completely sold on Funeral. It was good, but I wasn’t ready to concede that it was great. He insisted his message – “You have see them live.”

I marked the show on my calendar, and when the day finally arrived, I contemplated not going. Without anyone to join me, I didn’t think it’d be worth the hour drive north, nor did I look forward to the always depressing experience of attending a show by yourself.  However, the message Paul conveyed months earlier reverberated in my brain “You have to see them live.”

So I made the trek.

And my life was changed forever.

But before I get to the life altering Arcade Fire performance, let me take a moment to discuss one of the best openers I’ve ever witnessed in Owen Pallett’s horribly named project Final Fantasy (he has since dropped the moniker).  Despite a still half-empty venue, Pallett took to the stage with only a violin and a loop pedal at his feet. He began laying down one beautiful violin riff after another, looping each melody together right before the mesmerized audience, and before long, a lush orchestra swelled out of the speakers. Pallett’s unassuming tenor voice could barely be heard over the orchestral wall he’d created right before our eyes and ears. As I watched him, an idea came to my own mind of buying a loop pedal and creating my own music via a banjo and acoustic guitar.  Weeks later I’d own a loop pedal, and within the next eight years I’d have three of my own albums recorded,  direct result of Pallett’s inspiring performance.

This clip is not from the show I saw, but it gives you a taste of Owen Pallett working his magic:

Little did I know, Pallett’s incredible set would be upstaged before I’d even had time to digest it.  Arcade Fire squeezed onto the small stage, and commenced an 85-minute straight musical assault that had everyone in the outdoor venue dancing, screaming, and sweating in the cool Texas night.  The hint of sadness that surfaced during the Final Fantasy set quickly washed away with the overpowering warmth and elation spread by Arcade Fire’s passionate performance.  Everywhere you looked on the stage you saw exuberant, unbridled joy, whether it be Richard Parry’s and his fiery red hair beating upon whatever he could find on the stage with his drum sticks (including the rafters), Regine Chassagne’s violent gesticulations and determined dance moves, or Sarah Neufeld and Owen Pallett (who played the entire set with them) both drawing their bows back-and-forth at a feverish pace (seriously, how do they not get tennis elbow?).

But of course, the real powerhouse on the stage was Win Butler, a lofty, slender man, his guitar hanging loosely off his bony shoulders, the rock star version of a goon from Popeye’s Goon Island.  Although he’d been performing the album non-stop for the past year, you wouldn’t know it, powerfully conveying each lyric with both his baritone voice and his solemn eyes.

Every song the band switched instruments and by the end of the set, pretty much every band member had sat behind the drum kit.  Besides the incredible music and the frenetic energy on the stage, the band’s sense of community and their ability to make you feel a part of their family for that hour and a half made for an unforgettable, intimate experience. After the show, I felt compelled to purchase a concert poster to commemorate the experience. That same poster currently adorns my wall, and I can’t help but wonder if I should have sealed it away for monetary sake, but no. Every time I see that poster, I brought back to that night, that experience, that community.


Six years later I’d see them perform in front of thousands of fans at the Austin City Limits Music Festival and while an incredible experience, it paled in comparison to that intimate, winter night in Austin when they were still just a band on the cusp of explosion.

While researching this blog, I discovered that the ENTIRE show I witnessed is posted on YouTube; this internet thing is amazing!:

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