The Line Of Best Fit Radio

Monday, January 22, 2007

Arcade Fire Rock School Cafeteria

See the full article and pictures here.

Further proof that Canada is cooler than America: While our high schools get motivational speakers and pep rallies for special events, Canada's kids get concerts by the Arcade Fire in their cafeteria. Okay, so it's not that common an occurrence, and Canterbury isn't just any Ottawa high school; it's the alma mater of Arcade Fire charter member Richard Reed Parry. On Friday night, Parry brought his colleagues to the lunchroom of his youth for a special, top-secret performance, open only to Canterbury students and their guests, with all proceeds going to Canterbury Arts Centre Development Association, the organization that helps fund the school's highly-regarded arts programs. Thanks to a tip from the Pitchfork Intelligence Agency's Ottawa bureau (local student Matt Bostelaar) and the good graces of the band's management, we were given the privilege of being the creepy old guy at the show, the lone media witness to the proceedings.

Of course, this wasn't just a special-venue one-off for the band-- it was also the premiere performance of material from their forthcoming album Neon Bible, and the first show on a tour that promises to rival the marathon jaunt to promote the band's breakthrough debut, Funeral. Having already sold out three five-night runs each in New York, Montreal, and London, this show (and an equally hush-hush appearance in their hometown the next night) served as an open rehearsal for the Neon Bible songs, a chance to test out the new equipment in a humble space. And it doesn't get much more humble than one end of a small school cafeteria, where the crew had to cover overhead fluorescent lights that couldn't be turned off, the security staff was a dozen grandparents in matching t-shirts, and the Green Room was hastily set up in the teacher's lounge.

With such a hospitable audience, the obligatory technical issues and fumbling associated with the new songs from Neon Bible were no big deal. All but three songs in the set were from the upcoming record, and these performances largely lacked the Arcade Fire's characteristic stage frenzy, as if the group still has to concentrate hard on playing each song correctly before they can resume attacking each other with percussion instruments. But the statelier sound of the new album was still given a more unhinged flavor on stage-- the shoutalong choral parts of the newly recorded "No Cars Go" and "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations" were every bit as heart-skipping as those from "Rebellion (Lies)" or "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)". New toys were in abundance: Win Butler strummed a mandolin for "Keep the Car Running", RĂ©gine Chassagne cranked a hurdy-gurdy, and a laptop was used to replicate the massive church organ from "Intervention" (although it seemed to have some unfortunate triggering problems).

But such hiccups couldn't dent the show's feel-good armor, as the band shyly fed off the energy of the young crowd. Parry, repeatedly referred to as "Richie" by the school organizers, obviously seemed to be the most bemused of all, lecturing the kids on how lucky they are to attend Canterbury and smiling at the girls with homemade "CHS Lit Program Loves Richard!" shirts in the front row. Raw and unpracticed as it was, the setting was ultimately perfect for the Arcade Fire, whose undiluted melodrama and emotional sweep is the perfect soundtrack for the struggles of high school students, or the high school feelings that linger deep within us older fans. For a band on the brink of storming the globe for a second time, it was a chance to reconnect with the world they're so good at portraying, a reminder as valuable as any rehearsal.


Matt Bostelaar said...

I am the Matt Bostelaar that was in the original pitchfork article!

Just reminiscing about how amazing that show was.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to see just how permeant virtual memory has become in our everyday lives. It's like everytime I turn my head, I see something with a card slot or USB jack, lol. I guess it makes sense though, considering how much cheaper memory has become lately...

Gahhhh, I shouldn't be moaning and groaning. I can't get by a day without using my R4 / R4i!

(Posted on Nintendo DS running [url=]R4i SDHC[/url] R4Post)