Arcade Fire “still young, still hungry”

by Matt Williams

The moment I figured out how to find music on my own, I became an elitist. It’s not something arcade-fire-ticket-stubI’m proud of, and I certainly deny it any chance I get, but when someone comes over to me and asks what I think of (insert band that grosses me out here), I can’t help but think, “You know, maybe we can’t be friends.” It’s always a rash judgement, and the person is usually okay. Most of the time I’m adamant that my musical taste is right, but I often surprise myself. I used to hate U2. Now I can sort of deal with most of Joshua Tree. I even love “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” I used to be proud that I seemed to be the only person in Winnipeg who didn’t like the Weakerthans. Now I can’t get enough of them. Things change, right? I’ll even admit I’d be the first person to sing along to ‘Teenage Dream’ by Katy Perry, whether or not I can stand her as a personality.

This concert was one of the times where I was dead wrong about a band.

I was still in my last year of high school. My friend Palmer was in the same art class as me, and we sat together and talked about music a lot. He was into bands that I’d eventually count as some of my all-time favourites: Pavement, My Bloody Valentine, Guided By Voices. He also liked a lot of new wave though, and I usually can’t get behind that stuff. I’m hard-pressed to think about what I listened to back then. I think I was into some of that “freak folk” stuff, which I now can’t stand. Elephant Six bands, but they’ve held up pretty well. The Exploding Hearts’ Guitar Romantic. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The real shame is that there were so many bands I ended up getting into later and totally missed them when they toured some of their best albums. A lot of great music came out then that I ignored, probably for naïve, teenage reasons.

arcade-fireAnyways, Palmer was getting a bunch of tickets for Arcade Fire on their Funeral tour. I’d heard a lot of good things about Arcade Fire, which led me to believe that they were no good. My friend Nathan had played me a pirated copy of Apologies to the Queen Mary by Wolf Parade, though, and they were opening the show. So I took him up on the offer.

When we got there I immediately went for the Wolf Parade merch table. I was convinced they were gonna blow Arcade Fire out of the water. I got a shirt, with a bunch of wolves stacked up on top of each other. It looked cool. I figured it was extra cool to be into the opener more than the headliner, even though I hadn’t heard Funeral yet. It was like I was twice as indie as my friends. Teenagers are stupid.

Wolf Parade played an amazing set. I saw them again a few years later as headliners, and I couldn’t believe it was the same band. They seemed bored and tired. But on this night, they were on fire. It was the whole mid-oughts Montreal thing, and I was excited to be a part of it, even in that small way. I ditched my seats to sit beside Nathan, who was in the front row of the balcony and had a way better view than I did. Then, after Wolf Parade finished a set I was sure couldn’t be followed, Arcade Fire took the stage.

After that, things are a little blurry. It was so easy to get swept up by a band like that: still young, still hungry, and in the middle of blowing up. The whole theatre stood up and sang for every song. Elements that are now commonplace at their shows were brand new and exciting, like Richard Reed Perry running around, hitting other helmet-clad band members on the head with drumsticks. They played instruments that I didn’t know had any place in new music. Every song was a hit and a highlight, but it sticks out in my head that they played ‘Queen Bitch’ by David Bowie. ‘State Trooper’ by Bruce Springsteen. It felt special that these young people came into our small prairie town and played like it was the last show they would ever play. Win Butler was only 25.

After the show, I headed straight to the Arcade Fire merch table to grab a shirt. I could barely remember that Wolf Parade even played. I saw a girl I knew at the front of the line. A mutual friend of ours had been trying to set us up for some time, and I knew she was kind of into me, if only just a little bit. I was just out of a stormy relationship and really didn’t want to spend any time getting to know someone new. I was skeptical of whether or not she would be worth it. But I did what any music fan would do: I exploited her potential and likely weak feelings for me to cut ahead to the front of the massive line and get a shirt before they sold out. I took off and she went to hang out with her friends. Four months later, we started dating, driving around in her parents busted van listening to ‘Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)’ on cassette. Five and a half years later, we’re still together. We both kept our ticket stubs from the show. And we both still have those shirts.

Matt Williams is  a Creative Communications student at Red River College. Osborne Village resident. Canadian. Musician. Writer. Enjoy his blogging at:

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