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"The Arcade Fire"

Austin City Limits

by David Gutowski

Recently, a discussion about buzz bands has erupted online. As the music blogging community continues to search out and publicize new and up-and-coming bands, some have warned of the potential downfall for musicians (Idolator used the Black Kids as a perfect example). In its annual music issue, the Oxford American put it succinctly, "Unknown bands become all-too-familiar bands in a month, and abandoned bands the next month." Even John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats, often a target of music blog love himself, agreed, stating that, "the hunger for something that feels good and exciting and important seems to have progressed to a point of insatiability." The Arcade Fire is one of the exceptions that proves this rule.

ACL: The Arcade Fire

Appropriately enough, I first sought out the Arcade Fire's music after seeing the band mentioned on one of my favorite music blogs. In March of 2003, Said the Gramophone described the band's music as "Neil Young-meets-New Order dreams," in a post about Goldfrapp's "Black Cherry." Once I listened to the band's self-titled debut EP, I was in love with their lush arrangements, literate lyrics and pure energy. When the EP was officially released, music blogs and mainstream media chimed in with universal praise, to be followed by even greater adoration for the band's first album, Funeral, of which which Pitchfork said "it's so easy to embrace this album's operatic proclamation of love and redemption speaks to the scope of The Arcade Fire's vision." Not surprisingly, the band released its second album, Neon Bible, this year to almost universal acclaim, causing the Observer to dub the band "are the greatest art rock group since Talking Heads stopped making sense."

Simply put, the Arcade Fire has become one of my favorite bands, and I cherish the opportunity to see them perform. Unfortunately the band has skipped my area of the deep South the past couple of tours, so I have either endured lengthy road trips to shows or gotten my fix with live recordings. Luckily for me, the band taped an Austin City Limits episode this fall.

With Austin City Limits featuring more indie rock acts over the past couple of years, I find myself eying the schedule and setting my Tivo. The Arcade Fire is a perfect choice for the series, on stage the band is a talented and dynamic ensemble fronted by the charismatic Win Butler, and this night was no different. The band's music is truly collective, members swap instruments, Butler's wife Regine Chassagne takes over vocal duties for a song, and even the violinists add their voices to the chorus, and everyone's enthusiasm is apparent and infectious. Crowd shots show the indie kids screaming along with the lyrics and even dancing in their seats (including the music bloggers behind My Old Kentucky Blog and You Ain't No Picasso, who called the show "one of the best concertgoing moments of my life"). Even Stereogum had a correspondent at the show.

Generally, I am not a huge fan of concert videos. I am far more likely to listen to a live recording than spend time watching a filmed show. For me, the music is more important than the performance, and often commercially-released concert DVDs are more products of the director's vision than a faithful capture of the artist's live performance at that point in time. Fan videos tend to be a bit rough and hard to follow. Austin City Limits is the exception, the ACL shows concentrate on showcasing the artist and their music. No special effects, no flashbacks, just talented musicians sharing their live performance. The one additional feature, the interview at the end of the show, is a necessary evil. In the Arcade Fire's case, however, as the band discussed its songwriting technique and their surprise at their sudden rise to fame, we gain an insight into these talented musicians lives and art.

Comments

It's 4am on Monday morning (San Antonio,Tx time) and I just finished catching the last two songs on PBS from The Arcade Fire show. Wow, what a performance. It brings to mind that these folks in this band seem to be having a similar affect to their fans, as U2 has on their fans. I traveled around to several shows on the last U2 Vertigo tour and am well aware that U2 used Arcade Fire's "Wake Up" to open their shows. The only thing that I'm concerned about is, will Arcade Fire be able to sustain its success and fame with that many members? U2 only has four egos to worry about, and all of them have their's in check; I just hope Arcade Fire can do the same and be around as long as U2 has, because they truely are a wonderful and refreshing band. Last thing, can anyone at PBS inform me on how I can obtain or purchase this show that they performed on ACL? Thank you, R.Tapia.

Will there be a CD or DVD of this performance? It was my introduction to the band and I bought their CDs which are good, but not as good as their live ACL performance. Awesome band.

I would (seriously, no snark) like to know more about how the sound was mixed for this show. The crowd and the musicians were clearly having a great time and I suspect my (big, stereo) TV was simply overwhelmed by midrange sounds. Violins, horns, keyboards, backing vocals were all either mixed really low or were being canceled-out by other nearby frequencies. I heard the "wash" of sound but almost nothing "specific" except lead vocals and snare. AF fans, is this an accurate reflection of what they sound like live? Was something out-of-phase? TV studio simply not big enough for their sound? (Don't they record and play frequently in church sanctuaries for that very reason?)

I have to admit that I have been watching the ACL performance over and over on my laptop at work today (recorded on tivo and transfered to computer).
I love these guys, so lively and animated.

cheers~
jvk

Okay. So these guys are about the coolest thing I've ever seen. I too really want a copy of this Austin City Limits show - my only exposure to them. Looks like they were in my town in April. Wish I'd caught that! Sheesh. My TiVo got into it to late to catch the whole thing.

The sound was pretty poor -- badly mixed, and often wasn't synced with the video.

I am definitely not in the younger class but Arcade fire made me feel like I am.
They are terrific
come down to West Palm Beach

for a 63 year old,50's-60's music is my thing.however arcade fire is great.there talent and energy are 100 per cent.not a bad review from an old goat.

Lots of people want to know...will this Arcade Fire live performance be aired again on PBS, Channel 13, NY any time soon?
Please post this information...and thanks so much for putting this together.
Unbelievably fantastic group!

One word kept popping up time and time again upon watching the Arcade Fire on Austin City Limits: greatness. What you were able to see was as close to greatness as a band can be. So watch it again, and pass on the news.

this show was unreal; best show of my life. I was in the front at the immediate stage left and the sound was quite good. Yes, at times the audio wasn't synced to the video; but I wasn't really watching the video as the band was right in front of me. I'm really happy that the show was filmed and is being distributed.

I, too, would like to know if the ACL performance will be (or is) available on video. I haven't had a chance to check these guys out. But, I am always looking for new and quality music and Arcade Fire sounds like they are both.

Howdy, all. Michael Toland from Austin City Limits/KLRU-TV here. We were thrilled to have the Arcade Fire on the show and even more thrilled that everybody enjoyed them so much. Good to see that a lot of folks who'd never heard the band before got into it.

Let me see if I can give y'all some answers.

First of all, if you'd like to see the Arcade Fire show come out on DVD and/or CD (and it seems like most of you would), I highly encourage you to contact our distribution partners New West Records at clare@newwestrecords.com. Let them know how much you'd like to see the AF show come out as part of the Live From Austin TX series (you all know about that, right?) and we'll see if we can make it happen. Keep in mind, though that it's as much up to the band as to us and New West.

Speaking of the band, they mixed this episode themselves. The "washed out" audio some of you have noted is what the group wanted the music to sound like. It's not that far removed from the way their records sound, as fans can tell you. It's an aesthetic choice, not a technical deficiency.

As far as the audio synch goes, our copy of the show and the copy we provided PBS are both fine - we checked when we first started getting questions. But the brave new world of High Definition and Dolby Digital has resulted in some new technical difficulties that often manifest themselves in how each station broadcasts in HD. As our chief engineer puts it, "There may be a problem with how the local affiliate is handling Dolby Digital. I can speak from personal experience that setting up the broadcast chain to process and air 5.1 audio can have many pitfalls and difficulties. Even the folks at Dolby have differing opinions about how the broadcast system should be set up." This isn't because the folks at your local station are incompetent, but because the standards haven't yet been finalized and we're all still figuring out the best way to broadcast in HD and Dolby Digital. We'll figure it out, though, no doubt just in time for the next wave of new technology to arrive and give us fits.

As far as repeats go, you'll have to check with your local stations to see when that will happen. I do know that PBS won't refeed the program to stations until at least next summer, so it probably won't be before then.

Thanks, everybody, for your comments on this episode of ACL. Feel free to check out our website and post on our forums as well. We love to hear from you!

Michael Toland
KLRU-TV/Austin City Limits

Just FYI. A small nit to pick. Other than some CD Singles...

Arcade Fire The Arcade Fire EP
Arcade Fire Funeral
Arcade Fire Neon Bible

If you read the edge of any of these CDs, you will find that the band's name is 'Arcade Fire'. Not, 'The Arcade Fire'.

'The Arcade Fire' is name of their [first] EP.

Lets help Arcade Fire dispel this erroneous nomenclature. It is plain to see, that it is awkward for them to be addressed this way during interviews.

BTW, good show ;-)

Is there a DVD of the Austin City Limits performance available to buy?????

can i buy a copy of the austin city limits show on cd from 11/10/07

It has been a long while since a great band has been able to move me. The ACL presentation of Arcade Fire is testimony of what a transformative effect brilliant music can have on people. With a due respect, make the ACL video of Arcade Fire available now!!!

Stopped in on ACL on WHUT out of D.C. and the caption said country musicans. Wow are these guys good. Arcade Fire is a must have. Can we get it any where on disc ?

i like

I first saw this band on ACL and was instantly a fan. No other band has ever caused me to buy all of their CDs just from viewing a single live performance.

I'll add my call for the ACL segment to be released on DVD!

WOW!!!
the most coolest stuff i've seen in along time on tv.
congratulations guys and gals and thank you
Austin City Limits for having the guts and going for it.

'T'


DVD -- PLEEEEEEEEEZE!

As an up and coming old fart(56), I was amazed and simply overwhelmed by the innovation and beauty of this bands incredible music on ACL. Fortunately, I had recently set my DVR for every session on PBS and then listened to this recording using my Bose headsets --- WOW !!! what a journey !! what an experience !! I just ordered both DVDs and have planned a music fest when our family 'Thanksgiving Week' reunion happens this year -- nearly 100 people and most young and married. My son was amazed at my enthusiasm with AF and says its been one of his favorites for years. The PBS DVD would be a great purchase.

A few things ...

1) THANKS for your response, Michael Toland of ACL ... I heard/listened/read you say that we needed to send an email to New West Records at clare@newwestrecords.com ... I wish everyone else had seen that too ...

2) Wow - 6 months later and I am STILL shocked and amazed at how wonderful an Arcade Fire show can be ...

Simply superb ...

3) Those who have a burning need to see them perform, as I do, would do well to go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RudDVrnihXE , where you will find the first of a set of HD videos (crystal clear) of one of their shows in France - It is just as brilliant and powerful as the ACL show (I have searched and searched and searched again, and I cannot find ANY of the ACL show online ... The one song they used to have at PBS; "Keep The Car Running", was removed from access at pbs.com)

This video set was released to YouTube by Arcade Fire - please enjoy it ...

4) I too am over 50, and an old guitarist musician who was simply blown away when I was flipping through TV channels and suddenly happened on the AF ACL repeat .... I could not stop watching it, mouth agape, as that huge sound was so full of spirit and a love of music - They create a majestic art that is so powerful, even when whimsical ...

I cannot wait to share Arcade Fire with anyone who would listen ....

My biggest question: When is the next tour ?

saw austen limits last night i determined that this band is as good as yes or the are lip synching to a player which is it? pleases tell me some one i cant tell


I love these guys.... the lyrics come from my head and my experiences..... it's amazing how the make me feel, just like i did then.... Thank you Arcade for talking to my inner kid.... I forgot he was still in me...
Luis from Chile

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