Arcade Fire wants to be their generation’s U2. They write big anthems, play big arenas, wear new costumes each tour and they make Important Statements about Important Issues. When you want to be U2, you desire to be in every facet of life. That’s a very difficult task. Arcade Fire does not live up to the challenge. But that’s not really a bad thing.
Just a few dates into their “Infinite Content” tour, Arcade Fire is a much tighter and better band than they were on their 2014 “Reflektor” tour. Touring 2017’s Everything Now, the group is playing in the round (kudus to the drummers Jeremy Gara and Régine Chassagne, slowly spinning throughout the entire set) and pushing live concert screen technology further than anyone other than U2, Nine Inch Nails and Beyoncé. Saturday’s show was the best looking arena show I’ve attended.
If you’re an Arcade Fire fan, you will love this tour. Love it. There is literally not a bad seat in the house. Close up you have great views of the band. Up high, the screens look crisp and the presentations from song to song are different enough to make it better than just watching a live stream on your couch. Band members play towards all four sides of the square stage in the middle of the arena. If you’re on the floor, you’re seeing your favorite band member every few songs. I can not imagine a better arena show set up for the Arcade Fire fan that prefers a big room rather than a club.
If you’re a casual Arcade Fire fan, you may miss the connection you had from Funeral that only grew with Neon Bible. Those simpler chamber pop rock songs trafficked in instant nostalgia, the easiest emotion to manipulate. It’s the kind of trick that allows certain bands to become club favorites when you’re in college to arena rockers when you’re moving to the suburbs while listening to The Suburbs. Based on the crowd reaction, those first three records are what sells the tickets. Interestingly, newer songs like “Reflektor” and “Electric Blue” benefited greatly from this tour’s presentation.
The best part about Arcade Fire is their music. It’s not their costuming (they’re in the midst of this branded content thing where they wear clothes marked with the Everything Now logo and it’s just a whole lot of whatever). It’s not their messages (it’s great Win Butler is for universal health care, but why weren’t they at the Juggalo March on Washington? They should have supported fellow platinum artists). It’s not their light show (but it’s a close second). On this tour, Arcade Fire once against proves they’re a really great live band. They’re musicians that play sincere songs with conviction and a high level of skill. Their sound engineer is doing a very competent job mixing a cornucopia of instruments in a place that’s used to sporting events. Most importantly, songs that don’t connect on record make sense on stage.
Arcade Fire doesn’t need to be U2. Why would anyone want to be U2? Adam Clayton doesn’t look like he wants to be in U2. It has to be draining. Speaking out of every issue makes you a target for the other side and too sincere for people that want a little levity in their music. It’s no fun. Music should be fun, even if it’s about serious subjects.
We know Arcade Fire sometimes lacks fun. So before attending Arcade Fire at the Capital One Arena we spent the day at the Juggalo March, Mother of All Rallies, and Fiesta DC. It was fun.
The Juggalo March on Washington is what we’ll remember from Saturday. It didn’t have biggest crowd (that would be Fiesta DC followed by Arcade Fire). It didn’t garner the most press (that would be the Mother of All Rallies). But it did present a positive message of family, inclusion and embraced naughty language. Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope’s speech was one of the funniest and most effective political speeches of the modern era. When it comes to rallying a base, it goes Obama’s 2004 DNC speech, ICP at the Juggalo March and President Bush’s bullhorn speech from Ground Zero. The biggest difference in those three is Violent J compared freedom to sewing a butthole shut. Really. Watch it. A man in makeup standing proudly in front of the Lincoln Memorial makes compelling arguments in favor of gay marriage, freedom of religion, fellatio and takes a stand against the KKK.
The Mother of All Rallies was what we expected. Organizers predicted millions. Cops were thinking 5,000 attendees. It was less than that. Much less. We witnessed around 300 people. Others estimated a thousand. Either way, it was much quieter and much less populated than the Juggalo March. The disheartening reality of 2017 is it attracted the most mentions. We checked cable news following ICP’s address to the Juggalos. Cable news was not covering the Juggalos. Cable news was covering the Mother of All Rallies.
While it makes sense major news networks don’t want to try to figure out why people that live around the poverty line embrace their economic realities, it’s disappointing. The Juggalos aren’t just Trump supporters or Bernie Bros. They’re not the alt-right or Antifa. They’re compromised of the disenfranchised. Every race, every age, every sexual preference, etc. Their common refrain is ‘Family’ because that’s what they’ve found in the music of ICP. It’s that simple. We saw Trump supporters at the Juggalo March. We saw free speech advocates at the Juggalo March. We saw Bernie Bros at the Juggalo March. Who else is uniting these disparate groups? Shouldn’t that be celebrated? That is not a joke. Just because the people speaking are wearing clown makeup doesn’t make their concerns a joke. Well, it is a joke. But they’re in on the joke. It’s all a joke. They’re making the best of a bad situation. They’re actually punk rock. They’re actually DIY. They’re actually challenging the FBI in front the Lincoln Memorial. They’re actually telling everyone that attended they’re so good and awesome that they should go to the nearest port-o-pottie and/or tree and try to auto-fellate. Who else in Washington says that? Other than Anthony Scaramucci, who else in Washington says that?
The biggest difference between the Juggalo March and the Mother of All Rallies was the message to the media. At Trump rallies, “Fake news!” is chanted at media. At the Juggalo March, “Thank you!” was chanted at media. Violent J demanded the crowd shout thanks to the media and allies of the band that do not know or care for the band’s music. It was one of the most beautiful things we saw on Saturday.
The most beautiful thing on Saturday in downtown D.C. was the Fiesta DC parade. We thought streets were shut down due to the marches. We were ignorant to the 46 year old tradition. Constitution Avenue from 7th to 14th was full of parade marchers and viewers celebrating Latino culture. The Parade of Nations showcased Native Latino cultural dance troupes, local groups, little kids and DJs that never pass up a chance to promote.
The Fiesta DC parade was the best thing about Saturday. People gathered for good reason. The music was inclusive. All ages attended. It may not have been seen on television or garnered as many likes on Instagram, but it was just as relevant, if not more, than the Juggalo March, Mother of All Rallies or Arcade Fire concert. It’s the kind of event U2 would have loved.