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Why You Should Go See Arcade Fire at Jazz Fest

If you don’t listen to satellite radio, pour through music magazines or go blogosphere-mining on a regular basis, you may possibly have missed Arcade Fire until now.

Arcade Fire: A don’t-miss act Friday at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (photo Anton Corbijn/

I had multiple friends ask me, when the Jazz Fest 2011 lineup first came out, “So, Who is this Arcade Fire band?” I can only imagine the confusion the older members of the Jazz Fest crowd must have felt to discover Arcade Fire listed first on the Jazz Fest list of artists.

Let me explain why you should get out there (early) for the band’s increasingly anticipated headlining Jazz Fest set at 5:35 p.m. Friday at the Acura Stage.

Ever since 2004′s ambitious debutFuneral, Arcade Fire has been organically establishing a reputation similar to the one Radiohead carries as a band that reinvents the wheel every time members go into the studio to make a record. If you need affirmation of such a lofty comparison, check out AF’s three records, Funeral (2004), Neon Bible (2007 – personal favorite) and The Suburbs (2010), and try to appreciate how each etches out a mini-genre within itself, creating something never pressed to vinyl, put down on analog tape or downloaded onto a studio hard drive.

Hugely successful, world wary (“Businessmen, they drink my blood/Like the kids in art school said they would”) without being overly ’90s-jaded and whiny, Arcade Fire is a once-in-a-generation band. The songs are cerebral yet inclusive of the everyman, brooding and intense, and undoubtedly tailor-made for the humungous festival stages that can swallow bands wielding smaller sounds and fewer eccentricities.

Although the arena rock largesse and intensity of artists like U2 and Bruce Springsteen are often mentioned in concert with a listening of the radio-friendly “Keep The Car Running” (a song The Boss himself has covered) or the coming-of-age epic “Wake Up,” such comparisons miss the mark when one reads between the lines and delves deeper into the catalogue. From Funeral to Suburbs, the songs have become less go-for-broke-intense and more nostalgic, sentimental and mature, yet still maintain a wonderful and cathartic power.

Certainly the lyrical transformation is to be expected of a band no longer singing for its supper. After three astonishing albums (although The Suburbs falls slightly short of the majesty of the first two), it seems like this band will be the creative, artsy kids at such events as the Grammys, Saturday Night Live and major festivals worldwide for as long as they wish (although lead singer Win Butler mentioned in an interview last year that he can’t picture himself doing this in 10 years).

Plus, there is a lot to like about these guys as people. The band donated $1 million to Haiti relief after last year’s devastating earthquake.

One thing is certain about May 6th at Jazz Fest:
Although it’s seen just about everything in 42 years, the Fair Grounds hasn’t played host to any group quite like Arcade Fire.

Essential Tracks: Wake Up, Neighborhood #3 (Power Out), Keep The Car Running, No Cars Go, Ocean of Noise, My Body Is A Cage, Suburban War, and Ready To Start.

Wake Up

Keep The Car Running, Live at Madison Square Garden

Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) – Live
“an interesting instrumentation and an interesting configuration”

Ocean of Noise (Music Video)

Ready To Start

My Body Is A Cage


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