I batted around the idea of going to Arcade Fire and Calexico for several weeks before deciding I wouldn’t go. The main reason this was even in question is that no one else I knew was going and I think that going to shows alone is like going to movies alone: sad. Other than that there’s also my unease with concerts in general and my mild hatred of stadium concerts (until now).

I ended up going to the show because Leanne had a coworker who bought tickets and couldn’t make it. She sold us these tickets for $30 and then $40 each (she changed her mind about their value, gah) which, given that they were decent seats and the day before seems reasonable to me. Admittedly, I have no idea how such things really work. I could have gotten the best deal in the world or the chick could have totally robbed us (though this seems absurdly unlikely) and I would only know what my deduction tells me. My deduction tells me that if they were decent seats and sold the day before, with a little effort and timing they probably could have been sold to some last minute hopeful for something like double their value (which I assume is around the $55 listed ticket price, though there’s a range).

ANYWAYS… we ended up going. And although sitting down at a rock concert felt weird, we sat for most of Calexico’s soothing mariachi music and it was nice. They also had way better T-shirts than Aracade Fire did.


Although I don’t feel very comfortable writing a music review in general, I should say that Calexico is a band I know from Kenton’s dad (sort of a musical Oracle of Delphi but in the guise of a bear-like teacher man). They are pretty mellow and I like the Mexican influence. Listening to them, I found myself thinking of Sergio Leone films and The Dark Tower. Some of their stuff is a bit too George Strait for me, but the best stuff sounds new and unlikely for its blend of ethnic flavor and folk assurance.

Now I have this love/hate relationship with concerts precisely because I find them exhausting. You stand around for two+ hours listening to some live music which is great because I love live music, but at the same time you have to deal with the other people. This can be rather exhausting if not infuriating in its own right. Then on top of all of that there’s my biggest pet peeve with concerts: the encore. I simply do not get why this probably once novel ritual has become sort of an arbitrary foregone conclusion. It doesn’t feel natural and organic ever, it’s always expected. It’s my least favorite part of shows by far, but every now and then it can be sublime. This is where the love comes in. There’s nothing quite like hearing a band play exactly the song(s) you’d always wished to hear them play should you ever see them live. The way this can be structured might seem like providence, as it did once for me with Born Ruffians (their encore featured my two favorite songs of theirs and rocked my socks) and again with Arcade Fire. So while I don’t think I’d ever do it personally, I understand why people stealing setlists has become such a thing.

Arcade Fire is a big band. They play big music. I thought, from my vantage point to the right of the stage and about halfway up the seats, that I would be too far away to really get anything out of their stage presence. But I was wrong. That, and you couldn’t just sit down for them like you could, and really everybody there did, for Calexico.

What sort of cemented the night for me, and really set the tone for the rest of the show, was that Arcade Fire opened so big. They opened with Wake Up, my favorite song of theirs since first hearing a version of it featured in the trailers for Where the Wild Things Are. I associate that song with energy and optimism, even though it is kind of sad. I used to run to it at the PAC and have put it back on rotation for my exercise playlist. I had told Leanne earlier that hearing this song live, seeing them perform it, would be worth the $40. And it was. Words don’t really do it, so I’m not even going to try to describe it.

The rest of the show was perfectly awesome even if it didn’t quite reach that level again (though it came close, most especially when they performed Neighborhood #3 (Power Out), another song I had hoped to hear them perform. Aside from this, they mostly stuck with the new album which (contrary to popular opinion among my friends) is really fucking good. I’ve been listening to it quite a bit since it came out and would have to say Suburban War is my favorite track.

At the end of the show, there was the obligatory encore but I was carried away by this point. Various times during their performance, I’d look around and see the stands full and the floor hopping with people. I’d been to a couple of stadium concerts before and this element of presence not just of the band (Metric was great at Jingle Bell Rock 2008) but of the people in the audience. There were very few kids, for instance, which made a big difference.

One of the peculiar things about this for me was how much more intimate it was than even other shows I’d been to at far smaller, more conventionally “intimate” venues. I’ve been to many shows at Amigos and several at Louis’, two small bars in Saskatoon that frequently host bands. At those shows, pressed in amongst other people, you spend some time thinking about how sweaty you are, that asshole’s elbow in your back, the way the tall person in front of you keeps obstructing your view, etc. Even though there were thousands more people at Arcade Fire, I was able to concentrate far better on the music itself and on the performers.

Which is awesome. From throwing tambourines and drumsticks to cavorting around like madmen, Arcade Fire put on a ferociously energetic show. An especial favorite was one of the violin/fiddler? girls who played that shit like she was Jimmy Hendrix. Had major spunk, that one did, but everyone was fun to watch. Almost as fun as to listen to.

Of course, the drunken attention whoring kids who rode the shuttle back downtown after the show took some of the sparkle off. So I clutched my wicked Calexico death mask t-shirt closer and tried my hardest to eat Leanne’s hair.

It was a good night.