The Arcade Fire / Jon-Rae and the River Punchclock Screen Printing Studio, Toronto ON - March 3, 2004
Published Apr 01, 2004Once in a while you get a little shove from life that reminds you what you love and why. In this case, the set-up practically forces a special occasion: the Arcade Fire win the Galaxie Rising Stars award at Canadian Music Week right after learning that their musical grandfather, Alvino Rey, passed away the week before. While travelling to his funeral in Salt Lake City, en route to San Francisco, the band stopped in Toronto to accept their award, play two songs and scamper off to the basement of a studio building to play an unpublicised impromptu show for a small group of people who heard by word of mouth. Each attendee was mysteriously asked to bring a flashlight and wear black. To begin, the huddled few loosened up with a set from lo-fi country rock man and recent Vancouver transplant Jon-Rae. The man and his band stood all in black, grinning at each other between alternately teary-eyed and joyous rambling ballads. By now, it was impossible not to feel right. Despite the tiny sound system not meant for this sort of work, the Arcade Fire rang through loud and clear with a crispness you'd have to attribute to their crazy amount of talent. Bands and moments like these are not born often. Sailing through song after song of pure orchestral pop bliss, the keyboards shone and vocal notes were held up high and perfect, deep and solid. The flashlights suddenly made sense when the group of 50 or so crowd members switched them on to create their own light show sometimes floating and pausing, at other times frantically zipping across chests, heads and hands to the beat of the song. At the midway point, a surprise was revealed. Rolled up and attached to the ceiling were gorgeous hand-cut, painted stencils that, with the pull of a ribbon, unfurled to reach the ground, creating a thin wall between audience and band with a series of spaces to see clearly through, and to shine light on. Eventually front-man Win Butler burst through the paper to join in the celebration and it all came toppling down.