David Byrne & Win Butler: "How Music Works" Ukrainian Federation, Montreal, QC, September 22
Published Sep 23, 2012After David Byrne's enthralling performance with St. Vincent the night before and the promise of intriguing insight in his new McSweeney's book, How Music Works, the Mile End venue Ukrainian Federation was expectedly packed to hear him and Win Butler of the Arcade Fire discuss the dauntingly broad subject proposed by the title.
We got some glances into the two iconic musicians' perspectives of how music performance works, from what you wear on stage to how you interact with audiences when things are going right — and, especially, when things aren't going so well. But what we didn't get was any deep insight into the topics covered in Byrne's book, or any real concentrated delving into the topics on which this event was promoted.
Butler and Byrne exchanged some jokes not unlike any two people who have been working in the same industry for a long time, which was at once humanizing, enlightening and disenchanting for we who know and admire them as fans and concertgoers. As things seemed to go off track, while the two discussed things like religious ceremonies and the Haitian Carnival tradition in thin connection to rock performances, it seemed that moderator and local blogger Sean Michaels could have done more to keep the conversation on track. Trying to cover such a broad topic in such a limited time is inevitably difficult, and thus demands focused moderation in order to get into the complexities of the experience and business of music that people were most interested to hear about.
The Q&A period was unfortunately brief and much of it wasted on rambling questions that weren't really questions, ending the evening on an awkward note as the Byrne, Butler and the moderator squandered minutes trying to figure out what one attendee was trying to ask (she didn't really seem to know). It's an easy mistake to make — it's obviously nerve-wracking to be faced with an opportunity to ask two musicians of such stature any question you want. But they would have done well to take a couple more questions to finish off the event with some coherence and closure.
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