Reporting Scott T. Sterling
When Arcade Fire speaks, people listen.
Such was the case this week when the Canadian-rockers-that-could asked fans lucky enough to win tickets to their “surprise” Reflektor release party in Hollywood last night (Oct. 29) to come dressed as “a Reflektor” (complete with a Pinterest page for inspiration). The results ranged from outfits made of compact discs to homemade takes on the diamond-shaped Reflektor logo, the crowd going above and beyond to support the band’s latest disco-at-Haitian-Carnival direction.
That enthusiasm wasn’t even dulled by the webcasted event (part of MTV Iggy and Intel’s Music Experiment 2.0 series) being held in the heart of Hollywood next to the iconic Capitol Records Building during rush hour, creating a crush of humanity so thick that the city was forced to shut down streets like Vine and Argyle to accommodate the not-so-secret show, particularly after details were revealed earlier in the week. More than 2000 fans packed into a converted parking lot to find a makeshift stage atop a small building in the lot, festooned with long plumes of silver streamers and two massive banks of speakers blasting Haitian dance music before showtime.
When the band launched into Reflektor‘s title track to open the show, all of that excitement wasn’t enough to transcend the flawed logistics. They were perched so high, most of the crowd could only see the top of frontman Win Butler‘s head and the occasional glimpse of singer Regine Chassagne‘s waving hand.
The further one stood away from the stage, the better chance there was of actually seeing the band perform. Some concertgoers went all the way into the porta-potty area in hopes of a clearer sightline. The best views seemed to belong to those able to watch the show from the upper floors of the Redbury Hotel and Avalon nightclub across the street. Resourceful fans unable to score tickets ended up getting some of the best views simply by standing along the closed section of Vine Street.
Huge video cameras loomed over the crowd, capturing the show for a live webcast via the Music Experiment, which for a time was shown on a large screen in tent belonging to sponsor Intel. A gaggle of fans clustered around the screen to see what was happening up on the roof. It’s a funny sight to consider in the context of what Reflektor, namely the title track, gets at; fans at an Arcade Fire show were “staring at a screen” instead of the real thing.
Still, Arcade Fire cruised through Reflektor highlights like “Flashbulb Eyes” and “Afterlife,” which they dedicated to the late Lou Reed (they later played a snippet of his “Satellite of Love”). The band sounded fiery and inspired, the new album’s rhythmic edge turning the parking lot below them into a raucous dance party for diehard fans who seemed happy to just revel in it all on release day.
“I hope you didn’t have to jump through too many hoops to get here,” Win joked from the stage. “Although I know you did, so thank you.”
Still, there were lots of sad-looking silver-painted faces wandering the periphery of the crowd, vainly searching for a spot to watch the band play, not content to simply dance to the music blasting at them from those two massive speakers against the side of a building.
Ultimately, it was hard not to feel like a prop in a flashy promotional event, watching the band of the moment celebrate a career milestone, take another step towards world domination and record what will surely be a killer concert film, all from a distance.