Though it wasn’t easy cheating on CMJ for a spell to catch Arcade Fire take back the Reflektor night with two pop-up warehouse shows in Brooklyn, the indie royalty brigade cum impending arena stars might as well have been part of the festival anyway, as the band continue to roll out teases of their follow up to the creative death that happens in American Suburbs to a record and ethos that seems to be falling in love with music and art again.
You’ve probably read on the Google by now that the first of the two shows, as with their first unveiling in Montreal, was stocked with many a trick based on the proximity of Halloween and Win Butler’s fascination with Thriller as a kid. “Formal attire or costume mandatory” read the tickets. And the band hired face painters to lacquer fans with Bowie eye stripes if directions were failed to be followed. While skeleton masks were handed out closer to doors, as well. Most people dressed the part, from penguin suits to turtle. Butler would thank everyone for that later.
Butler did much thanking, actually – to the actual humans that evaded scalpers, for the crowd’s ability to take a joke, etc. That is after James Murphy (Reflektor‘s knob-twiddler) pulled a switcheroo on the 3000-capped crowd, introducing only three bobble-head Arcade Fire members as they played some ramshackle distortion jam until confusion reached mayhem when a curtain on the other side of the room whipped open and the funk synchopations of Reflektor‘s title track exploded from the actual band, Butler still referring to themselves as The Reflektors while jumping up on a PA in a white suit and raccoon eye paint to thousand-yard stare the first line of the band’s new yang: [LISTEN]
As the record’s first single, and the opening track of the night, once you could stand on sturdy ground again from the crowd bum rush that happened, you could see plainly while Butler shared harmonies with his wife, Régine Chassagne, the connection reflection wordplay was earnest, and the 8:00 jam that unfurled is their way of remembering the values they started with way back when on Funeral, challenging twenty-something mortality and continuing that conversation while on the mantle of the fake horrid light of the world stage. The only thing missing was Bowie on backup vocals completing the circle of relevant rock.
It’s true – also something you’ve probably read on the Google – that the tracks that followed in the consecutive hour-and-a-half are better than that of their Funeral brethren, the SNL trio “Here Comes the Night Time,” “We Exist” and “Normal Person” strung together with all the shades of Talking Heads, LCD Soundsystem and Bowie sonics we’ve heard like a quotable reaffirmation of what’s real to them. Though The Reflektors ‘covered’ “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” for kicks, inciting a mass sing-along to the militant light and energy metaphors that started it all: [LISTEN]
It wasn’t always gospel, though. The concrete walls of the warehouse muddled the opening a cappella free verse rant of new jam “Afterlife,” so the effect was lost there. Likewise with “Joan of Arc,” its thundering bass and drum fits making Butler virtually inaudible. But the moments did therefore fit in with the disorienting feedback and dozen musician cacophony that is the band’s charm, reinforced as medleys in between songs. And by the time it all fed into “Here Comes the Night Time” to close the evening out, fans in various animal suits and fishnet stockings mimicking the congo lines of the SNL featurette, cut clean with the echoing calypso synth strides of its final verse, the message was already written on the wall – this is their new definition of real honest rock, same as the old one without the gatekeepers: [LISTEN]
Meanwhile, like we said, we didn’t cheat on CMJ for the whole night, we were able to bounce to The Mercury Lounge to catch London’s resident early 90s fuzz wielders, Yuck for a beautifully swathy garage rock cover of New Order‘s “Age of Consent,” guitarist Max Bloom still pulling his vocal weight from the hole left from former singer Daniel Blumburg’s exit and super heart-on-sleeve single, “Georgia,” and its narrator’s unrequited love for a girl with the same name as that peachy state. And brat-pop LA outfit Holychild surprised in spades with some sexy Sleigh Bells meets Passion Pit talk-funk about being a “pleasure girl.” At least that’s what we wanted to hear.
Catch y’all with Day Three finds.