Canada's Arcade Fire wrap up American tour in Boston

by Lindsay Barnes | 2/3/05 6:00am

Yes, it's wrong to stereotype, but goshdarnit, Canadians are such nice folks! They've contributed so much to American culture for so long (Dan Aykroyd, four-fifths of The Band, Molson, numerous cold fronts, the list goes on) that it's a wonder one nation could be so generous. What's more, now that a mad scramble for American dollars has strangled the life out of Canada's most revered institution, the National Hockey League, our neighbors to the north have not only turned the other cheek, they've sent us yet another gift for our entertainment.

Meet the Arcade Fire, the best thing to come out of Montreal since Les Expos became the Washington Nationals. Hot off of two shows in New York and a rousing performance on NBC's "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," they conclude their American tour tonight at Boston's Roxy. It's safe to say that no indie band's debut album has been so universally acclaimed by critics as their "Funeral" was in 2004. It placed on numerous best albums lists, including those of the New York Times and Rolling Stone, and earned the title of Best Album of 2004 from both Pitchfork Media and the Associated Press -- no small feat for a band that is only in its second year of existence. In this case, the clich "overnight success" really does apply.

In the summer of 2003, Win Butler spotted Regine Chassagne at Montreal's Concordia University singing jazz standards at a local art exhibit. The two became instantly inseparable on both musical and personal levels. The duo proved to be a prolific songwriting team and by the time the summer was over, they had a full album's worth of material. Before you can say "Allez les Habitants!" the pair had formed Montreal's most buzzworthy band, entering the studio with ten other multi-instrumentalists in tow to record their first LP, right after Butler and Chassagne were married in August.

As soon as it looked like nothing was going to slow the momentum of the project, tragedy struck the Arcade Fire from multiple angles. While Chassagne was still working through issues surrounding the death of her grandmother who had passed months prior, Butler's grandfather Alvino Rey died in March of 2004, as did member Richard Perry's aunt one month later. Difficult as it was for the band, it only seemed to fuel the Fire from a musical standpoint. With the album nearly complete, the group was signed to indie label Merge Records in May and "Funeral" hit record stores in September.

The group's sound has been compared to those of indie rock's most enduring legends, including Talking Heads, Roxy Music and the Pixies. But the Arcade Fire is hardly imitating the indie rock canon. Most members of the group play at least three different instruments, making for what can be modestly described as full sound that incorporates such unconventional rock instruments as viola, flute and accordion.

It's an eclectic sound that will continue to ring throughout the indie rock community into at least the immediate future. The group has already been signed up to play alongside the likes of Coldplay, Weezer, Wilco and Nine Inch Nails at this spring's 2005 Coachella Valley Music Festival in California.

Indeed, the future of indie rock may lie just a few hours down I-93 tonight in an intimate club setting. Catch them now, or else you might next see them on the cover of Spin or onstage at "The O.C.'s" Bait Shop, while you kick yourself saying, "I almost saw them when."