Win Butler of Arcade Fire discussed the mystery-laden campaign leading up to the band’s latest album Reflektor with the BBC, revealing that he wanted fans to experience the album “as an event” akin to when Michael’s Jackson’s video for “Thriller” came out.
Well, Arcade Fire are going a little bit further to inorganically push that feeling on the audience by issuing a dress code for their North American tour. As Stereogum points out, the “Please Note” section of the purchasing page on Ticketmaster reads “NIGHT OF SHOW: Please wear formal attire or costume.”
Hey Arcade Fire, shut up! We understand the desire to control the atmosphere and achieve the desired effect, but just get on with it. Oh sure, people have done it before. LCD Soundsystem kindly asked patrons of their last Madison Square Garden show to wear all white, but that’s because it was their last show! You know, like a notable event instead of just another stop on the tour, as Megan Wiegrand, writing for Slate, observes:
And that’s the thing: For most of us, formal attire is reserved for weddings or special nights out. Trying to force otherwise ordinary rock shows into the special category strikes me as presumptuous—an attempt to reinforce the band’s status as capital-A Artists. But Arcade Fire is no longer an indie darling playing intimate general-admission venues: They’re releasing albums that top pop charts and playing arenas named for the likes of Verizon, Pepsi, and Comcast. Asking attendees to dress up might seem to restore an air of specialness to unspecial tour stops at unspecial concrete behemoths that double as ice rinks and basketball courts—but nothing about a routine date in an arena decked out in corporate branding is arty. And demanding that fans old and young scale many flights of steep stairs in ball gowns only to sit in seats possibly soaked with overpriced Bud Light from last night’s hockey game seems less than thoughtful.
Butler and company are known for their earnestness and onstage theatrics—qualities I’ve appreciated in their songs and in live shows at venues both large and small. Nowadays, the band can afford to alienate some fans with requests like their costume mandate—but that doesn’t mean they should. If their music and live shows are good enough, they don’t need fans to play dress-up to make them memorable. And although the dress code surely won’t be enforced (I’d love to see ticket-takers try to turn away attendees whose outfits don’t meet the band’s guidelines for “formal”), it’s still a poor way to repay people for supporting the band’s music.
Simply put, Reflektor is a good album, but it doesn’t warrant this level of pretension. Win Butler addressed complaints at Arcade Fire’s recent London show, via NME:
Afterwards, Win Butler addressed the fact that the audience had, at fairly short notice, been told that “formal wear or fancy dress” was mandatory for the performance. In response, the crowd was full of people in suits, dinner jackets, masks and even full costume, despite some grumbling on Twitter earlier in the day. “To anyone who felt uncomfortable dressing up – I’m not sorry,” said Butler. “At least 70 percent of you are getting laid tonight… As long as you showered. That’s the secret. Boys.”
So, Win Butler has just been trying to get dudes laid this whole time like some indie ladies man?
Check out Arcade Fire performing “Afterlife” on the German show Circus Halligalli below: