Feed on

after 23.9 years, i’m ready to blow this popsicle stand. i saw the arcade fire live in concert this week and i can now die happy.

[if you've never heard of the arcade fire, be like ex-lax and perform this smooth move: go to the library and take out their albums. or buy them if you're the kind of person who gets a W4. either way, listen to the colorful things critics say:

It’s likely to incite reams of journalistic hyperbole, but, fundamentally, The Arcade Fire have recorded a great f*cking album that will piss on most other releases this year. “Funeral” is the sort of perfectly-realised record you’d hope from a band at the top of their game. For a debut release it’s unmatched in recent years. Hearing it is to wake from a black and white slumber and to view the world in widescreen Technicolour.

now flashback to tuesday. christina, jesse, and i hop into the car and take the best kind of roadtrip: the one that starts at 1 in the afternoon in the middle of the workweek. i think it's fair to say my favorite place to visit in boston is the outgoing freeway.

four hours later, we arrive at the united palace theater, a startlingly well-preserved performance hall / evangelical church in washington heights on manhattan. staring down like an exquisite stone cheese-grater, its enormous facade stood in sharp contrast to the midday fruit stands and tiny bodegas across the street.

united palace theater

with two hours to go before the concert, we made the most of being back in our melting pot of a hometown: we had chicken and rice and fried plantains for dinner.

chicken and rice and plantains

bellies full, we soon found the united palace to be like the stereotypical mit student: more beautiful on the inside than the outside. it was as if someone had placed a time machine on grungy 175th street and broadway that led to a resplendent 16th century turkish palace. i took all the adorable indie rock kids with their tight tight jeans to be the eunuchs.

united palace theater

united palace theater

our seats were excruciatingly good. fourth row orchestra, center. in fact, they were within the seating range that a fellow on craigslist had been willing to trade 2 acres of farmland near the jersey shore for. no joke!

needless to say, being that close meant taking pictures was easy:

arcade fire

but, after the first song, something magical happened. lead singer win butler screams, "what are you guys doing standing there? this isn't the theater or something. come closer!" confused (i thought this was a theater?) but swept along by the crowd, christina and i suddenly found ourselves about 2 feet from the stage.

holy shit, win butler's spittle is landing on me!

arcade fire united palace theater

and look, there's the awesome guy (rich parry) who looks like napolean dynamite!

arcade fire united palace theater

i love how intense he is. see rich parry wail on his drum:

arcade fire united palace theater

then, something profoundly uncool happens. a security guard comes out of nowhere and says, "give me your film!" he claims that it's prohibited to use "professional cameras" (i had my nikon dslr) in the theater and that he'd have to confiscate my film. i'm shocked and horrified - the thought of losing my beloved photos knocks the wind out of me. short and stocky, the guard is also quite rude: he swears at christina when she tries to intervene.

i plead, "i promise i'll stop taking photos. just let me keep my film."

he snorts, "fine you'll have to leave the theater."

i call his bluff. "alright, i'd rather leave than lose my film."

"well, then you'll have to pay a $5000 copyright infringement penalty."

of course, no signs advertising this were posted in the theater and a guard i had asked earlier said there were no restrictions on photos. in fact, the very guard hassling me had seen me taking pictures earlier and hadn't said anything.

perhaps the only thing more insane than how unfair the situation strikes me, is the sleight of hand i'm trying to pull behind my back. having taken my camera everywhere with me for 18 months now, i can now pretty much use it in my sleep; this turns out to be eminently useful as i open my memory housing and remove my memory card with my thumb and forefinger.

my card is now in my butt pocket.

he challenges, "do you have a photo pass? if not, you can't use that camera!"

"ok, ok, i've got a press pass. it's in my girlfriend's bag! let me find it!"

i thrash wildly through christina's bag, looking for her camera. quickly, i slide out its memory card, remembering i had already downloaded its most recent photos.

"here, i give up. just take the card! let me just enjoy the rest of the show."

"what, do you think i'm stupid? you just took that card out of the bag! let me see your camera - i want to see that the memory slot is empty ..."

i think to myself, "sweet jeebus - this might actually work!"

i show him the empty camera. amazingly, he's convinced - the guard finally leaves me alone and disappears back into a throng of fans. although not after he takes my battery for good measure, promising to return it at night's end. [in the process, my battery cover is actually broken off of my camera. sucks.]

[nota bene: turns out what the guard did was illegal. seizing any of a photographer's possessions without a court order is tantamount to theft. using threats is coercion. if you ever find yourself in this situation and want to take a stand (and don't mind ruining your concert experience), tell the guard to let you go or call the police. offer to even do it yourself. security can make you leave, but they can't touch your possessions. of course, IANAL - but bert krages is. having read this document, i've already penned a letter of complaint to the concert organizer.]

having appeased the guard, i did my best to enjoy the rest of the concert. luckily, that wasn’t so hard. at all.

cue the encore song “wake up”: win butler cries “get up here everyone!” immediately, dozens of fans dart around the security guards and climb on stage. christina gives the guard who accosted me an NFL-caliber 360-spin move and prances right next to win butler. i follow and soon find myself right next to them both. christina is busy reaching down to grab a setlist. suddenly, we’re all singing and jumping and dancing on stage with the arcade fire. i look around and see i’m surrounded by “can this really be happening? / my head is going to explode” faces. it was sublime.

and then it hits me. i’m actually glad i’ve had my camera disabled. as much as i love taking photos, a good deal of my photography is based purely on compulsion: i’m a slave to my camera.  thus, many of what should be my best memories are really committed from the viewpoint of a squinted eye looking through a slightly cloudy piece of glass. for instance, take a look at this photo – i never actually saw lance armstrong, although i was right there next to him. i was too busy looking at my camera.

this time, however, i saw everything with both of my eyes wide-open. and therefore, i’d like to think i remember much more: how the floor shook from hundreds of people bouncing off one another; how dusty the air on stage was; the perfect euphoria of my little duet with win butler; looking at christina and then both of us staring up with crazed disbelief at the hundreds of people in the balcony screaming down to us.

so losing use of my camera, just this once, wasn’t so bad. besides, there’s always the internet and other fans’ cameras:

win butler on stage
[christina hiding below win butler's chin]

arcade fire from balcony

[i'm in gray; christina rejoices after finally finding a setlist.]

and fine, hypocrite that i am, i did eventually give in. i stuck my hidden memory card into chris’ camera, and snapped some photos later on during the song.

william butler?

arcade fire onstage

arcade fire onstage

arcade fire view of balcony

thank you arcade fire for a mind-blowing concert – goodnight!

[update: check out video here!]

Bookmark and Share

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply