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The Arcade Fire Redraws The Map

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 27, 2005 3:13PM

There are turning points in every band’s career. Unlike the flashy moments that make for signposts in a Behind The Music episode, these are often financial and/or artistic decisions that determine whether artists continue to enjoy the comfort of being a big fish in a small pond or take a shot at widespread acclaim. While many bands have one or two of these moments in their career, the 2005_09_27_arcadefire.jpgArcade Fire’s brief career has been full of them.

With the recent ascendancy of several Canadian indie rock artists, it’s clear that the Arcade Fire’s “Funeral” album would have achieved at least some notoriety in the kinds of music magazines that are more likely to be stocked by Reckless Records than Borders. But thanks to a rating of 9.7 by Pitchfork—the indie equivalent of a papal blessing—the band found a notoriety most bands need a few years of road work to achieve. The Pitchfork review helped cement the website’s status as tastemaker and few writers resisted the urge to mention one without the other.

In an interview from February of this year, both Pitchfork and the Arcade Fire complained about their constant association in the mainstream press. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise when the band declined the site’s invitation to play this year’s Intonation Festival in favor of a slot at Lollapalooza.

Putting to rest complaints that the band couldn’t duplicate the power of their intimate live sets, the fervor and excitement Arcade Fire brought to the stage made their appearance one of the highlights of the weekend.

Their energy onstage would soon be matched by their amibitous efforts offstage. Recently, the band has played other high-profile gigs at Austin City Limits and KROQ’s Weenie Roast, dueted onstage with David Bowie, and even agreed to serve as opener for U2 on a few dates when the tour swings through Canada. It’s a stunning change when you consider this is the same band that was playing the Empty Bottle barely a year ago and returns to Chicago tomorrow for a sold-out performance at the Riviera.

Surprisingly, Arcade Fire has avoided the usual backlash whenever artists make efforts to expand their audience and/or sound. Of course, they still need to get over the hurdle of releasing their second full-length album. Until then, Arcade Fire looks to continue its quick but steady climb into the public’s collective consciousness. Can a spot on the next O.C. Mix be far behind?