The Globe discovers fire

Arcade Fire at Bluesfest in Ottawa, 2010.

Arcade Fire at Bluesfest in Ottawa, 2010.

A couple years back, it seemed our national paper, the Globe and Mail, was a little late on the whole Facebook trend. Kind of like a parent suddenly realizing what the kids were into and wanting to appear “cool”, the paper started dropping the Facebook lingo and reporting on this new phenomenon. For university students that had this entire sphere of discussion unto themselves, the cool factor started to fall off as soon as their parents joined in and became “friends”.

After arriving late for Facebook, the Globe would not make the same mistake with Twitter and began relentless coverage of this new platform for communication. Articles, features, op-eds and social media columnists gave this insight and words like “tweet” or “tweeting” entered the lexicon with a wink and a nod saying that the Globe is hip with today’s culture.

I was reading our national paper the other day and I saw this love letter to the Arcade Fire. Entitled “Why we love the Arcade Fire”, the article reviewed the band’s recent concert in Toronto before listing off reasons to love the recent chart toppers. The article falls in line with several reports on the band including a feature before the album release, a review, and an editorial last Saturday again flush with praise.

None of the above is meant to denigrate the Globe – I’ve been a subscriber for a while and will likely continue on next year – but I wonder which way things will go with one of my favourite bands. Sometimes an indie group is like your own little treasure, you may want to share a little of it, but you don’t want to let go of the entire thing. Many fans (present company included) have often criticized bands for getting too big and losing touch with their roots.

Although it sounds like there is a small rumble in the Arcade Fire’s base over this issue, after seeing them in concert and hearing their new album, I am not convinced their creativity will be extinguished any time soon [Enough with the fire metaphors!] Cool and exclusive are not necessarily correlated.

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The above post was written as an excuse to put up another photo I took of Arcade Fire at Ottawa’s Bluesfest in July.

[Insert clever Arcade Fire pun]

Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire at Bluesfest in Ottawa, 2010.

Today, the Arcade Fire released their latest album “The Suburbs” and the critics appear to be pleased. The indie elites at Pitchfork gave it an 8.6, Rolling Stone 4/5, the Globe a 3.5/5 and the Toronto Star 3/4.

I have been a fan of this band for a long time. They were one of those groups I stumbled upon in university and their songs garnered tremendous airplay on my own playlists since then. Unfortunately, I had never seen them in concert and they earned a privileged spot in my list of groups I have always wanted to see live (Radiohead still stands on the top).

Although beautiful, Arcade Fire’s music is somewhat dark, intense and complicated. Despite hearing good things about their concerts, I was always worried that they would come across as aloof and pretentious on stage. I could not have been more wrong.

About three weeks ago, the band came and played at Ottawa’s Bluesfest music festival. It was one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time. They seemed so confident and genuinely happy. Full of life and eager to please the crowd. Aloof and pretentious? After the show, members of the band came and jammed with a couple kids who they later invited to the Osheaga festival in Montreal.

The above photo is of the band at Ottawa’s Bluesfest. Oh, and for what it’s worth, as I listen to their new album for the second time, this humble scribe would like to give The Suburbs a 4/5.

Catalonia

Barcelona Street

Barcelona Street

I was reading the Globe and Mail this morning and this story caught my eye: “Bullfighting ban in Catalonia seen by some as anti-Spanish“. According to the article, officials in Catalonia have halted bullfighting across their state and some view this as an affront to Spanish culture. However, after travelling to this region, this story did not come as a surprise.

The Catalans are a pretty independent people it seems. Sure, this has not necessarily taken on the violent nature of some Basque elements, but there definitely is a nationalism that runs through Catalonia. I experienced this in 2008 when I went to Barcelona (and hence the above photo). To begin with, I was surprised by the extent of the use of the Catalan language in the city – it comes first on the signage and a few simple Catalan expressions from a tourist can garner a free glass of wine. Beyond that, Catalan flags flutter across the city.

I sat down and spoke with the owner of our hostel (Mambo Tango, I think it was called) about the Catalan culture and he bristled when I brought up bullfighting, noting that that was a Spanish custom and not Catalan.

Of course, the Catalans are not necessarily afraid of dangerous pursuits. Said hostel owner quite excitedly showed me a video of the gigantic human pyramids they make, culminating with a child climbing to the very top. One of the problems with these pyramids is they tend to collapse and people fall on each other. My Catalan friend disappointedly sighed that children were now required by law to wear helmets.

It’s no bullfighting, but still…