While most students spent the days leading up to fall break locked down in Olin or SciLi scrambling to finish papers and studying, I spent my time monitoring websites in an attempt to deduce the location of a secret Arcade Fire show, set to take place in Brooklyn on Friday, Oct. 18. The show eventually went public, although the band performed under the moniker of The Reflektors. I was one of 3,000 fans lucky enough to snatch up a ticket to the intimate performance scheduled to take place just over a week before the release of the group’s new album, Reflektor.
Besides possessing a ticket, in order to gain access fans were required to wear either a costume or formal attire, and face painters scanned the lines to give any patron a quick makeover to fit the bill for those who missed the memo. Located at 299 Meserole St., the venue was a large warehouse typically used for art installations and other small presentational pieces, surrounded by strange graffiti and a small locksmith business across the street. Once inside, I was greeted with a bar, a merch table, and an abandoned warehouse completely refurbished with disco balls and metallic decorations out of a disco club circa 1980.
The stage itself was oddly sparse. One drum set, two guitars, three microphones, and a couple of small amps were all that sat on the stage aside from two small plants brought on shortly before the show started. I thought nothing of it and waited for Arcade Fire to take the stage. Half an hour passed, an hour, even more, but eventually James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem fame, who produced the new album, waltzed up to the microphone to make a startling announcement: “We only have room for three members of the band.”
The audience all gave puzzled looks. Moments later three members of Arcade Fire came out with the oversized masks they’ve been sporting to promote the album, took up the instruments, and began creating a notably bland sound over a cacophonous static that plagued the loudspeakers. I quickly realized this was some kind of joke, unsure of the exact punchline that would happen, but many members of the audience expressed disappointment.
Suddenly, a small rhythm beneath the instruments began to take over and eventually filled the entire warehouse as the band left the stage. A few moments later, the opening beats of their lead single “Reflektor” were cast over the audience as a large curtain in back dropped and the band revealed itself on a full stage setup with lights, costumes, and guest performers. The rush to the other side of the warehouse was the human equivalent to the stampede in “The Lion King.” Excited madness took control of the crowd.
After finishing off with the crowd-pleasing single, the band continued to dive into strictly new material for a couple of songs. “Normal Person” and “We Exist,” which were already performed on the half-hour NBC special “Here Comes the Night Time,” also excited many fans who have been long awaiting a follow-up to the group’s 2010 Grammy-winning album, The Suburbs. Notably more grounded in synth-and reverb-based instrumentals than previous songs, each new song gave off a dance-y vibe that has long been rumored ever since James Murphy was confirmed to be the lead producer of the album.
Although the previously performed songs drew great applause from the audience, it was the premiere of certain songs that gave this writer chills. “Joan of Arc” and “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)” highlighted the album’s impressive range. The main guitar riff in “Orpheus” complementing the band’s beautiful harmony will surely leave fans longing for more.
Although the setlist was small, the band found time for a few classics. Introducing the songs as “covers” by a “Montreal band called Arcade Fire,” The Reflektors blew the roof off the venue with the wonderfully elegant “Sprawl II,” a fan favorite from “The Suburbs,” and melted too many faces to count as they blasted through “Neighborhoods #3 (Power Out)” from Funeral. The set ended with the Talking Heads-esque “Here Comes the Night Time,” which finished when lead singer, Win Butler, ventured into the audience, over to a small DJ table, and began spinning some beats.
Many fans waited around for an encore, but Butler eventually took the stage saying there would not be one and that instead they would be turning the venue into a dance club for the remainder of the evening. Some booing commenced, and a confused Butler suggested that disappointed fans should leave, which many did.
A foolish mistake. I stuck around only to run into one of the Dessner twins from the New York alternative band The National and brushed shoulders with drummer Chris Tomson of Vampire Weekend. Even as the night wound down, Butler stuck around to beat the living daylights out of an iPhone-shaped piñata to keep the energy high and the music flowing.
As I left the venue, I turned around one last time. A barren warehouse on a decrepit street in Brooklyn was all that I could see. It’s almost as if Arcade Fire had chosen the location simply to create the illusion that one of the greatest parties ever to happen in Brooklyn was all just a fleeting dream. With that memory already fading, I went back to my route and walked on into the night, trying to process the monumental event I had just experienced.