specter of death hung heavily over "Funeral," 2004's
aptly titled debut album by the Montreal quintet the
Arcade Fire, and the indie-rock underground hasn't
so enthusiastically embraced an effort inspired by
the loss of a loved one since "The Soft Bulletin" by
the Flaming Lips in 1999.
Like that album, "Funeral" seeks catharsis by
searching for the reasons that life is still worth
living in the face of pressing grief -- not the
least of which is the beauty of the Arcade Fire's
finely constructed, lushly orchestrated pop music.
The group formed after guitarist-vocalist Win
Butler saw Regine Chassagne, whose family had fled
Haiti under the dictatorship of Francois "Papa Doc"
Duvalier, singing lounge standards in an art gallery
at Quebec's Concordia University. The two became
husband and wife in the summer of 2003, and the band
coalesced around them with the additions of
keyboardist Richard Parry, bassist Tim Kingsbury,
drummer Jeremy Gara, violinist Sarah Neufeld and
multi-instrumentalist and Win's younger brother,
"I think all of our goals have pretty much been
music-motivated -- trying to finish songs and get
together stuff that we're excited about -- and
everything grew from that," Win Butler says. The
group didn't necessarily set out to follow the ork-pop
path of bands such as the Polyphonic Spree, Lambchop
or Head of Femur. "To me it's just kind of a Beatles
thing: I learned pretty early on that
instrumentation is as important as anything to
making a song work, so we try to pay attention for
what each song actually needs."
11:45 a.m. Saturday and Sunday
Hutchinson Field in Grant Park
Tickets, $60; $115 (two-day pass)
(888) 512-7469; www.lollapalooza.com
Where has all the diversity gone?
Though I hold that nostalgia is the enemy of
all great rock 'n' roll, and I see plenty of
skepticism in my reports from the front
while the original Lollapalooza was still a
thriving concern, I have to admit that I
feel a faint tinge of regret for the musical
diversity, optimistic energy and boundless
enthusiasm that the tour represented at its
To that end, "Funeral" makes impressive use of
accordion, xylophone, upright bass, violin, cello
and harp, among more conventional rock instruments.
"I think that the instrumentation of the band
will probably always shift depending on the song,"
Butler says. "Regine and I work together a lot, and
the band has a lot of control over the final
product, the instrumentation and arrangement, but I
usually have some kind of direction and everyone
else will fill it in."
The deaths that inspired many of the songs on
"Funeral" included, between the summer of 2003 and
early 2004, Chassagne's grandmother, Parry's aunt
and, perhaps most significantly, the Butlers'
grandfather, Alvino Rey, a respected swing-era
musician, a driving force behind "The King Family
Show" (an early '60s musical/variety TV program rife
with white-bread patriotic and spiritual anthems)
and a composer of more esoteric "space age bachelor
pad" exotica a la 1960's "Ping Pong!," a genre
Win says his grandfather inspired him more by
example than through his recorded legacy or live
"We didn't live in the same town, but he gave me
my first electric guitar in middle school. He was
more an influence in showing me that music was a way
of life: I remember hearing about my mom growing up,
and both of her parents were always home when she
got home from school, and they were both musicians.
There was just this positive attitude toward it,
whereas most people have the idea that it's the life
of derelicts or something."
"Funeral" wasn't consciously crafted as a concept
album, Butler says; the musicians' losses simply
weighed upon all of them as they recorded at a home
setup in Win and Regine's snowbound Montreal
"I just think most writers tend to have some sort
of lyrical world: They use a lot of similar images
and words in songs, not as an intentional thing, but
just as ideas they keep coming back to. A lot of
times songs in the same period of time will be
dealing with similar ideas and try to get at them
from a different angle.
"I tend to not write things down too much, in
terms of lyrics or melodies, so if I'm singing
something in the shower and I remember it two weeks
later, it's usually a sign that it's good. I'm a
really big on not editing oneself. I don't think you
can have writing something good as a goal, you just
have to write and work on music more as a pastime,
and whether it's good or not is up to someone else
The fans have clearly decided, making "Funeral"
one of the most successful indie releases in recent
years and packing the group's live shows, earning it
a spot as one of the most anticipated acts at the
revitalized Lollapalooza in Grant Park this weekend.
The gig is one of the few the Arcade Fire is playing
"Otherwise, we're taking time off," Butler says,
"just trying to take some space and get some ideas
kicking around in our heads again. We're setting up
a space to record in Montreal in the fall, and we're
trying to be as self-sufficient as we can be. We
have a lot of musical goals for the next album, but
we're trying to stay as focused on what we do as
possible, pick sounds out of the air, and try to
make sense of them."
REASONS TO LIVE
The Arcade Fire appears as one of the dozens of
bands at Lollapalooza 2005 at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at
SBC East, one of five corporate-sponsored stages at
Hutchinson Field in Grant Park. (Tickets are
available onsite at the box office, Columbus and
Balbo, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 7
p.m. Saturday and Sunday; $60 per day or $115 for a
two-day pass. Call (866) 81-LOLLA.)
A major factor that will decide the success of
the retooled Lollapalooza, which promoters envision
as an annual "destination festival," is the
configuration of the stages at Hutchinson. In the
past, the rolling meadow has successfully hosted
major concerts for as many as 30,000 people with one
stage at the northern end.
Lollapalooza promoters have configured four
stages, two of which will operate at any time, in
each corner of the site, with another simultaneously
operating across Columbus Avenue, and they hope to
draw at least 40,000 concertgoers.
The map at right shows the layout for the
festival, and a full schedule of the acts and set
times is available online at www.lollapalooza.com
or in last Sunday's Lollapalooza preview in the
Sun-Times Showcase section.