For Young Moderns senior writer and Los Angeles correspondent Will Sellers braved the streets of Echo Park in Los Angeles overnight this past weekend in order to catch Arcade Fire play a 'secret' show. Here's his story:
There was not much unique about the evening of Thursday February 10. I had known all day that Arcade Fire was in Los Angles prepping for their performances at the Grammys on Sunday and that they were planning a "secret" concert somewhere in LA for Friday night. I also already knew that tickets for this concert would go on sale at three separate locations around LA at noon on Friday. Throughout the day on Thursday, I had been theorizing with friends as to where exactly the tickets would go on sale; my guesses being Amoeba Records in Hollywood, Origami Vinyl in Echo Park, and possibly Rhino Records in Claremont (The Glass House in Pomona near Rhino Records was a leading possible venue for the concert).
I had happened to be having a few drinks with a friend at a bar (Gold Room) in Echo Park about two blocks away from Origami Vinyl on Thursday night. We parted ways just before 9:00pm and, with the idea that Origami might be a location that could sell Arcade Fire tickets kicking around in my head, I decided to walk over to Origami just to browse records. When I walked up to the store on Sunset, they had just closed shop and locked the door. Literally the instant the doors were locked, I received a text from my friend Cesar stating that Arcade Fire had just dropped huge, blatant hints that Origami would be selling tickets to their secret show at noon the next day (along with Fingerprints Records in Long Beach and The El Rey Theater in Los Angeles).
Since I was the only person standing in front of Origami Vinyl at the moment Arcade Fire let it be known where tickets would be going on sale, I realized I would be the very first person in line if I chose to stay. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time and knew this was such a huge and rare opportunity and that I should probably stick around for at least a little while to gauge what the situation was going to be. Sure enough, within minutes, Echo Park locals started flocking to Origami's storefront. People who lived within a few blocks of Origami were there very quickly, some managed to bring a chair, others were prompt to gather a few blankets.
By 10:15pm or so, approximately twenty to thirty people were already lined up behind me.
(Click on any image to enlarge it)
(The line in front of Origami Vinyl at 10:15pm Thursday)
Some people came alone, others came in groups. Before long, everyone was making new friends, conversing about everything from bands they've seen live, bands they're in, school, Egypt, jobs, anything. There was constant talk regarding theories about the show. Are we all even at the right place? Did Arcade Fire mean Origami Vinyl or Dangerbird Records over in Silverlake? Where would the concert be? The Glass House? The Sex? Or the Ukrainian Cultural Center where Dirty Projectors played a show a while back? (Yes, someone guessed correctly). Whiskey was being passed around and people offered to bring some food and blankets for others. Everyone was in good spirits and bonded quite well.
Due to my light clothing and general unpreparedness, I knew I would have to make a trip home, so it was important that I got friendly with the fellow fans directly around me so I could ask them if I could run home for a bit to put on some heavier clothing and bring blankets and cash and a chair among other things. I got the go-ahead that they would save my spot, and I didn't tell them that I lived about twenty-five to thirty minutes away and that it would actually be a little while. I raced home across LA, got money, a folding chair, multiple layers of clothes and blankets, a pillow, Keith Richard's Life, phone charger, water bottles, and even a few guitars. I made it back to Origami at midnight and stayed up until about 3:00am chatting with people and explaining to many concertgoers exiting The Echo next door what we dozens upon dozens of people are camped out for. Journalists from local indie blogs and publications came by just to take pictures and interviews of us on the sidewalk, including famed Los Angeles music writer Kevin Bronson of Buzzbands.la (who gave me a shoutout on his Twitter account, which you can click HERE to read).
Even though I moved my car to the sidewalk next to the line of people trying to sleep, I chose to sleep on the Sunset Blvd sidewalk.
(One night of sleeping on the hard sidewalk reinforced the fact I never want to be homeless)
I, of course, struggled to actually get some sleep in the cold night, probably only getting ninety minutes or so of actual sleep before waking up around 6:00am. Most others were already awake by then, and I was able to watch the sunrise over Chavez Ravine, home of the Los Angeles Dodgers, just beyond Sunset Blvd:
(Sunrise over Sunset)
People were clearly started to get energized and exciting the longer the morning went on. We at the front of the line made trips to Lucy's Laundromat and Burger King for coffee and restroom purposes. Rumors about the location of that night's big concert were running wild. People were constantly texting friends who waited all night at the other sale locations to see if they had any new info. On his Twitter, Origami chief Neil Schield said he was surprised and excited that so many people camped out overnight in front of his store. He showed up with boxes of doughnuts for the loyal fans and assured us that the tickets would go on sale right at noon, as promised.
(The front of the line the morning after a cold night)
(The line at Origami not long before noon Friday)
Employees of Origami gathered inside the store roughly an hour before tickets went on sale, presumably doing some last minute organization and doughnut consumption. By 11:30am, word had been essentially confirmed that the concert would take place that night at the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Los Angeles, on Melrose near the 101 Freeway and Vermont. At noon came the moment all us exhausted, temporarily homeless people had been waiting for. The store's doors opened, and I was one of the very first people to purchase a pair of tickets for this Arcade Fire concert. In an attempt to prevent scalping, there were no hard tickets, but rather names were placed on a list and a photo ID had to be brought to the venue later that night in order to confirm your rightful entry.
Once names were put down on the list, it was back to home for a much-needed meal, shower, and nap. Before I knew it, it was already time to head back out again and go to the Ukrainian Cultural Center on the east side of Los Angeles where, despite the rules stated on the ticket stating no lineups before 7:00pm, people were presumably camped outside of since just past noon. The UCC is an old concert venue hidden around some residential streets that hasn't hosted many concerts in decades. Despite this, the interior of the building looked like it was a regularly-used concert venue, decorated and lit up perfectly for concert use for any night of the week.
(Exterior of the Ukrainian Cultural Center)
Once inside the venue, I looked around and gave nods of recognition to some of the people I had waited in line with for about fifteen hours. The friend I took to the concert and I got inside the venue at around 8:30pm and still managed to get a pretty decent spot. People were still trickling in when the band took the stage at 9:00pm sharp amongst a frenzied and incredibly excited crowd of true diehard Arcade Fire fans.
(Arcade Fire hit the stage)
Arcade Fire completely floored the crowd with their thrilling two-part opener of The Suburbs track "Month of May" flowing right into Funeral classic "Rebellion (Lies)". Back when I saw them at The Shine in October, Win Butler seemed unsure what Los Angeles thought of his band and seemed to have a kind of beleaguered attitude toward LA. But Friday night, with the assurance that he was playing in front of true fans, Butler seemed extra relaxed, friendlier, and even a bit playful with the crowd. Their set equally favored their already-classic 2004 debut album Funeral and soon-to-be-named Grammy Album of the Year The Suburbs equally, and they did throw in a couple of songs from Neon Bible.
Highlights from the show, just like at any other Arcade Fire show, included the rousing, danceable Regine Chassagne-fronted numbers "Haiti" and "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" (which they ended on), along with the intense "Suburban War" from The Suburbs and Funeral's stirring opener "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)".
Of course, the biggest sing-a-long moment of the night came when the band played "Wake Up". It was definitely during the triumphant chorus of the song where I realized how glad I was to have braved the night and score tickets to what could become a legendary concert. I captured that moment on my cell phone:
Lyrics from the concert's closing song, "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)", include "I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights". So, appropriately, during an extended outro, Win Butler repeatedly yelled at the lighting technician from the stage to cut every single light in the venue as they played. After a long while, the technician finally obliged, and the band literally played in complete darkness (aside from flashes of cameras) for a few minutes to end the show. I also captured a little bit of that magic on video, as well:
(The satisfied, presumably tired masses exiting the venue)
And the whole point of Arcade Fire being in Los Angeles for this show was, of course, them being nominated for Album of the Year, the ceremony's biggest award. It was miraculous enough that the Grammys, who have notoriously and painfully awarded awful music almost exclusively for decades, even nominated The Suburbs for Album of the Year (against behemoths Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Eminem, and country music giants Lady Antebellum). So when Barbara Streisand sputtered out the words "The..... Suburbs..." as she read the name of the winning album, it truly felt like a historic, game-changing moment for the music industry as a whole. Hopefully, in hindsight in a few years, this victory for an album that has sold a half million copies will be seen as the start of recognizing truly great music and not as a weird bump in the Grammy's road of awarding undeserving acts.
If Arcade Fire winning this award sparks a new era of mainstream acceptance of good music, or just the skyrocketing of Arcade Fire's career, this tiny little "secret" concert could very well go down in history as the beginning of some kind of great new era. Bands like Arcade Fire come around only once per generation, and camping out overnight to see them at such an intimate venue is something that I would do all over again in a heartbeat.
Check out this humorous video of the clearly shocked and thrilled band as they thank various people moments after closing out the Grammys and stepping off stage: