David Byrne, The Arcade Fire and Why I Love the Internet

Byrne at Arcade Fire gigWhether I was present or not, the Internet has changed the way I experience events. In particular, concerts. For example, a couple of years ago I discovered (via a discussion forum) a recording of a 1996 Cowboy Junkies concert which I actually attended. It’s very cool to have a digital memory of this event.

More importantly, the Internet enriches events by telling connected stories (hence the ‘net’ in Internet). Here’s a great example. Please follow along: [more]

  • Last August, I’m writing about my new-found appreciation for David Byrne. In a conversation with Gill, I mention that he didn’t play my favourite Talking Heads song, "Nothing But Flowers". Gill points out the superiority of "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)", which Byrne did play. I grow to like this song highly enough to go on my desert island iPod mini (or maybe my iPod Shuffle RAID array).
  • In November, 2004, David Byrne attends a The Arcade Fire show in Detroit. The Arcade Fire covers "This Must Be the Place": "An inebriated fan approached David Byrne during the Fire’s set to repeatedly and drunkenly inform him that "dude, they’re playing your song!" Butler [The Arcade Fire front-man] e-mailed Byrne to apologize for any unpleasantness they may have caused him and was surprised when Byrne returned his e-mail — especially surprised since Byrne’s reply consisted only of a picture of a blimp crashing into a rodeo."
  • On February 2, 2005, Byrne goes to see The Arcade Fire again, this time in New York (David Bowie was also in the crowd). Byrne joined The Arcade Fire on-stage for "This Must Be the Place" during the encore. Stereogum, the great music blog, points to this guy, who went to the show. He posts a video (AVI) and an MP3 of the event. He links to Brooklyn Vegan, who also attended the show and has photos plus his own recording (WAV).
  • Here are the inevitable photos on Flickr from their New York shows.
  • On February 3, Byrne writes in his own online tour diary about the gig and its origins: "They did a cover of Talking Heads song when I saw them at Bowery Ballroom (Naïve melody)…we communicated by Email afterwards, so asking me to join on that tune was sort of natural. I loved it. Their crowd was lovely and energized as was the band and the room felt like it was filled with genuine music lovers–the word of mouth and Internet buzz has all been fairly natural."

Before the Internet, I would have entirely missed the back story, the photos, the recordings and the musician’s commentary. In fact, I’d likely be unaware of the entire story.

On a related note, I know that The Arcade Fire are the Next Big Thing, but I just watched their appearance on Conan O’Brien (AVI) and I’m pretty underwhelmed. I get that they’re supposed to be post-punk and all, but they don’t appear to be able to sing or play their instruments. The lead singer is constantly looking at his guitar, the accordion player needs to pick a key and they all look like poseurs. If anybody wants to send me some finer examples of their musicality (one MP3 per email, methinks), I’m open to having my mind changed.


  1. downloaded their disc, and I totally agree. Horrid, horrid, horrid. I can handle the tone-deaf vocals from time to time, but the lack of songwriting tops it off.

  2. Pingback: Open Your Eyes
  3. Thank you for pointing me to the “Naive Melody” MP3! If your favorite TH song is “Nothing But Flowers,” check out Caetano Veloso’s cover of it from his album “A Foreign Sound.” It brings a new loveliness to the song.

  4. 6 years later they pull the rabbit out of the hat and win a Grammy. I got on google after watching them perform and thought wow! They sound so much like Talking Heads. Directed to this sight I can see I was in the ball park all though 6 years later.

  5. lies! the link to the “live song they played with byrne” isn’t! it’s arcade fire’s studio version with no byrne! i cannot for the life of me find the live audio file! ugh!

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