Arcade Fire lights up Kanpé Kanaval

the Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry funking up the Kanpé Kanaval after-party, as T’Cha Dunlevy reports for Montreal’s Gazette.

Arcade Fire lightened the Montreal winter with a little bit of Haitian carnival Saturday night. With melting snow and slush puddles submerging city strees, the indie-rock stars let off some steam at Kanpé Kanaval, a fundraiser for Haiti thrown by band co-founder Régine Chassagne’s Kanpé organization. Tickets ranging from $30 to $500, offering attendees the chance partake in various parts of the evening, and rub shoulders with the Grammy-winning group.

It all took place at the fancy PHI Centre in Old Montreal. The multi-media art and events space is home to exhibits, screenings and conventions on a day-to-day basis. On this night, the fun was spread over two floors. The big spenders got to partake in a sit-down Haitian dinner for 30, including a chance to meet the band and even hear a few tunes. Arcade Fire singer Win Butler (sporting a colourful, flower-adorned black blazer), his very pregnant wife Chassagne, their bandmates and members of Haitian-Québécois group Doody & Kami strutted down the stairs shaking maracas, dancing and blowing noisemakers just after 9 p.m.; the doors to the venue’s intimate concert hall were opened and the Kanaval was under way.

It must be said that getting a well-dressed and very mixed crowd of Haitian community members, Arcade Fire fans, press and scenesters to lose their inhibitions and come together like it’s Kanaval in Port-au-Prince is a tall order. And the room was a little stiff to start. But 10 minutes in, Doody & Kami had heated things up considerably; 10 minutes after that, everyone was lost in the frantic, funky dance numbers the five-piece band was pumping out as the group’s titular vocalists worked the crowd into a frenzy, with help from a pair of relentlessly energetic dancers.

After cheering and celebrating from the sidelines for a good half-hour, Arcade Fire then took to the stage for a three-song set. What at first seemed like a possible song from the group’s forthcoming fourth album – due toward year’s end – turned out to be Headlights Look Like Diamonds, an uptempo track from the band’s self-titled 2003 debut EP. Its thumping 4/4 beat enhanced by Doody & Kami’s percussionist, the song had a triumphant air, inspiring Butler to step down into the crowd.

“Thank you very much!” he said, at song’s end. “Thank you to the PHI Centre, Pop Montreal and to everyone for coming. The idea behind Kanpé is to start something for Montreal to come together. This is just the beginning, the first step, so if you’re interested in Haiti, let’s just do this shit, alright?”

With that, they launched into disco fave Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) off their last album The Suburbs, followed by the inevitable Haiti, sung by Chassagne, off the band’s breakout 2004 full-length Funeral.

The festivities continued upstairs, with a Pop Montreal-organized after-party, featuring Arcade Fire members DJing and dancing. Butler’s set included Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, David Bowie’s Fame and a Public Enemy instrumental, peppered with a few Afro-Caribbean-style tracks that had more than one person reaching for their Shazam app. Bandmate Richard Reed Parry was well on board. Dressed all in white, arms and face covered in body paint, he engaged in a drum jam with Doody & Kami’s percussionist in the middle of the dance floor, as Chassagne cheered them on.

It may not have been an exact replica of Haiti’s carnival, but Kanpé Kanaval found its own festive spirit.

For the original report go to

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