Controversy around a strict dress code at the band’s Brooklyn concert on Thursday seems to be entirely manufactured – so what’s real and what’s fake?
The marketing campaign around the new Arcade Fire album has been a little… meta. The whole thing was kickstarted back in May with a fake Twitter account designed to look like a Russian spambot that posted clues about the band’s new album Everything Now. The Russian spam account was likely a spin on the goofy #RussiaGate stories proliferating around the Trump administration, something the band recently took a step further by playing on the equally goofy #FakeNews outrage by creating their very own websites planting negative stories about the band.
They parodied indie rock site Stereogum’s ‘Premature Evaluation’ series with their own ‘Premature Premature Evaluation’ review of the album. They created a fake Hollywood Reporter exposé on a costly project with Terry Gilliam. “Arcade Fire files multiple legal claims over ‘Millennial Whoop’”, read a headline on a Billboard parody. They even created a mirror of conspiracy-minded fear factory Infowars with a story detailing their links to “extremist groups”. (And people seem to have been fooled!) Amongst all this was the tale of a former employee of the ‘Everything Now Corp’ who was fed up with the band’s steadfast refusal to engage with corporate promotion of the album.
Yesterday, the band got into a spot of controversy – covered by BrooklynVegan, Stereogum, and The AV Club – when they announced a concert at Brooklyn’s Grand Prospect Hall that would be livestreamed on Apple Music. A message sent out to attendees (who, as BrooklynVegan report, had to apply for tickets by answering the question “What do you like about the first single from the new album?”) announced a dress code that was “HIP & TRENDY as if you are going to a concert or night out with friends” and that they reserved the right to deny people not dressed to these standards. “PLEASE DO NOT WEAR shorts, large logos, flip flops, tank tops, crop tops, baseball hats, solid white or red clothing,” it continued. The message also stressed that the show should be a “phone-free viewing experience”.
The band were quick to distance themselves from the comments, with frontman Win Butler tweeting that they have “nothing to do with the dress code or taking people’s phones” and the band’s official account issuing a statement faxed over by their social media editor Tannis Wright explaining that the dress code had come from him, not from the band. Of course a few red flags appeared immediately: nobody uses fax nowadays, the statement bears the logo of the fictional Everything Now Corp, and ‘Tannis Wright’ is a character who’s been deployed a lot throughout the marketing campaign, including a Reddit AMA.
Back in 2013, the band faced criticism for requesting that their audience members adhere to a strict dress code when attending their North American arena tour (they later declared the dress code “super not mandatory”). So the latest controversy seems to be a metacommentary on a previous controversy, presumably designed to parody the sort of manufactured social media-friendly controversies that seem to always accompany major album campaigns, albeit as part of an actual campaign for their new album (which is out this Friday!!).
Naturally, ‘Arcade Fire beef with BrooklynVegan and Stereogum’ sounds like a headline from 11 years ago. But even that could be read as part of the bigger parody – that it’s actually sending up how older and more established artists are increasingly expected to tap into the cultural zeitgeist in order to fuel the content machine. The album’s tour is after all titled ‘Infinite Content’, and just look at how they hijacked the Kendall Jenner t-shirt outrage by releasing their own version of the t-shirts.
Take a listen to “Everything Now” below.