the smell of my desperation has become a stench

My night with Arcade Fire in the suburbs

Monday afternoon I returned from running errands to find my cousin McKenzie and Marlo in the kitchen when McKenzie reminded me that she needed to leave a bit early because she was going to see Arcade Fire that night. I mumbled some curse words under my breath out of jealousy (McKenzie is Mormon and fragile, I try to be sensitive), and told her to have a good time. Sure, she’d be seeing one of the greatest bands of the decade, bet me and Marlo? We had a date with Elmo, on the count of three, two, one… SUCK IT.

That left me with about an hour to finish up some work, and about ten minutes after sitting down at my desk Tyrant walked in with his laptop perched in his right arm.

“Have you ever heard of this band called… where is it… Arcade Fire?” he asked, and he pronounced it as if he might catch some disease by saying it out loud.

“Of course I know who Arcade Fire is,” I said. “They won the Grammy for Album of the Year.”

“News to me!” he said, and then he continued to stand there in silence.

“What’s going on? What are you doing?”

“What do you mean? I just wanted to know if you knew who they were.”


“Oh, never mind,” he said, and as he turned to go back into his office he rattled off, “I don’t think you’d want to see them in concert. Too last minute.”

“TYRANT!” I yelled. “What is going on? Also, if you are screwing with me I can pretend I’m not on my meds and throw this water bottle at your head.”

“I’m not screwing with you! Their publicist sent me an email and wants to know if you and Jon would like to go the concert, maybe get backstage. I’ll just tell her you’re too busy.”

That’s when I turned to Jon, told him to tackle Tyrant to the ground, grab his computer and run.

“Are you telling me you’re interested?” Tyrant asked.

INTERESTED? I learned how to snowboard listening to their first album. In fact, I remember when I first heard that album, how I experienced the same chills I got when I heard Nirvana for the first time, when I heard OK Computer for the first time, knowing that I was listening to something very different, something that would change things in music. I have been a huge fan ever since and when they won that Grammy I actually cried because they were so genuinely shocked and thankful and everything a rock band normally is not.

“She gave me her number,” he said. “I can call and see what’s going on.”

Not fifteen minutes later I ran downstairs, hopped the child safety gate and was all DUDE! MCKENZIE! Do you want to meet Arcade Fire?! And she was like, is this some sort of awful trick Tyrant is pulling on the both of us? Because she, too, was willing to pretend she wasn’t on the meds that she doesn’t actually take.

I also tweeted this:

One of my favorite responses was, “Why not go home and change them before you meet him?”

Oh, twitter. So often you are unintentionally hilarious.

Several phone calls later we had my niece lined up to babysit for the evening, and with both cameras packed we headed south to Utah County for the concert (land of massive suburban sprawl, “where dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains”). Because, yes, we also got photo passes. Meaning for the first three songs we got to be at the foot of the stage, mere feet away from the band, and snap as many shots as we could fire off. It also meant that Will Butler, brother of the lead singer, Win, almost hit me in the head with his drumstick when it flew out of his hands.

For a second I seriously thought that the most polite thing to do would be to yell, “HEY, WILL! YOU DROPPED THIS.” And then casually hand it back to him. Because he totally would have been able to hear me over the deafening roar of the guitars and audience.

Instead, I grabbed the stick and handed it to one of the kids in the front row. No way I was going to keep it for myself since I was already lucky enough to be where I was, and if the Universe has taught me anything, it’s KEEP THE FLOW GOING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. When you get lucky, help with the luck of someone else. Otherwise you’re just writing shit about your boss on your website, and next thing you know you’re unemployed.

After the first three songs we headed to the back of the general admission area where we could spread out a bit and dance around. Just as the band ripped into one of the popular singles off of their latest album a guy in front of us held up his phone AND TRIED TO SHAZAM IT.

Oh, yes. I really did just type that.

For those of you unfamiliar with Shazam, it’s an application you can use to identify a song. It listens to several seconds of a song, checks it against a database, and returns the artist and name of the song if it can. Maybe the guy really didn’t know the song or had just forgotten the name of it. Benefit of the doubt.

BUT. It just seems like the makers of that application didn’t sit down and go, you know what this world needs? You know when you’ve paid good money to see a band, and you don’t have a fucking clue what song they’re playing even though that song is one of the most popular of their career? We need something to fix THIS SPECIFIC PROBLEM.

Makers of Shazam, you fixed it.

After the concert was over I found McKenzie and her sister Shelby who are both such huge Arcade Fire fans that they drove to LA last summer to see them in concert. Together we all met with the band’s publicist, and she walked us back to a giant room filled with dozens of Win and Will’s Utah-based family members. Turns out they grew up in a Mormon family and have a ton of cousins out in these parts. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, THE MORMON DOES NOT STOP WITH THIS WEBSITE.

You are correct.

We sat back while both Win and Will met with their family, and in the meantime we got to say hello to the drummer. I told him that I loved it that whenever he was on camera during the show he was smiling, and he smacked his forehead. Apparently he thinks it makes him look goofy, but I assured him that it was quite refreshing. Because he looked like he was enjoying himself! This is his job, and look how much he loves it!

I once saw Interpol live and the bassist looked so pissed during the entire set that you could have sworn someone was holding a gun to his head going, ACT EMO OR I’LL SHOOT.

Finally we got to meet Win, and I had a list of things in my head that I wanted to say to him, starting with congratulating him on the Grammy, and how do you wrap your head around what you guys have brought to music? Oh! And my brother served his Mormon mission in Montreal! (These guys are based out of Montreal, so you know, naturally, through that connection he would have thought we were soul buddies.)

But when he turned to shake my hand all I could mutter was AAAHHM SUCH A HUUUUUGE FAN! Drool pouring out the side of my mouth, my eyes suddenly crossed.

He was so gracious and warm, smiled in spite of the horror unfolding in front of him, and then he agreed to have his picture taken with me and my cousins.

(By the way, Shelby had her baby YESTERDAY! Little Maxwell is such a little sweetie, although I hear she was on the verge of naming him Arcadia. JOKE. I JOKE! Sort of. Congratulations, Shelby!)

You would think that this is the end of this EPIC SCREED, but no. Not even. Not by far. Remember? My next memoir is going to be Life With a Mythical Bobcat.

Let me begin this ending with a tiny bit of backstory (don’t worry, it’s not some bipolar fueled tangent, PROMISE). Whenever I have held meet ups in various cities and during my book tour, guys would come up to me and say, without fail, “My wife reads your blog and told me I had to say hello.” It was always the wife or the girlfriend or the really close friend who was a girl, SHE was the one who sent the guy.

In fact, I’d see a guy approaching and I’d say, wait, don’t tell me, your wife sent you. And he’d be all, YOU’RE LIKE, A MAGICIAN.


We looked around for Will, but he was surrounded by family. A LOT of family. And since it was already 11 PM and my pregnant cousin had been standing for five hours, we headed for the elevator that lead to the exit. Still reeling from the thrill of it all, we were buzzing, smiling, tripping over each other as we stepped into the elevator. And just as the door was closing two hands shot through the vertical space in between them to thrust them open. AND THOSE HANDS BELONGED TO WILL BUTLER.

He was out of breath, having run to catch the elevator. And as he pushed the doors open, he said, “Is there someone here named Heather?”

My father named me Heather so that as a kid when I was outside playing and it was time to go home, he could step out onto the porch and sing, “Come hither Heather Hamilton!” Tangent? Yes. TWEE? Totally, but that is exactly what went through my mind when Will asked that question.

“I’m Heather!” I spit out since I had enough drool to fill a bowl of oatmeal.

His smile revealed one of the most beautiful set of teeth I have ever witnessed in person, and he said, “My wife saw your tweet, and she said that I had to say hello to you.”


Jon said that this was the best My Wife Said anecdote we would ever get to describe to our children.

(Many thanks to Maureen! You made some dreams come true!)

  • slappyintheface

    2011/04/14 at 9:51 am

    Ok – you will have to forgive me as I am from the boondocks of Oklahoma, but I don’t know who this band is …. buuuuuuuuuut kudos to you on the backstage passage !

    P.S. I would have kept the drum stick thingie

  • Schmutzie

    2011/04/14 at 10:07 am

    I’m just here to shake my arms in the air and shout YAY CANADIANS!

    I love Arcade Fire.

  • preppypitbull

    2011/04/14 at 10:08 am

    Awesome story. I am the same way whenever I meet anyone famous, or actually they don’t even have to be famous. My story however goes like this. My dad got me front row tickets for Dave Matthews on my 20th birthday. (Best Dad ever right?) And somehow, someway, Dave decided in the middle of the set to take a break, lean down and say hi to a few of us in the front row. All I could get out of my mouth was “Oh my god, you’re Dave Matthews”…I got no response but a smile, then he stood back up and played the rest of the set. WHAT on earth was I thinking? Duh. Oh well, I can still say I ‘met’ him on my birthday 🙂 Awesome concert story though, and congratulations to Shelby and little Max!

  • Round Rock Gal

    2011/04/14 at 10:13 am

    I LOVED this post! I felt as if I was at the concert, and I don’t even know this band, but you can bet I will now check them out on You Tube.

    As far as celebrity goes – I’d probably drool and mumble if I ever met you. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your blog!

  • bri.girl

    2011/04/14 at 10:14 am

    Holy. Moses. I am so jealous! I just might have to go listen to all of my Arcade Fire. Right now.

  • Balkan Girl Down Under

    2011/04/14 at 10:14 am

    Ooh, you lucky, lucky girl! Awesomeness. Rapt that you had such a fab (and impromptu) experience! And Arcade Fire are indeed a great band. As for the “My wife […]”? GOLD.

  • kindofnormal

    2011/04/14 at 10:18 am

    That is such an awesome story! Made me smile on a dull rainy Thursday here in Ireland! Love Arcade Fire as well 🙂

  • jacqueline

    2011/04/14 at 10:18 am


    And congrats to Shelby <3


  • msmona

    2011/04/14 at 10:21 am

    I was at that same concert and it was simply a-maz-ing. Like breathtakingly amazing! I still have chills from Monday night.

    And now I am more jealous than ever.

  • Lauren3

    2011/04/14 at 10:22 am

    So fucking jealous so fucking jealous so fucking jealous SOOOOOO FUUCKINGGGG JEALOUUUUSSS!!!

    They’re my favorite band EVAAAAR. I hate you, Heather B. Armstrong.

    Just kidding, I love you o’ course. But still, SO FUCKING JEALOUS.

    I guess I can find it in me to be happy for you, too. Arcade Fire solidarity.


  • erkelly

    2011/04/14 at 10:29 am

    What fun! I too have LOVED Arcade Fire since their first album.

    Small world. My mom told me a few years ago that our family doctor’s daughter, who I knew growing up, married a musician and was on tour with him. I kept asking her which band, “oh, I forget, some canadian band…?” I finally gave up. UNTIL, she calls after the Grammies… “Ya, so it was Arcade Fire.” Gotta love moms. Said daughter is the one who reads your blog 🙂

  • Keep It Simple Foods

    2011/04/14 at 10:35 am

    EEEK!!! This is so amazing! I’m super jealous. 😉

  • Svaha

    2011/04/14 at 10:38 am

    If you are ever in a situation like this again, don’t try to Shazam a song at a concert. Shazam won’t work on live music, only digital, pre-recorded music.

    So it would work at a Britney Spears concert when she’s lip synching, or the Milli Vanilli reunion tour, but not an actual LIVE show.

  • tokenblogger

    2011/04/14 at 10:38 am

    “So well told,”she typed with fingers green of envy.

  • boatgirl

    2011/04/14 at 10:41 am

    That sounds like a blast.

    What are you wearing!?

  • JourneyBeyondSurvival

    2011/04/14 at 10:45 am

    You lucky lucky dog.

    Good think you didn’t have to change your pants. You were already in the elevator facing backwards.

  • alex1s

    2011/04/14 at 11:00 am

    So. Fucking. Lucky.

  • morecheese

    2011/04/14 at 11:04 am

    I’m so jealous its giving me a headache!!! I saw Arcade Fire on Randalls Island in NY when they were touring for Neon Bible. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in my life. The energy those kids give off is mind-blowing!!!!!! FOr the next year, everytime I heard one of their songs in a movie trailer (hello, benjamin button; hello, where the wild things are!) I got excited. I just feel like my heart is going to burst with happiness when a band THAT good achieves the recognition and success they deserve!!!

    And on that note, have you fallen in love with Mumford & Sons yet? Its not the type of music you normally talk about here, but they give off the same sort of earnest, sweaty, sheer joy and talent that Arcade Fire does. The lead singer’s voice and lyrics will make you fall in love and break your heart.

  • kravos

    2011/04/14 at 11:10 am

    Wow! That’s awesome. Good for you!
    I was DELIGHTED beyond all comprehension
    when they appeared on stage at Madison Square Garden for LCD’s final show on 4/2 (to sing on North American Scum)

    The crowd roared! Louder than when LCD first appeared on stage that night. Certainly louder than ANY mythical bobcat could!

    They did a great job(duh, right?) during that song.
    And simply apropo for them/that song.

    I kinda wished they would have stayed on stage longer, or even opened for them. Alas, it was LCD’s night.

    P.s. – If I ever get to a meet-up, I’m not using that line. But a less-straight version of it 😉

  • NicoleC

    2011/04/14 at 11:15 am

    My husband and I were at the Grammys when they won. Everyone expected to hear…”And the Grammy goes to….Lady Antebellum!” for the billionths time…but, thankfully, there is a God.
    (Great photos!)

  • dianemaggipintovoiceover

    2011/04/14 at 11:18 am

    great read!

    the 4th pic looks like a bunch of front row mormons praying. that’s the way they do it, right?

    waittaminute. so do YOU, in the last photo.

    and the pictures of shelby — so cute on the verge of labor!

    p.s. captcha word is lord. omg. or, oh my hf

  • tallnoe

    2011/04/14 at 11:19 am

    SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO awesome!!!!!

    I’m going to see them on Saturday!! Not as close as you, but I’m STOKED!!! 😀

    Happy happy post!!

  • kristanhoffman

    2011/04/14 at 11:20 am

    Doesn’t this make you wonder/worry about what else Tyrant is inadvertently keeping from you?

  • salivingston

    2011/04/14 at 11:23 am

    So f’ing jealous I cannot stand it. My goal in life is to meet Win (maybe pre-concert as he tends to get pretty sweaty, though).

  • MissCaron

    2011/04/14 at 11:24 am

    AMAZING! You’re beyond incredibly fortunate!

  • mommymae

    2011/04/14 at 11:25 am


    will married my parents’ physician’s daughter. they’re from st. louis.

  • jon

    2011/04/14 at 11:29 am

    Nice bra, Heather.


  • AEMom

    2011/04/14 at 11:30 am

    This just futhers my firm belief that I share my home of Montreal with some of the most awesome, generous, people in the world. People whose manners and kindness make me proud.

  • sugarleg

    2011/04/14 at 12:04 pm

    Oh Heather Hamilton Armstrong, I cannot f’ing stand the awesome-ness of this post!!!!!!!!!!!!! As an Arcade Fire worshipper, I am completely STOKED for you and your peeps. I had goosebumps reading this, and even welled up some joy tears, exactly like when they won the Grammy.

    So this is me, passing that drum stick along, I feel lucky to be your reader and be inspired by you to keep on writing and living and jamming to such excellent music.


  • cbdubs

    2011/04/14 at 2:05 pm

    Holy crap! Heather, I have been reading your site almost daily for the last 8 years and THIS is my first comment on any post, ever. Just registered solely so that I could express the ugliest emotion of all: pure, unadulterated jealousy. I’ll try to tear off the Green-Eyed Monster mask long enough to say that I am so happy for you and your cousins, because, hot shit, that is so cool.

  • Thoroughread

    2011/04/14 at 11:54 am

    Heather, you make all my days brighter. Seriously, reading how you write and what goes on in your life and the images that come to mind when you write play by play stuf…epic. Makes me laugh and feeling great!!!!

  • JasmineStar

    2011/04/14 at 12:04 pm

    Shut up. Shutupshutupshutup. This blog post…your night…the entire story..makes me believe in fairy tales.

  • bugsydav

    2011/04/14 at 12:24 pm

    I love the absolute JOY on your face! Passing the drumstick on came back to you ten fold! Loved this post!!!

  • sarahdoow

    2011/04/14 at 12:46 pm

    Sounds like a fantastic evening all round!

  • Kristen from MA

    2011/04/14 at 1:24 pm

    Instead, I grabbed the stick and handed it to one of the kids in the front row. No way I was going to keep it for myself since I was already lucky enough to be where I was

    You rock, Heather. That is truly awesome. Glad you had fun.

  • santa barbara

    2011/04/14 at 1:38 pm

    baddest assest story ever. completely stoked for you and the counsins!

  • neeroc

    2011/04/14 at 1:46 pm

    Love them, very cool you got to hang out back stage. I had a moment of fist-shaking where I thought, ‘damn Americans, trying to claim everything! They’re from Montreal!’ But wikipedia set me straight.

    I think it’s funny (and I know this doesn’t apply to you) that the US is just catching on to them…but I guess that’s happened before with say Barenaked Ladies. I’d be in Raleigh and hear songs that were popular in Canada 5 years earlier. It’s sorta weird.

    I first saw them when they opened for U2 in 2005. This and the Three Days Grace/Velvet Revolver concert just prove why I always watch the opening act. Cool bands there man. Oh! And Skindred opening for Disturbed. Reggae metal, so cool.

  • smithie1996

    2011/04/14 at 1:56 pm

    “he tried to shazam it…” So awesome.

    Also, my sister is nearly two weeks overdue so I’m going to tell her that perhaps standing for five hours at a rock concert might move things along. Congrats on the newest member of the family!

  • TravelSkite

    2011/04/14 at 2:53 pm

    Hands in pockets, arms crossed – you look so cool and casual. Yeah, right: trying not to grab and hug inappropriately, that’s what that’s all about. WE’RE not fooled!

  • superkittn

    2011/04/14 at 3:09 pm

    Awesome story. Love the band. Love you. xo

  • souphead

    2011/04/14 at 3:21 pm

    I tried to love Arcade Fire, but I just couldn’t get there. Still, I can SEE your excitement in those pics. You look like a teenager who just met her idol.
    Glad you had such a great experience!

  • Lisa B

    2011/04/14 at 3:23 pm

    At least tell me that Shelby gave Max an appropriate-to-the-experience middle name?!

  • Lisa B

    2011/04/14 at 3:43 pm

    P.S. Today is Win Butler’s birthday. 🙂

  • ForeignArticle

    2011/04/14 at 3:51 pm

    Heather: To see Arcade Fire, ok – really cool. To have been invited, to take photos, go backstage, meet the band – so awesome. To meet the Butlers and have Will shout out your name and, ok, with some help from his wife, know who you are? Speechlessness ensues. Congratulations. You’re a talented writer and deserve that kind of amazing experience. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Becky Cochrane

    2011/04/14 at 4:14 pm

    And now I believe you are the Valedictorian of Arcade Fire fans.

  • ktdids

    2011/04/14 at 4:14 pm

    How is that “girl” possibly 9 months pregnant in those pictures, really?
    Sounds so amazing, you lucky girl!

  • frangsty

    2011/04/14 at 4:33 pm

    Let me tell you about my experience with Shazam. I was at a Vampire Weekend concert and they start playing a Bruce Springsteen cover (“I’m Goin’ Down,” if you’re curious). I didn’t even listen to Springsteen back in the day, but come on! It’s The Boss. The twenty-something in front of me doesn’t recognize the song, so she Shazams it. I felt simultaneously old and smug.

    Love me some Arcade Fire!

  • Hedda

    2011/04/14 at 4:52 pm

    I thought it was amusing that there was so much confusion when they won the Grammy. And that’s an awesome story!

    Not as awesome as seeing your see-through top!

    Hubba hubba, Heather Armstrong, hubba hubba.

  • Beauty Marks

    2011/04/14 at 5:00 pm

    We saw opening night of this tour in the Denver ‘burbs, with our 15 and 13 year-old daughters, and the awe in their faces was priceless – yes, that’s what awaits you down the road, though it may be hard to envision now!

  • Maire

    2011/04/14 at 5:07 pm

    Fantastic story! I saw AF last summer in an outdoor pavilion here in Philadelphia. And they were just so wonderful, of course. I have to say the first time I saw them, in Boston, when they were touring for Funeral in 2004 they just blew my head apart because of the intensity of the venue. But anyway this last time was super special too– yes it was outdoors on a sultry Mid-Atlantic kind of evening– but it also involved Britt Daniel. That’s right. Spoon opened for Arcade Fire. It was like: “oh hey, 2004, we really have something really nice and agreeable for you. A few years have passed so we thought we’d throw the best bone ever, to remind of when you were young. Like, back when you were 26.” It was everything I loved about indie pop/rock in the same place at the same time.

    Well done for meeting the Butler brothers. But tell us, did someone great open? AF does a fantastic job of choosing interesting opening bands. I mean, nothing will top Spoon, but I’m asking anyway.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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