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!)

  • lueread

    2011/04/14 at 5:16 pm

    Holy Crap! Win’s taller than you!

  • WhatForMomma

    2011/04/14 at 5:19 pm

    My dear, you are positively blushing!

  • Maurina

    2011/04/14 at 5:59 pm


    …. yeah, I’m kinda jealous. And deeeeeeeply impressed.

  • JJC220

    2011/04/14 at 6:02 pm

    My six year old son just climbed on the couch while I was reading this and screams, “its Arcade Fire”!! He loves them, as does his mom and dad. Maybe one day we can give him these kinds of adventures. Lucky lucky you!!

  • jcgrome

    2011/04/14 at 7:56 pm

    OK – I don’t know the band… but I will def check them out. I just really wanted to say that you look AMAZING in these photos. I have always been ascared of the whole black bra/see-thru shirt thingy but I think you may have given me the confidence to give it a shot. 🙂

  • cwhitney8

    2011/04/14 at 8:45 pm

    You have the coolest job in the world!!! I would have absolutely passed out in disbelief if my job of writing a blog got me backstage passes to a freakin ARCADE FIRE CONCERT. I don’t think anyone in the world has a cooler job than you. Seriously, if some divine being said “I can give you any job you want, such as becoming president”, I’d just ask to have the life of dooce!! I know your life isn’t perfect but DAMN you get some awesome perks and you deserve every last one! You work your ass off for these awesome opportunities! Keep up the hard work!

  • gogirl11

    2011/04/14 at 9:45 pm

    What a GREAT story. You’re so lucky! Thank you for sharing, and for recreating all of the excitement. You’re a wonderful writer, Heather!

  • aWomanScorned

    2011/04/14 at 9:47 pm

    Here’s why I am an avid reader/fan/recommender of Dooce. You never forget that there is so much in life to be overjoyed with. Gratitude for what you have is what makes you so real to all of us – even though we know you a creation of the LDS to promote plural marriage, hoards of children and a monopoly on caffeinated products.

  • msmildred

    2011/04/14 at 10:26 pm

    Oh, Sugarleg, now I’ve got a new saying that no one will understand…who will get it when I talk about passing the drum stick along? LOVE IT!

  • smiling at crocodiles

    2011/04/15 at 1:13 am

    Awesome! Like cbdubs (earlier commenter), I have been reading for years. But yes, long time reader, first time poster.

    ‘Funeral’ is an awesome album – it changed things for me and captured my mid-twenties entirely.

    Am trying to bury my jealousy with happiness for you!!

  • globaljen

    2011/04/15 at 2:25 am

    A new band!!! Squee! I had heard of them but not heard them, thank you this heads-up. It is always so awesome (and butt-clenchingly embarrassing) when you meet your musical heroes! I once told Neil Finn (Crowded House) I couldn’t come to his gig admit was washing my hair. Oops.

    I know you don’t like solicitations but in this case I think it’s worth incurring your wrath, as I think you will enjoy this….. if you like Arcade Fire this much you may quite enjoy a Brit band called Hope & Social… Their latest album ‘April’ is a thing of Beauty. And even though I know them as friends, I still swoon when I see them backstage 😉 They are just as adorable in real life, more so in fact. And they are totally nuts… arranging 150-fan flashmob/
    pub-crawl singing Living on a Prayer on the Leeds Town Hall steps as a Hells Angels wedding exits the building… followed by a gig with a 14piece jazz band accompanying their christmas concert. How can you not listen to them after hearing that?! Plus they have adorable Northern accents…

    A beautiful song from their last album here:

    And April is here:

    (and Jon, please fix the mobile site comments – Captcha isn’t loading and I had to drag out my rusty old laptop in order to post this comment. doh!)

  • doobrah

    2011/04/15 at 6:24 am

    You’ve got me crying living vicariously through you! I hope they did Rebellion (how could they not?) & Ready to Start. Would love to see them myself!

  • patrice108

    2011/04/15 at 9:01 am

    I didn’t read any of the comments so not sure if this was already brought up, and it’s such a stupid, minor point, but…

    I don’t use shazam, I use soundhound. and it’s great for concerts if you want to remember the set list, because it stores your history. so instead of writing it down or even typing it on a stupid note or text or whatever, you can just use shazam/soundhound and then the following morning, or that night (if you’re a nerd), you can see what the set list was.

  • patrice108

    2011/04/15 at 9:11 am

    oh and soundhound works even on stuff you’re just humming into your phone – it doesn’t need to be digital like someone said shazam needs.

    I promise I don’t work for soundhound. this message is actually brought to you by Suave(tm).

  • mjryates

    2011/04/15 at 10:56 am

    So jealous! I love Arcade Fire and you are so lucky to get so close. Great pictures! I get to see them in Indy in a couple weeks. Lucky for me it’s in downtown and not in the stinking suburbs. 🙂

  • rocketbride

    2011/04/15 at 11:26 am

    i was so jealous when i started this post, but somehow knowing that you were just as awed and overwhelmed by them makes it better. because who couldn’t love the arcade fire? i saw them last summer in toronto, and they’re not even my favourite band but it was far and away my favourite concert. i loved everything about it and everything about them.

    that was my first time seeing them, and it was really funny because they played the folk festival circuit only a few years ago, so i honestly had no idea they were so popular(!). i kept looking around this completely packed field, wondering who all these other 9,998 jerks were. 🙂

    i actually had a very similar experience to your “meeting will moment” with my favourite band, broken social scene, but this post is already long enough. congratulations! on everything!

  • melliepete

    2011/04/15 at 1:17 pm

    dude! my husband was the kid in the front row you handed the drumstick to! he really appreciated it, by the way. he was lying in bed the night before the show trying to scheme a way to get a drumstick so you were his knight in shining armour.

  • melliepete

    2011/04/15 at 1:47 pm

    ok me again. my husband didn’t think i sounded excited enough in my comment (but i did use two exclamation points), but he thought it was really really awesome for you to give him the drumstick!!!!!! (ok is that enough?) we thank you and karma and will be sure to pass some luck along soon.

  • cattail722

    2011/04/15 at 2:07 pm

    Sooooooooooooooooo jealous!!! This band is so amazing live, and you got to meet them!!!!! So happy for you.

  • lunadiosa

    2011/04/15 at 4:03 pm

    Heather, please check out the song “This is the Dream of Win & Regine” by the band Final Fantasy on their album Has a Good Home. It is my most favorite song ever, and HAS to be about the people in this band. How many couples from Montreal are named Win & Regine? Maybe a lot…I don’t know…but it seems like more than coincidence.

  • Ljaxon

    2011/04/16 at 11:09 am

    You look super cute, Heather, except for that orange “Member’s Only” jacket you’re gripping in all the pics.

  • lilywhites05

    2011/04/16 at 11:12 am

    OMG I have been away from my computer for a few days and this story TOTALLY MADE MY DAY. I love Arcade Fire and you look like a rock’n’roll badass in that outfit. Well played dooce.

  • Scott-5x5

    2011/04/16 at 5:12 pm

    You are a MASTER story teller. That one was damn good to read. It’s stellar entries like this that put you on the path to going to concerts like that!

  • Jenni

    2011/04/16 at 7:42 pm

    You SLUT! omg I can’t believe Arcade Fire got to see your bra! I’m so jealous. Wait. I saw your bra. Hmpf. And there is no WAY that girl is pregnant enough to have already had that baby! It’s like a cruel long thought-out awesome joke.

  • newgyptian

    2011/04/17 at 1:20 pm


  • babsinepsd

    2011/04/18 at 7:55 am

    WOW!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE Arcade Fire sooooo much! Thanks for sharing the sroty and all the great photos!

  • luv and kiwi

    2011/04/18 at 1:12 pm

    You lucky daughter of a gun! You rock for giving the drumstick to someone else…I don’t know if I would have been that savvy about luck and the fucked up ways it works out.

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.

read more