The Unicorns w/the Arcade Fire

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On stage, the epic indie art rock of Montreal’s the Arcade Fire is almost overwhelming. The coed six-piece took the Rocket Bar’s stage with an explosion of sound—six voices singing a single melody in unison, riding on a gorgeously cacaphonous wave of jagged guitar and percussion—and the combined energy was devastating. Who would be silly enough to follow this incredible band? Or even attempt to?

The tiny area around the stage was sardine-tight as Montreal-via-British Columbia’s the Unicorns blasted into their set of whimsical lo-fi indie pop. This bizarro-world power trio—led by Nick (“Neil”) Diamonds and curly carrot-top Alden Ginger (who trade off singing lead and juggle between playing bass, guitar, and a vintage keyboard) and backed by drummer Jaime Thompson—sound like a less-rehearsed version of the Flaming Lips, if the Lips were playing indie-rocked They Might Be Giants covers.

Both Diamonds and Ginger spouted their fair share of witty/disturbed non sequiturs throughout the show, but Diamonds took the cake (and ate that fucker) when he crossed the line from I-want-to-be-weird to I’m-being-incredibly-offensive-and-can’t-tell-the-difference with this cringe inducer: “After the last time we played at the Rocket Bar, I got lost in St. Louis and ended up at a gay bar. I’m not gay, just so you know, I’m not. So I was very uncomfortable. And this guy gave me VD just by looking at me.” Indie rockers can’t be homophobic, dude! It’s against the code.

In lieu of an encore, the Unicorns returned sans instruments, carrying vintage Christmas portrait backgrounds. Standing in a row and holding the backgrounds behind them, the band offered to play the role of Santa, allowing some lucky fan to tell them what he or she wanted for Xmas while getting a photo taken with the band—all for only $10. Adam, a curly-haired scamp resembling a smaller, bespectacled Peter Brady, took the bait. Diamonds promptly pulled the kid’s neck into the crook of his arm while Adam explained which original NES video game he most desired. Satisfied with his response, or maybe tired from choke-holding, Diamonds said, “Okay, you’re Santa now,” and led the band into one of the Rocket’s back rooms, leaving their young guest alone on stage. You’ve never seen a kid so starved for attention. After yelling into the mic for a few minutes, his reverb-drenched voice nearly incomprehensible, he eventually convinced a guy in a tie-dyed tee to join him. Adam asked what he wanted for Xmas, but before he could answer, some joker yelled, “A new shirt!” sinking the poor guy’s buzz and sending him po’ faced back into the crowd. Did I mention the audience hadn’t moved an inch? We were riveted. The kid didn’t budge, or stop bleating until long after the sound guy cut off his mic and deadpanned through the monitors, “Thank you, Santa. Go home.”
— Brian McClelland

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