There’s nothing average about Canadian indie band Arcade Fire. Not only are they unique in their sound, but they're also rock stars with a huge mission.
During the band's visit to UT’s LBJ Auditorium on Monday, they mentioned almost nothing about their recent Grammy award snag. Instead, they spent their time telling their assembled fans about their most committed cause: Haiti.
As their self proclaimed number one fan, I was ecstatic to even be in their presence. Representing the rather large band during the lecture were frontman Win Butler, his wife Regine Chassagne, his brother William Butler, and touring band member Marika Anthony-Shaw.
Of course, like most of the attendees of the lecture, I secretly wanted them to play a couple of their hits. Without question, though, I was blown away by the enormous amount of knowledge they have on the socio-economic crisis taking place in Haiti. Within a few minutes, I’d forgotten I was in the presence of an internationally acclaimed group of musicians as they sounded like they'd been global activists their entire lives.
Chassagne's parents left Haiti in the 60s during the Francois Duvalier regime to escape the violence and corruption. She mentioned that although she did not have many direct encounters with Haiti as a child, the vibrancy and spirit of the culture affected her experience growing up.
Her deep connection to Haiti was reflected in her reaction to Arcade Fire’s recent success. "When I knew that I would be a musician, the first thing I thought of was Haiti,” she shared.
Each band member individually expressed their genuine pleas for the next generation to turn its attention to Haiti. They pressed the importance of college students to get educated and take up identities as global citizens of the world. At the very least, Will pleaded to us to “read as much about Haiti, Google it, and get a feel for it.” Being informed, after all, is the least we could do to bring awareness to Haiti.
In their efforts to aid Haiti, the band has teamed up with Partners in Health, an organization whose mission is to improve health care systems in Haiti. Their close partnership gave them an in-depth scope of how an independent nonprofits could create lasting impact in a poverty-stricken country. According to Win, Arcade Fire donates each dollar of their ticket sales to the Haitian cause and the group speaks about Haiti at all of their shows.
As a fan of the group, I was impressed with the amount of knowledge and genuine effort they put forth to shed light on Haiti. Throughout the lecture, it was palpable how excited they were to share with the students their humbling and inspiring experience in Haiti.
Win reminded the attendees how easily we take for granted the infrastructure of the West and how crucial it is for our generation to build the power of this movement from person to person. He closed by saying, "It almost sounds cliche to talk about the spirit of the Haitian people; but it is real, and it's such a shame to not do something."