After waiting more than a decade for Arcade Fire's first appearance in Tampa, fans didn't have to wait long for their second.
Shortly after wrapping their concert Friday at the USF Sun Dome, half of the Grammy-winning indie rockers popped down to Crowbar for an intimate "Disco Town Hall" to raise awareness of voter reform – specifically, the restoration of voting rights to 1.5 million convicted felons in Florida
Hosted by multi-instrumentalist Will Butler, the casual, $5-a-head event featured a performance by violinist Sarah Neufeld and drummer Jeremy Gara, and a DJ set by Will's brother, lead singer and songwriter Win Butler, under his moniker DJ Windows 98.
The couple hundred fans that came, many of them directly from the Sun Dome show, got to hang, chat and talk politics with the band – not something you see every day from your average arena headliners.
"I came to appreciate how beautiful it is, and what a crazy resource it is, to have 4,000 to 15,000 locals in room," Will Butler said. "It's rare to get people in a room that are a community, that care about music and care about our band, that likely care about something like voter rights."
Long known as an activist band, Arcade Fire's post-concert town halls have focused on issues related to that city or community. A few weeks back, Will had seen a story about the ACLU pumping millions of dollars into a campaign for a Florida amendment that would restore convicted felons' right to vote.
"Voting rights stuff is so offensive to me," he said. "The gerrymandering in North Carolina, the f---ing racist districts in Texas -- I just feel like we ought to be able to set a ground that's fair for representation."
At Crowbar, Will performed a song before handing the mic to activists who urged fans to register to vote and sign petitions in support of the ACLU and the Clearwater advocacy group Floridians for a Fair Democracy, Inc., which is driving the petition.
Win and Will Butler grew up in the Houston area, and Arcade Fire formed in Montreal, but Will now lives in New York, where he's gotten plugged into city politics. This spring he earned a master's in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School. And standing out in Crowbar's courtyard, explaining why he felt it was important to connect one-on-one with fans at a time when national politics is "objectively weird and a little scary and confusing," he sounded an awful lot like a guy who might someday run for office.
"Like, 40 years from now, maybe," he said. "Hopefully, God willing, I'll be playing rock and roll for the next 40 years."
In Arcade Fire's unique way, that, too, will help spread his message of advocacy.
"Our first record literally has four songs called Neighborhood," Will said. "There's many ways to make art, but the way we make it is, we go home, we plug into our families, we live in our communities, we live in our neighborhoods, we live in our communities, we live in our cities, and we make our art from that. And this is a piece of that. This is the same project as making Arcade Fire music. To me, it makes sense."
-- Jay Cridlin