Controlled Capacity

Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire

“Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” This is one of my favorite adages. I love planning. I love thinking about upcoming tasks, comparing old tasks undone, all to move towards a common goal. While studying urban planning at Portland State University, I learned to believe that planning was even more important in urban settings (rural too). If we want to create and support a vision of our place, then we need to plan to manage the growth (or decline, think Flint, Michigan) that will inevitably happen. Given this framework, I think my friend was a little surprised when I told her I had a gut level reaction against Arcade Fire.

She asked me if I’d listened to them yet. She was letting me borrow a CD. I confessed that no, I hadn’t because well… they sort of irked me.

“I heard them on Soundstage once,” I explained. I thought back to that episode where the large band was sweating over microphones and the stage, all very animated in their own right. I’ve known musician types, and there is something about their arrogant personalities… that holier than thou because I play music attitude that really just bugs me. And, it really bugs me when it sweats all over the stage.

I had never heard of Arcade Fire prior to listening to this Soundstage episode, so I looked them up like any self-respecting internet user would do. Naturally, I turned to Wikipedia, where it was kindly explained Arcade Fire caps their concerts. They don’t sell more than, say 3,000 tickets per show (I don’t remember the number and Wikipedia isn’t saying anything about this memory.)

The article further explained some restrictions the band put in place to control their grow, their numbers, and as such have become a cult classic revolving around the lead singer. I recall there was something catchy about their music but it didn’t hit to my core like say, Sinner Man or At Last. It was catchy. It was modern. It was clearly very popular.

Now, maybe it’s because I was never a popular kid. Maybe this hearkens back to some childhood jealously, but something about this just rubbed me the wrong way.

When I explained this to my friend, after she argued isn’t a good thing that they are controlling their growth and not selling out to the Man (record labels), she thought, “Oh, you mean, like they are capping their concerts with the premeditated assumption they will be popular?”

This was the closest set of words that explained the revulsion I felt.

But the group is popular. So, what’s so wrong, really, with the band exercising controlled growth, maintaining their vision, and doing what they love: playing music? Nothing really in the grand scheme of things. And, the irony is they are doing that which I actively advocate.

We have had a capped membership in my food club since we merged. Since March 2010, we have frozen our membership at about 60 families. As people shift, we make room for more, but that’s it. We can’t handle more than 60 families with our current structure, and now we like our structure. So, really, what’s so bad about capped capacity?

I think I better listen to that album (The Suburbs) now.

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