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Big hooks from Phi Slamma Jamma & candy for all at Arcade Fire aftershow

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Ramon Ramirez

Editor’s note: This article was originally published April 11, 2014

Arcade Fire team captain Win Butler joined Phi Slamma Jamma, an incognito quartet composed of Arcade Fire’s backline (drummer Jeremy Gara, multi-instrumentalist Tim Kingsbury, multi-instrumentalist Richard Reed Perry, multi-instrumentalist and little bro William Butler) for precisely one song Thursday night at the Continental Club. It was a pillow top mattress bouncy, brisk walk through the Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time,” a back pocket cover that the band has perfected on national television. Win danced, jumped into the 150-strong test tube audience, turned over stage monitors, and flippantly knocked smart phones from the hands of square patrons. “Hey dude we just saw you,” some guy told the arriving members of Arcade Fire around 11:30 p.m., fresh off a full scale gig at the Austin360 Amphitheater at Circuit of The Americas. (Read Deborah Sengupta Stith’s review of that show here.)

“How did you beat us here?”

“We left during the last song.”

Before and after the Phi Slamma set, Win indulged his mixmaster whims and played generally upbeat, danceable pop music — performing as DJ Windows 98. It’s worth noting, however, that his cuts ran through a MacBook.

The missing, on-salary Arcade Fire member? Win’s wife, Régine Chassagne. Significant only because the billed “after party” was first and foremost that: Win and the boys blowing off steam, staying sane on tour. All of those dudes fancy themselves veritable composers on respective Wikipedia bios, and touring behind one record’s running time (with special edition costumes) must wear thin. At the Continental, the Arcade men chatted with fans, enjoyed adult beverages, and stuffed a piñata (customized to resemble an iPhone) with Tootsie Rolls. Once cracked, there was ample candy for all.

Then more DJ Windows 98 complete with multiple Michael Jackson drops, that Nas song that features Nas’ dad (“Bridging the Gap”), ‘80s synth pop, ‘50s R&B, ‘70s funk, “The Ballad of John and Yoko” for some reason, and a kinda-cool mashup of Kanye West’s “I Am a God” with Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.”

Before “The Last Time,” however, patrons got their $17 worth. The aforementioned Slamma Jamma hit the Continental’s stage at 12:22 a.m. and kicked dust for 40 minutes and 11 songs. Kingsbury and Reed played guitar, Will took bass and heavy lifting on the singing. Occasional sax guys stood in. The mostly four-piece band forfeited Arcade Fire’s corpus in favor of well-curated rock covers that spanned the Beatles (the doo-wop of “Please Please Me’s” “Anna,” and the creaky, out of tune blues of “Rubber Soul’s” “Run For Your Life”); the Modern Lovers’ “Government Center” (with Kingsbury acing the lead vocals); Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (“Bird Dog”); Creedence Clearwater Revival (“Hey, Tonight”); the Ramones (“I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement”); Bob Dylan (a slow dance ready “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”); and Neil Young (“Come On Baby, Let’s Go Downtown”).

Reed and Will donned white pants, white button-down shirts, and bright Nikes. They attacked these treasure chest gems with the vigor of your best music geek bud delivering a mixtape. Win was somewhat obnoxious during the set, piping in from his DJ perch across the club, and adding running commentary between songs. Will gave him a sustained “shhh” at one point. It didn’t matter, Phi Slamma Jamma isn’t about virtuosic baroque pop that speaks to the times, it’s about earnest strums and big hooks. After a song Reed smiled, “That was real.”