Up Close With Arcade Fire

From Ireland we made a quick trip to Edinburgh, Scotland for one main reason – to see the band Arcade Fire.  We had watched them perform live twice before, but to see their musical genius against the backdrop of a medieval castle…we just couldn’t pass that up.

And then, thanks to a friend working at Universal Music, we were given a photo pass to be able to shoot the event. 

Uh oh.

Obsessed fans become press photographers.

You have to wonder how this will turn out…


“What do you mean we both can’t go?” I asked incredulously, shoving my proof-bearing iPod under his nose and pointing at the screen, “See? It says ‘Dalene Heck plus one’!”

“You both don’t need to take pictures, right?”

“Yeah…but…” was the best argument I could muster. This is something we’d both been talking about for weeks, I couldn’t imagine only one of us getting to do it. I turned to Pete, and knew what he was going to say before he even opened his mouth.

“You have to go,” he said, “this is ALL you.”

While we both have an intense love for every sound uttered by the band Arcade Fire, mine is a love that borders on scary obsession. As much as he wanted to do this, he knew exactly what this experience would mean to me.  My gawd, I love him.

I waited ten painstaking minutes with the other photographers and then we were lead through the crowds to the stage. Single file up the right side, I felt like a minor celebrity being guided to the front of the line. Fans parted to let us pass, many commenting that they were jealous of the privilege our big cameras afforded us.  I felt so important.

Soon enough though, that elated feeling was lost, and I felt like a complete fraud. Myself and the five other photographers stood in front of the protective gate just before the stage, thousands packed in the crowd behind us. We all began taking practice shots with our cameras.

None of mine were working out.


Why the f#$% couldn’t Pete be here? I thought, fiddling with all the knobs, trying different settings. F-stop, ISO, up, down. Pictures were blurry and I couldn’t get the shutter speed fast enough. I looked at the professionals around me, all settled into their routines and waiting for the show to start. Dare I ask for help? I’m sure Amy would help me, she’s awfully nice. However, she’s also working for Spin Magazine. How embarrassing would that be.

Still blurry. Panic rose.

Deep breaths. Think, think, think. And then it dawned on me, the stage was currently near pitch black. None of the stage lights were on yet. Of course pictures would be easier to take once the show actually started.

I am such a rookie. SUCH a fraud.


Heart in throat, palms sweating. How am I supposed to take good pictures if my hands are shaking?

The crowd started to cheer wildly, and just out of my view at the back of the stage, the band filtered in.

Camera aimed, I tried to stay steady.

They opened with “Ready To Start”. Snap snap snap. The other photographers were weaving around each other to get different angles so I started weaving too.

Why do rock stars have to move so much?

What is with the yellow and green lighting? That is not very flattering for the band members.

Why the f#$% couldn’t Pete be here?  More weaving from one side of the stage to the other. My finger continuously pressed the shutter release, I didn’t even stop to look at what pictures I was taking.

Suddenly, our time was over. Three songs, fifteen minutes, and about six hundred photos later, we were escorted from the stage and beyond the barricades. I stumbled in a daze back to find Pete at our seats. I met his open arms and barrage of kisses; he told me how proud he was and was so excited to see the pictures I took.  

Oh gawd.

Please let me have taken a few good pictures.


I swayed along to the continuing music but really had no idea what songs were being played, which is remarkable for someone who knows every single lyric by heart. I was completely zoned out. I even turned to Pete at one point and asked what songs they played while I was up there – I couldn’t remember anything past the opener. “Keep The Car Running and No Cars Go,” he responded, smiling.

And then it started. The first few bars of my favorite song, “Wake Up”. This song has the ability to bring forth a raucous wave of emotions on a good day.

Look up, look up. That’s supposed to stop tears from coming, right?

Somethin’ filled up
My heart with nothin’
Someone told me not to cry.

Closing my eyes. Maybe that will work.

Children wake up
Hold your mistake up
Before they turn the summer into dust

The crescendo of the song began to build. I knew it was hopeless.

We’re just a million little gods causin’ rain storms, turnin’ every good thing to rust
I guess we’ll just have to adjussstttt……

Tears began to creep out of the corner of my left eye, and then soon began a free flow from both. All the adrenaline, all the emotion from the evening caught up to me in that moment. I cried for the blur of the day, the hope in the music, the beauty of the ancient castle backdrop, and for the memory of the first time I saw them perform live with my sweet departed sister.

I just let it go.

With my lightnin’ bolts a glowin’
I can see where I am, go, go, where I am
You’d better look out below!


From the 600 photos I snapped at the stage, thankfully a few did turn out!









Once I got back to the seat, I happily handed the camera off to Pete for the rest of the evening.




Thanks DGT and Universal Music, for this lifetime highlight. (5th Rundle rules!)

59 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • September 12 2011

    Excellent photos. I especially like #2.

    It looks like a great concert. We have two AF albums, but have never really listened to them. I am going to give them a deliberate listen.

    • Pete
      September 12 2011

      Go listen to them right now. And I will try not to judge you. 🙂

  • September 12 2011

    Dalene, I got a little teary-eyed reading this! What a great description of such a powerful moment. I am so fricking happy for you. It couldn’t have gone to a more deserving fan. And the shots are AWESOME! I love the one of the guitarist with his hair in his face.
    sam kelly recently posted..Who Am I?

    • September 12 2011

      Aw, thanks Samicita!! I still get teary when I read it, and I had to ban listening to them for the next few days in order to get over it.

      Next time tho’, I’m rushing the stage… 🙂

  • Joan Sarro
    September 12 2011

    Aw, you made me cry. You snapped gorgeous photos! And what a beautiful setting! Wow. I think I would have reacted the same way. You rule. xo

  • Steven
    September 12 2011

    I felt the same way this past July. I was in Québec City, and was able to see Elton John up close. I was raised on his music, and seeing him in person was a dream come true. Something I can cross off my bucket list of items. You have great pictures, and a great story was written to go with them!

    • September 12 2011

      Music plays such an important role in our lives – it has the power to reconnect us instantly to a time or place in our past. Love that you got to see Elton up close – he’s someone that I would love to see live. Thanks for your comment Steven!

  • September 12 2011

    Oh MY GOD! I freakin love Arcade Fire. What a cool experience! I probably would’ve cried too. And look…. you got AWESOME photos! #dyingofjealousybutsostokedforyou!!
    Kelly recently posted..How to Rent an Apartment in Buenos Aires

    • Pete
      September 13 2011

      Haha, thanks Kelly!! I freakin’ love them too. Mucho. It was an awesome night, even if I don’t remember all of it!

      • Pete
        September 13 2011

        Oops, that was Dalene leaving the comment. 🙂

  • Taryn
    September 12 2011

    You made me cry, dammit. No fair.

    Lovely photos and powerful words, both.

    Hope you stored some mental photos away for yourself too.


    • September 13 2011

      Thanks SB! I wish I could say I had some mental photos of being right up there, but it’s still a blur. Hopefully it comes back to me… 🙂

  • Dayna
    September 12 2011

    I love that you had such a great experience! Also that you got such fantastic photos! xoxo DD
    PS – Wake Up is one of my faves too!

    • September 13 2011

      Thanks Mrs Davis! I still don’t think I’m ready to listen to that song again (haven’t since the concert). Too emotional for me!

  • September 12 2011

    You have some beautiful pictures. No worries! I also felt the same fear you had once when I had to take pictures at a museum event. Not a rock concert with rockers moving around the stage, but I do know what you mean.

    Very jealous of you and your Arcade Fire concert!

    Thanks for sharing this. 😉

    – Kris

    • September 13 2011

      Thanks Kris! I’m so glad that of about 600 photos, at least a handful turned out. I’m not sure I can ever do that again…it was so intense and really brought out way more emotional then I thought it would. Perhaps I’m better just as an obsessed fan… 🙂

  • Katrina
    September 12 2011

    I’m so glad you got to do that! And yes, great pics. Congrats!

    Reminds me of when I went to see Imogen Heap in Rome. I didn’t have a pass, but it was a small venue and I had a large-ish camera, so I squeezed up to the front and took a million pics. I was panic-texting the friend who’d sold me the camera asking for help with the settings because the light was so low. As you said, things got lighter when the show actually started, but it was still dodgy from time to time. We got to be up there for about half the show and then we were shooed away. Actually managed to get some pictures that turned out really well, now proudly enshrined on my Flickr account. Even got a wee bit of video with the point-and-shoot.

    I hope you were able to enjoy the rest of the show and smile after the tears. 🙂


    • September 12 2011

      After the tears, I snapped out of it a bit, and sang my heart out for the rest of the show! 🙂 Very cool about Imogen Heap, would love to see her live!

    • September 12 2011

      Imogene Heap is one of the best concerts we have ever seen. Tiny, unpretentious and a total f’ing blast. We had a similar experience at Bat For Lashes, but have kind of been chasing the dragon ever since.

      • September 13 2011

        Ooh, now we must see….great, add another artist to that long list!

  • September 12 2011

    What an amazing opportunity!! Especially when you love the band so much (I do too – one of my absolute favs!) I love your shots – so exciting =)
    Andrea recently posted..Bozcaada: Turkey’s Island of Wine

    • September 13 2011

      Thanks Andrea! It ranks up there as one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, that’s for sure. Not sure I could do it again though…you know, with all the crying and all… 🙂

  • September 12 2011

    What are you talking about? Those pictures are awesome!

    I’m just jealous you got to see Arcade Fire!!! Love them too although I’m not the obsessed fan. I’ll leave that to you.

    I also loved learning I’m not the only one that feels like a fraud from time to time.
    Debbie – European Travelista recently posted..European Soccer Fans in Budapest

    • September 13 2011

      TOTAL FRAUD. Felt like that for so long, until I got to look at some pictures and realized I know a *little bit* about what I’m doing! It was a pretty awesome night. 🙂

  • September 13 2011

    They are great photos! I am so so so so jealous that you have been to THREE Arcade Fire concerts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Jade Johnston recently posted..5 Things You Must Do In Wellington Winter Edition

    • September 13 2011

      Ohhh…I’d see them every night if I could. If I had an endless bank account, I would chase them around the world. Stalk much?? Haha 🙂

  • September 13 2011

    Wow, you got some great photos – they look really professional. What an experience to remember.
    Erin recently posted..Photo of the Week: Giant Buddha in Nara, Japan

    • September 13 2011

      Thanks Erin! With the amount of freaking out I was doing, I was just happy to have some in focus! It is an experience I will never forget.

  • September 13 2011

    So awesome. I’m a big arcade fan myself and very jealous you got this experience! The photos turned out great, too!
    Phil recently posted..Find me a Country with More Pride

    • September 13 2011

      Thanks! It was a pretty killer concert. 🙂

  • September 13 2011

    Oh man, that ending made me cry too! I love your writing. And I love these pictures. Now I need to check out this band…
    Mara recently posted..Milwaukee is perfect for a day (or more) of family fun

    • September 14 2011

      Aw, thanks Mara! Yes, definitely check them out…dedicate some time to just listening to them with no disruptions (if possible). I am sure you won’t be disappointed!

  • Abby
    September 13 2011

    Awwww Pete’s the best! That’s amazing. Glad you had fun — yes, great shots!

    • September 14 2011

      Yeah, I think I’ll keep him around for awhile longer. 🙂

  • Darlene T
    September 14 2011

    Great photos, great story – I am so happy you got to do this!!! And I love Pete too for letting you go 🙂 true love.

    • September 14 2011

      Thanks to you Dar! xoxo

  • September 14 2011

    Nice work! Now that’s a cool story!

  • September 14 2011

    They’re an amazing band – what an experience to remember 🙂
    Nomadic Samuel recently posted..Working Overseas | Interview with Wandering Earl

    • September 14 2011

      Sure wish I could remember all of it… 🙂

  • September 14 2011

    Soooo….. I’ve never actually heard of Arcade Fire before. Or maybe I’ve heard their songs on the radio and just never knew their name?

    I seriously feel for you, though, Dalene! I would have freaked the f*ck out in that kind of situation. Looks like managed to keep your cool well enough to get some great shots, though. =)
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..Are tours a good option for budget travelers?

    • September 14 2011

      “They know my name ’cause I told it to them, but they don’t know where, and they don’t know when…” (lyrics from their song Keep The Car Running!) 🙂

      Well, out of about 600 shots, I think about 20-30 are good. I’m sure that’s a pretty shitty ratio, but I’ll take it!!

  • September 14 2011

    Great photos! You should be very proud. Even though this experience was traumatic at the time, it will make you a better photographer and you won’t be as nervous the next time! 🙂
    Christy @ Ordinary Traveler recently posted..Travel Shot: Two Old Ladies in Panauti

    • September 15 2011

      Thanks Christy! I dunno, I think with any other band, I might be OK, but with them, I’m pretty sure my messy performance would be duplicated! 🙂

  • September 15 2011

    I love this post! I’ve had similar experiences lucking out with a photo pass for My Chemical Romance and feeling a bit out of place. I called my photographer friend before the show to have her explain how to adjust the shutter speed for concerts, so at least I was prepared in that regard. I do find that when I’m busy in the photo pit, I don’t get to pay attention to the music. For a band I really love, I’d actually prefer to be in the crowd.
    Scott – Quirky Travel Guy recently posted..I went to the Mormon Church grounds and they didn’t try to recruit me

    • September 15 2011

      Yeah, I think after this experience, for my *favorite* bands, I’d rather just hang back in the crowd. As cool as it was to be close enough to reach out and smooch Win (and believe me, it was a struggle not to), I prefer groovin’ to the music and singing along. But, I’m SO glad I did it once!

  • September 16 2011

    Okay I have been the most HUGE Arcade Fire fan since I heard “No Cars Go” on Six Feet Under. My former boss lives in Montreal and she is part of a Haitian group for young professionals and knows Régine Chassagne. She said they turned down a gig as opening act for U2 because is wasn’t their vision — they wanted to work on their album “The Suburbs” which eventually won them the Grammy. So very jealous you got to play photog! 🙂
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..The Sounds of Vietnam

    • September 17 2011

      No. I am the most HUGE Arcade Fire fan. I’ll arm wrestle you for it!!

      It was a pretty amazing experience, but I think I’ll go back to just being the obsessed fan. Maybe there’ll be less tears that way.

  • Laura
    September 19 2011

    Aw what a cool opportunity! I discovered Arcade Fire earlier this year and am totally smitten! I’m dying to see them live but never seem to be in the same geographical area as them. Your photos turned out wonderfully!!

    • September 19 2011

      Seeing them live is an experience you can’t miss! Stalk them like us! 🙂

  • Liz | CornwellWriting
    September 19 2011

    Absolutely stunning photos! I’m speechless!

    • September 20 2011

      Wow – thank you Liz!!

  • September 23 2011

    I think Craig could relate to this post as he experienced the pressure at the Byron Bay bluesfest. Alas, his photos turned out great just like yours did. What a cool experience for you
    Caz Makepeace recently posted..Facing Fear – Sky Diving in New Zealand

    • September 23 2011

      Thanks Caz! It was a pretty incredible, VERY memorable day. 🙂

  • October 24 2011

    I really like Arcade Fire – their sound is really unique among a field of groups trying to copy the “latest sound”. I’m really glad they have developed a good following and the attention of the music press.

    I had a chance to see them a few years ago in a little club not far from my house in Philadelphia… and I missed it – bummer!

    I’m glad you enjoyed it, and great photos!
    Don Faust recently posted..Fascinating Finland: The Cult of the Sauna

    • October 25 2011

      Ack! I’d KILL to see them in an intimate setting like that – you really missed out! They don’t play those very often anymore.

  • January 19 2013

    Awesome! seen them in a free show in Montreal. Downtonw was completely packed 🙂

  • Kellie
    April 29 2014

    I’ve just seen this and what would you know, we were there too! Such an amazing backdrop for gig, its definitely up there as one of my favourite.

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