Who on earth would line up at a record store on a Monday night to buy a single that had leaked onto the Internet hours beforehand? Especially when the Texans' season opener was about to start?
True-blue Arcade Fire fans, that's who. The grooves of indie-rock spun right through kickoff as some 50 or 60 people turned up at Cactus Music to buy the Grammy-winning rockers' highly anticipated new release, "Reflektor," a 12" vinyl offering that came cleverly disguised as an LP by "The Reflektors."
First in line was 21-year-old Reagan Hunter, a Texas A&M University student from the Amarillo area currently working an internship in Houston. He traced his Arcade Fire fandom back to a friend who knew he was also into Radiohead and tipped him to a couple of early singles.
"[The friend] said, 'You have to check out this band,' Hunter recalled. "Ever since, I've been waiting for their next release."
Had Hunter ever stood in line for a record before? At Record Store Day in Austin earlier this year, he said, where he picked up a release by prickly Jersey rockers Titus Andronicus and a couple of other RSD exclusives.
"It seemed like a cool experience to get the single before it was available other places," he said of "Reflektor."
Regretfully, Hunter said he had never seen Win Butler's crew live. Yet.
"I plan to the first chance I get," he swore.
Next to him, wearing a T-shirt featuring the cover of Arcade Fire's previous album The Suburbs, was Saeid Halvaeian, 27, of the Heights. A student and graphic designer who sometimes does freelance work on the video boards at Minute Maid Park and Reliant Stadium (not bad), he said he first heard the band when his dorm neighbor across the hall played "Neighborhood 3 (Power Out)," a popular tune from Arcade Fire's 2004 breakthrough LP Funeral.
Halvaeian said he has seen the band twice so far, at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in May 2011 and at the Austin City Limits Music Festival a few months later. At the Woodlands, the band skipped the extended version of "Ready to Start" he was hoping to hear, but thought it was worth the trip anyway.
"I hate The Woodlands," Halvaeian admitted. "I just hate driving out there, but it was them so I was happy."
Halvaeian said he had listened to "Reflektor," which had leaked to the Internet much earlier in the day, for eight solid hours Monday, and planned to buy it anyway -- even though he doesn't own a record player.
"I never lined up for vinyl [before], but I figured this was a good place to start," he said.
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By now the line had almost wrapped around an entire aisle of the store, mostly with men in their early twenties, a few of whom brought young women along. But we also found one entire family -- the Palmers. Bob, Annette and Faith are emigres from England and Scotland who moved to Houston about seven years ago, "for the second time," Bob said.
Faith, a 12th-grader wearing a homemade "Reflektor" T-shirt she said she had made earlier Monday afternoon, was clutching a STRFCKER LP and the latest Yeah Yeah Yeahs release, Mosquito, on CD. She reckoned she had been into Arcade Fire for a couple of years, before Bob corrected her.
"Longer than that," he said. "We were first -- we got ahold of Funeral when it came out."
"Reflektor" stretches past seven minutes and bears the distinct sonic electro-stamp of producer James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem), as well as David Bowie mucking about on background vocals. Asked its worth compared to Arcade Fire's previous work, Faith said she thought it was "different, but in a good way."
"It's like when Radiohead came out with Kid A and everybody said 'Oh, they're falling apart,'" Bob added, sounding extra exasperated. "But they weren't."
About 9:28 p.m., an audible groan went up as Cactus finally exhausted its "Reflektor" supply, leaving about a dozen disappointed fans empty-handed. Would there be any kind of consolation prize?
"They get a button," said Buxton's Chris Wise, who was working the cash register. "But it wouldn't be a surprise if they end up reissuing the record."
Arcade Fire's fourth album, also called Reflektor, due October 29 on Merge Records. Earlier Monday, NBC announced that the band will join host Tina Fey on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live September 28.
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