Arcade Fire started their world tour in Dublin on Tuesday, days after the band’s frontman Win Butler was accused of sexual misconduct. In a scathing investigation conducted by Pitchfork, four people accused Butler of inappropriate behavior. The allegations, made by victims aged between 18 and 23 over a five-year period, range from forceful touching to sexual assault.
One accuser, a gender-fluid individual who uses they/them pronouns, claims that Butler sexually assaulted them twice in 2015, when they were 21 and he was 34. They detailed how Butler showed up at their apartment and ‘pinned me up against the wall and was aggressively grabbing my body and sticking his tongue down my throat […] Eventually he pulled me onto his lap on my couch. I don’t know if he was holding me by the waist or what, but I was physically constrained by him as he was putting his hand down my pants. At some point he tried to go down on me.’
Another accuser, given the pseudonym Stella, shared how Butler repeatedly sent her explicit text messages that she did not consent to, nor did she reciprocate his desires. She told a friend on Facebook Messenger in 2016, ‘Win butler asked me for nudes and tried to sext me. And I told him I was really uncomfortable with that. I don’t really know what to do now. He keeps texting me. Over and over.’
Butler denies all accusations of non-consensual behavior and insists that every incident described was consensual. Butler, who is married to bandmate Régine Chassagne, gave a long statement to Pitchfork defending his actions (here’s just a section of it because the whole thing is exhausting):
‘The majority of these relationships were short lived, and my wife is aware - our marriage has, in the past, been more unconventional than some. I have connected with people in person, at shows, and through social media, and I have shared messages of which I am not proud. Most importantly, every single one of these interactions has been mutual and always between consenting adults. It is deeply revisionist, and frankly just wrong, for anyone to suggest otherwise.
In my 30s, I started drinking as I dealt with the heaviest depression of my life after our family experienced a miscarriage. None of this is intended to excuse my behavior, but I do want to give some context and share what was happening in my life around this time. I no longer recognized myself or the person I had become. Régine waited patiently watching me suffer and tried to help me as best as she could. I know it must have been so hard for her to watch the person she loved so lost.’
I must say, blaming your wife’s miscarriage for your accused sexual assault is a new one.
Arcade Fire are, of course, going ahead with their world tour. They’re one of the most beloved and commercially successful indie bands on the planet, a Grammy winning group who can sell our stadiums. It doesn’t seem as though this news will impact many of the fans who bought tickets. Why would we expect it to? We’ve seen time and time again how little the world cares about victims of sexual misconduct and outright assault, especially when it’s allegedly perpetrated by their celeb fave.
But that doesn’t mean no action is being taken at all. Several radio stations in the band’s home country of Canada are pausing playing Arcade Fire songs for now. Feist, the support act, donated the proceeds from her merchandise stand to the local chapter of Women’s Aid. It’s not known if this was done in response to the Butler allegations but it certainly seems pointed in the current context.
Feist is donating proceeds from the merch at the Arcade Fire show tonight to Women’s Aid Dublin pic.twitter.com/36Q3lyYXSL— kevin freeburn (@KevFreeburn) August 30, 2022
Some trolls had fun with the occasion.
But mostly, it seems as though the gig went well and Dublin audiences were won over.
Arcade Fire open the first gig of their world tour in Dublin with Wake Up, which is some PR move - crowd immediately seems to be on their side pic.twitter.com/Q338Ki4zUp— Christine Bohan (@ChristineBohan) August 30, 2022
Wow, @arcadefire just finished their set in Dublin with Dreams by The Cranberries and it was perfect â˜˜ï¸ðŸ’š— Donnacha McCormack (@dunta90) August 30, 2022
According to the BBC, as the band left the stage, they played a snippet of ‘Stand By Me’ by Ben E. King. Yikes.
The tour will continue, the crowds will show up, and the adorkable artsy band that sells itself as a big loving progressive family will skate by the disturbing allegations because hey, Reflektor has some top tunes, right?