GRAMMY
Merge Records' Christina Rentz, driving, and Jamie Beck, foreground, in their red Mustang convertible with noticeable post-Grammy victory glows. (Photo: valet at the Petit Hermitage Hotel, L.A.)

What do you do when your band wins an Album of the Year Grammy? Christina Rentz, Director of Publicity at the North Carolina-based independent label Merge Records, whose band Arcade Fire just won the award for their record "The Suburbs," is still trying to figure that out. According the her .biz Grammy diary, below, one of the things you do is scream on the phone to the label owners Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance, who were on tour in Japan with their band Superchunk. And maybe before that you rent a convertible, dress to the nines and giggle at Barrry Manilow.

By Christina Rentz

When Jamie Beck [Merge retail director] and I found out we would be representing Merge at the Grammys, we were nervous, excited, and immediately overcome by "What to WEAR?!" Our accountant instructed us not to dress like "country bumpkins" since the fanciest we usually get is a shiny new band t-shirt to wear to the Cat's Cradle, one of our local music venues, so we left our flip flops at home, rented a red Mustang convertible, and booked rooms at the Roosevelt.

Our date to the awards was Karen Glauber, our commercial radio consultant and president of HITS Magazine. Karen is quite the Grammys veteran, so we were ready to go when she picked us up at noon sharp. Wearing entirely too much makeup for a Sunday afternoon and the sparkliest shoes we could find, Jamie and I arrived at the pre-televised ceremony and were handed a list of 98 awards, of which Arcade Fire was nominated for two: Best Alternative Album (#69) and Rock Duo or Group with Vocals (#88).

We giggled as Barry Manilow walked down our aisle and squealed at the adorableness of the Black Keys in their suits and Mavis Staples in her grand-dame finery. Kathy Griffin made us laugh, and we thought the performances by ChocQuibTown and Trombone Shorty were great, even though it seemed like no one but us was paying attention.

Finally, award #69 was drawing near! Arcade Fire walked over from their rehearsal at the Staples Center, and our pulses began to race. We swarmed around the band making jokes, reminiscing about how it was a long way from the first time we ever saw them (at the Cave in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, capacity 50), handing out breath mints, and sweating a little. "And the Grammy goes to…the Black Keys!" Sigh, but happy for them. The girls in the band ran off to get ready for the telecast, but Richie [Parry] and Will [Butler] waited to see what would happen with #88. "And the Grammy goes to…the Black Keys!" Oh well, we thought with disappointment, it was nice to be nominated!

Off to the telecast. I expected to be bored, but boy, was I wrong! We took our seats on the second level, and I felt so tiny in that big room thinking about our little corner of the music business in Durham and our fellow employees staying up late to watch on East Coast time. I also felt proud thinking about Arcade Fire and their commitment to doing things 100% their way, and about how far Merge and the band had come by working together to help them achieve their vision.

I loved everything about the show! The production value was amazing, and it was incredibly exciting to be in the room. When Eminem came on stage and blew the roof off the place, I thought we were sunk for sure! But Jamie had been saying all weekend that we were going to win. She gave me very good reasons why, but I still didn't think it was possible. As the night wore on, she persisted in her certainty, but it wasn't until Eminem won Best Rap Album that I felt the familiar sweaty palms again!

Finally, Arcade Fire took the stage. The lights were insane, and in addition to being the best-looking band there, they sounded fantastic! Soon afterward, Barbra [Streisand] announced the Album of the Year: "And the Grammy goes to…The S-S-S-S-Suburbs?" We began screaming and jumping as our section emptied out with people muttering under their breath, "Who is Arcade Fire?" The band accepted the award then immediately set up for their second song, with Win putting his Grammy on top of an amp so he could pick up his guitar-my favorite moment of the evening! They could not stop smiling and neither could we. Together, we had accomplished something pretty incredible and hopefully inspired musicians everywhere not to compromise when it is important.

As we left the Staples Center, we called our bosses Mac and Laura, who are in Japan with their band Superchunk, and screamed on Mac's voicemail. We then phoned our label manager Stacy "Spott" Philpott and said, "Holy crap, what do we do now?" I still don't fully know the answer, but at the time, it seemed like the best thing we could do was to get in our red Mustang, throw the top down, drive to the after-party to hug our friends in Arcade Fire, high-five their manager Scott Rodger and then get back to work on Tuesday, the release date for two new albums from Telekinesis and East River Pipe.

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