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Even If Arcade Fire Pushes Ahead on Tour, Will Festivals Still Book Them?

"It's uncharted territory for just about everybody," says a touring executive with close relationships to the band.

Even after Feist‘s decision to leave Arcade Fire’s current tour on Thursday following allegations of sexual misconduct raised against frontman Win Butler, the band is likely to forge ahead with the upcoming European and North American dates this fall, touring executives with close relationships with the band tell Billboard.

It won’t be easy – while the tour is on track to do well financially and had sold out in a number of major markets, Butler helms Arcade Fire with his wife and bandmate Régine Chassagne and the couple’s 19-year relationship has been a central narrative element of the group since its founding in 2004. But after a lengthy report in Pitchfork on Saturday that described fans’ accounts of feeling pressured to share nude images and sexts with Butler, it has sparked shock and disgust among some of the group’s following. Others haven’t seemed bothered.

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At Arcade Fire’s tour opener on Tuesday at 3Arena in Dublin, according to a report from NME, the band did not mention the allegations during the concert, which the magazine described as “business as usual.” On Twitter, one user said the band opened the show with crowd favorite “Wake Up” from the band’s debut studio album, Funeral, and enjoyed “rapturous applause.”

Other fans said the atmosphere felt tense and wondered if cheering fans had seen the Pitchfork story – “Maybe they don’t know yet,” the fan wrote.

Following another show Wednesday in Dublin and then a day off on Thursday — when Feist announced her departure — Arcade Fire’s tour resumes Friday (Sept. 2) in Birmingham, U.K. and runs through Oct. 1 in Warsaw, Poland. “What happens after that – two months already after the article publishes – is impossible to predict,” says one source, noting that while the tour is being promoted by Live Nation, ultimately Butler and Chassagne will decide whether to move ahead with North American dates that start Oct. 27 in Washington, D.C. and wrap Dec. 3 at the Bell Centre arena in Montreal, which was planned as a celebratory hometown tour finale. Opening for the band in North America will be Beck, who has not commented on the allegations against Butler.

“Everything they have been working on all year has been in advance of this tour and the strong ticket sales are a testament to their hard work,” one of the sources tells Billboard. Now they face a tough choice, the source says – find a way to see the tour through and make the best of the situation or cancel and lose everything they’ve invested in getting ready for the tour.

Even if Arcade Fire perseveres through the entire 39-date tour, there’s another major touring issue now facing the band: festivals are currently working on their 2023 lineups, some of which were planning to book the popular indie rock act to play next summer. Those organizers will likely be reevaluating their decision, one of the touring executives tells Billboard. Lineups for festivals next summer aren’t usually finalized until December, at the earliest, and the first major festival announcements don’t start until the first week of January, with Goldenvoice’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival typically the first mixed-genre festival to reveal its performers.

While bands like Arcade Fire and their representatives at Creative Artists Agency prefer to secure commitments from festival bookers well in advance and contracts are sometimes signed and deposits paid in the fall, many festival bookings aren’t finalized until later in the year. (CAA declined to comment for this story and Arcade Fire’s rep did not respond to a request for comment.) For Arcade Fire, uncertainty about whether fans will continue to support Butler and want him on a festival billing doesn’t help the band fill out its 2023 calendar. But expect those bookers to be watching the band’s current shows and the discourse around them carefully.

Says one of the sources: “It’s uncharted territory for just about everybody.”