Who Is Arcade Fire? Esperanza Spalding? Obama Knows

We expect a lot from our political leaders, but the one thing we tend not to expect them to be is musically hip.

What with two wars, multiple international crises and the economic downturn to manage, the last thing anyone can reasonably expect from President Obama is that he be downloading the latest from Yeasayer.

But as perplexed Americans from Rosie O'Donnell on down erupted on Twitter in response to Canadian indie group Arcade Fire's Grammy win for Album of the Year last night, asking, "Who is Arcade Fire?", it's worth noting that our president is one person who would know.

To be in politics is to be in constant need of money, and fundraisers need entertainment. As well, Barack Obama was uniquely appealing as a political figure to a range of American -- and international -- cultural figures from the earliest days of his presidential campaign. Arcade Fire was an early support of Obama's presidential bid, playing two concerts for his campaign in March 2008 in Ohio.

There are some pretty low-res clips of the shows on YouTube. From the Cleveland show:



And from the Nelsonville, Ohio, one:



Obama's White House also has proved itself a sophisticated patron of the arts, and during one of its first events, in February 2009, featured Esperanza Spalding -- winner of the Grammy last night for Best New Artist -- performing for the president and first lady:



The performance was broadcast on PBS, on which she was described as "the brightest young star on the jazz horizon."

She returned to the White House in May of that year for its poetry jam:

Presented by

Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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