Toxicity 9

Posted: September 25, 2013 in Toxicity
Tags: , , , , , , ,
The Airborne Toxic Event's Mikel Jollett. Photograph by TATE fan Ryan Macchione.

The Airborne Toxic Event’s Mikel Jollett. Photograph by TATE fan Ryan Macchione.

By Glen

As rock stations across North America continue to add The Airborne Toxic Event’s newest song, Hell and Back, to their rotations, fans anxiously await an on-sale announcement for the tune. Meanwhile, with the band busy traipsing around North America, most of the news this week has come in the form of reviews and previews.

A Simulacrum of a Simulacrum of a Simulacrum: Mikel Gets Meta

Ahead of the band’s recent show in Kalamazoo, MI (their first ever visit to the town), the Kalamazoo Gazette interviewed Mikel, delving into – what else? – The Airborne Toxic Event’s reputation as a literary band. And the singer/writer didn’t disappoint, liberally sprinkling words like “simulacrum” and “extemporaneous” throughout his responses. What other band are you gonna get that from?

Mikel doesn’t back away from the distinction, but he does admit to some surprise at what the band has become:

“I just didn’t think we’d be a very good band,” Jollett said. “We started off kinda more like an art project.” They’d have TVs on stage tuned to static, and only dressed in black and white. “We wanted to look like static.”

They’d also show the audience a live video feed of the audience watching the band. “All very meta. A rock band disguised as an art project disguised as a rock band.”

He didn’t expect a future as a successful group being asked, in airports, who they were, and responding “sheepishly, ‘we’re called The Airborne Toxic Event.'”

If the band is an art project, what’s their message? “For us the idea is, life is short, and that’s awful,” says Mikel. “Okay, now, so what do you do next? The answer is, enjoy it.”

Airborne History 101

As Norfolk braced for TATE’s visit, seized the opportunity to look back on the early history of the band. Starting all the way back at Spaceland in January 2008, TATE’s story is traced from those legendary early shows, to the recording of the debut album in a friend’s home studio, to the unexpected sensation that was Sometime Around Midnight, to the legendary 30 shows in 30 days UK tour, to their first appearance on Letterman, and ultimately their first record deal. There’s not much new information here, but for newer fans who might not be well-versed in the band’s origins, it makes a great introduction.

Here, they capture the flavor of those early gigs, for the benefit of those of us who didn’t make the discovery in time to enjoy them:

Airborne quickly developed a reputation for cathartic, wailing live shows, reaching the usually stoic East Side L.A. indie rock crowd on a gut level. Many danced. Some cried. Sing-alongs became the norm. (Noah) Harmon played his bass with bow like a cello while (Daren) Taylor pounded away on a car hood taken from a junkyard one afternoon. It was not uncommon for the band to throw thirty tambourines into the crowd or for Harmon or (Anna) Bulbrook to jump into the ruckus among a chorus of handclaps as Jollett screamed from the stage while the audience screamed back.

The Airborne Toxic Event has never lost that energy and enthusiasm, and it continues to make believers. Unfortunately, the car hood does seem to have fallen by the wayside, however…

In Review

The steady diet of shows has brought with it a slew of reviews, most of them glowing. A recent sampling:

Diehard TATE fan Julie Stoller reviews the Boston Calling Festival, declaring TATE to be the highlight, hands down. “Airborne’s way-too-short set was nothing short of incendiary, celebratory and poignant, and I’d expect nothing less.” Julie’s review is made all the better with her excellent photographic work.

The Metro echoes her praise, noting, “The Airborne Toxic Event’s midday set was a high point — frontman Mikel Jollett’s energy was infectious as he wooed the crowd with a selection of their hits from this year’s Such Hot Blood to crowd favorite Sometime Around Midnight, that bleeding heart of a breakup jam that never fails to make this writer feel a little weepy — in the best way possible. As those first unmistakable violin strains rang through City Hall Plaza, a girl turned to her friend and yelled ‘this song always makes me cry.’ Confirmed.”

Michela Smith agrees, calling The Airborne Toxic Event “the most energetic act of the evening,” and noting how thrilled Mikel and the band appeared to be just to have the opportunity to play.

CisternYard Media was there when the band took the stage at Music Farm in Charleston, SC, and came away impressed: “With their stage presence, bombastic sound and dynamic lighting, the group’s performance was even better than I had anticipated.”

Finally, blogger Josh Terzino covered Airborne’s latest visit to Chicago, marveling, “By the time we got to the third song, ‘Moving On,’ Mikel, Noah, and Steven were all standing on the rails dividing the stage from the audience and nearly inciting a riot as people tried to get close enough to touch the band members.”

And if all that isn’t enough to paint the picture for you, photographer Michelle Maret should do the trick with her gorgeous collection of images from the Kalamazoo show:

Toxic Gold

We are just a week away from the long-awaited UK release of Such Hot Blood, and the even longer-awaited European tour. To celebrate, here’s Mikel showing off his award-winning British accent. Cheerio!

Glen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.

  1. joshterzino says:

    Thanks for using my quote! If you want any pics from the Chicago show, hers a link to our album


  2. Anna says:

    Another excellent post. I can’t overstate how much this blog helps me recover from post-concert depression. (Also Mikel’s accent!! Brilliant!)


  3. Susan says:

    No lie, Toxic Gold indeed. I can’t believe I’ve never seen that one. Thanks for digging deep.


  4. Wow, thanks for the wrap up once again, Glen! However, the Airborne history by is just a cut and paste job from a bunch of different places. I guess there’s no plagiarism on the internet. I would have given my college students an F for handing in this history. Here’s one link from 2008 and a lot is also on the Amazon editorial review of their first album.


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