Posted: October 17, 2013 in Clamoring of the Crowd
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Steven Chen of The Airborne Toxic Event Photo by TATE fan Ryan Macchione

Steven Chen of The Airborne Toxic Event
Photo by TATE fan Ryan Macchione

By Stephanie

I’m waiting at St Pancras train station for my train home after flying from Germany and the last of the dates I’d intended doing of The Airborne Toxic Event’s European Fall Tour. Since leaving the Batschkapp in Frankfurt last night, I’ve been going over and over in my head what I want to say to the band, how much they’ve touched me, moved me and inspired me once again. I’m writing imaginary individual letters to all five members, fighting back the tears that want to flow at the thought of the end of this trip and going back to all the everyday stresses with which I need to deal. A couple of friends are on their way to the final gig of the tour in Leuven, Belgium tonight.  I’m right near the Eurostar ticket office, and the temptation is huge…

I was comparatively late getting into The Airborne Toxic Event. I can’t even remember what came first – whether it was hearing “Sometime Around Midnight” on the radio or stumbling across the band’s live cover of one of my all-time favourite tracks, “Goodbye Horses” by Q Lazzarus; either way, when I spotted the band was playing in the town where I live in February 2009, I was keen to go and hear them live. They were supporting two other bands, but most people in the crowd were there for The Airborne Toxic Event – in all the hundreds of gigs I’ve been to, I’ve never known so many people present for the first support act. It was an amazing set with the guitars, viola and vocals totally engulfing me on the two tracks I knew. I’d never thought a cover of “Goodbye Horses” would ever be as good as the original that I’d loved for years, but their live version was so haunting it felt like there was nothing else, just me and the music for those few minutes. That was it. I was hooked. Speaking to the lead singer after the gig, he said they’d be back in the UK soon. I thought, “Yeah, right. How can a relatively unknown band from the US afford to come back again so soon?”

I went home. I did my research. I discovered the band had played several dates near me the previous autumn, I searched for other fans online, I ordered the album and played it over and over.

True to their word, the band came back a couple of months later. A friend drove me to Sheffield only for us to find that there was a power failure and the gig was postponed. I was distraught. Even moreso when I read online the next day that the band had played a couple of acoustic numbers outside the venue. How stupid had I been not to hang around? I did manage to catch them a total of six times that year. Friends started calling me obsessive. I just ignored them and searched for other fans online with whom to share YouTube clips and interviews.

Fast forward a few years. The number of fellow fans I interact with has spiraled, and I’ve now seen the band a total of 34 times. Eight of those gigs have been part of the European Fall Tour.  It had been a difficult summer for me due to suffering from labyrinthitis which wiped me out for two months, meaning that photographing gigs by other bands had had to be cancelled. I had less energy and significantly decreased concentration span, meaning my day job and my part-time degree studies suffered. The inability to function normally got me down so much, I thought I would have to cancel the six UK and Ireland gigs as well as my holiday in Germany. I somehow managed to complete my course module on time, not to the standard I would’ve liked, but by that stage I was just grateful to get it off my plate. My TATE friends were all getting excited about the gigs, but I was more concerned about whether I’d be well enough to go, and more importantly, well enough to drive home after each gig.

I’d applied for a photopass for the first gig of the tour. Birmingham O2 Academy 2 has awful lighting, but at least I knew it had a photo pit and I wouldn’t need to worry about fighting for space. It was great to see the band live again, but the sound wasn’t good and I didn’t take to their current, more flamboyant onstage style. I left with mixed emotions, got home after midnight but was keen to see the photos I’d taken, only to be disappointed that I only had decent ones of Steven and Noah.

The next night I knew I had to give the gig a miss due to not being great physically. I would’ve been OK to drive up to Manchester, but I would’ve been too tired to drive the two hours home. Typically, this is the gig that everyone else rates as one of the best of the tour, the other being Munich – another I missed!

Day 3 of the tour was Leeds Cockpit. What a gig! I just love the hot sweaty ones. I fell in love with the band all over again. This feeling was magnified when Mikel appeared to recognize me after the gig and gave me a sweaty hug. The rest of the tour had equally special moments with other members of the band, though the London gig was spoiled by the return of my vertigo symptoms and yet another moment of uncertainty about whether I should be flying to Germany. I’d paid for the flights and booked places to stay, and I needed a holiday. I decided to go. The more I see the band live, the more I want to see them again.

I’ll readily admit that I have some addictive tendencies. For many things, it’s all or nothing for me, with very little in between; be that my day job, supporting my football club, any of my multitude of hobbies, or in this case following my favourite live band on tour. One of my interests is gig photography and I must see 200-300 live bands a year (if you include support acts, and bands at festivals), but no band has the same effect on me as The Airborne Toxic Event: the energy, the passion, the whole feeling of being a part of it. At the end of a tour it feels like there’s a gap in my life; something that needs to be filled. I feel I need a new purpose in my life. I want to run from the everyday reality of my life and be creative – I’m not sure how – writing, painting, music…  I’m feeling inspired by the writing of Mikel Jollett and yet I know that I’m not capable of putting in words everything I want to as beautifully as he does. In fact, I can’t even find the words to tell him how his lyrics and energy inspire me – I just hope he knows it when he looks in my eyes and beams that glowing smile of his directly for me.

So, I’m here at the train station. Not long until the Eurostar leaves and not long til my train leaves. I want to delay the post-tour come-down feelings that are taking over me and spend a ridiculous amount of money to go to Belgium. Just to see the band one last time, to wait in the rain to speak to them before they fly back to LA. One last fix. I know I’ll see them again next year, but I need to see them before then. I feel that I need to sing my heart out to their songs with them one final time, to be part of their audience, to be THERE. The temptation is huge. It’s money I don’t have, particularly as my car has been in the garage to be fixed all the past week and still isn’t ready. Commonsense takes hold. I make the choice and go for the train home, knowing that whatever I need to face, I have my memories of this tour and fingers crossed, another tour next year!

StephanieStephanie is Nottingham, England based. Her day job is an Information Lead in the National Health Service. She fills her spare time photographing concerts, supporting her football club, studying languages and teaching English to speakers of other languages as well partaking in many creative hobbies: knitting, bead jewellery making, dabbling in writing and painting.


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