The Best of Steven: The Intellectual Rocker

Posted: November 3, 2013 in 5's
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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 Christina

Ed. Note: This is the fifth in a six part series in which fans of The Airborne Toxic Event select their Top 5 musical moments of their favorite band member. Previous entries: Mikel Jollett’s Top 5 Vocals; Daren Taylor, the Ultimate Beat Keeper; Anna Bulbrook, Classically Trained Punk Rock Chick; Noah Harmon: Classical Rock God. Next week: Mikel’s Top 5 Lyrics.

Steven Chen (also known as The Chen or The Chenster), by all accounts, is probably the quietest of the Airborne bunch, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have presence on stage. This writer/journalist/musician started his musical career at the age of six when his parents forced him to learn the piano, so it made sense when Mikel asked Steven to join their band to play keys. But Steven insisted that he’d rather play guitar, and so with the final piece in place, The Airborne Toxic Event was formed.

Steven has always been a favorite of mine to watch onstage, so I was more than happy to contribute my Top 5 Steven “moments.”

5. The Steven “Hair Flicks”

Coined by my friend Stephanie, Steven’s “hair flicks” are probably his signature move. While Steven is usually reserved on stage, flashing brief smiles and head nods to the fans that call his name during the a show, he will come to the edge of the stage and lean out toward the crowd, head banging in time with Daren’s cymbal crashes.

I asked Steven once why he doesn’t interact more with the crowd, especially when they are trying to get his attention, and he said it “throws him off.” Ha! I don’t believe Steven could be so easily distracted!

4. Papillon

This song fell off the set list for most of the All At Once tour, so I was very pleased to see it resurrected for several shows this past year. That distinctive opening riff carries the entire track and drives the crowd into a frenzy. It often follows “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?” at the shows I’ve been to, and it just Doesn’t. Let. Up. One of my favorite songs live, in this video, there are a few good shots of Steven shredding.

3. Missy

The set closer for almost every live show the band has ever played, this song features The Chen on keyboard for most of the song, but he also bounces back to resume the guitar parts for the medleys and then back to the keyboard. I chose this particular video (it’s an entire set plus an interview, actually) because at the 44:58 mark, Steven’s mike is turned up too loud (or he’s too close), and you actually get to hear him sing! I personally think Steven should sing more often!

2. Gasoline – the “Guitar/Viola Off” with Anna

Coming up with my number 2 and 1 choices for favorite Steven moments was pretty tough. This is a fan favorite at any live show. Mikel pits Steven and his guitar against Anna and her viola, but the great thing is everyone wins! Some trivia: this song is where Mikel often refers to Steven as Steve McQueen.

See the 2:55 mark in this show from 2007:

And as a bonus (because I couldn’t pick between the two), see the 2:24 mark from this show in Vegas in 2012 (and at some shows you get to witness some tomfoolery from Mikel, too!):

1. Wishing Well

I remember the first time I was down on the barricade in front of Steven at a live show, mesmerized by his Ebow. His Ebow, not his elbow! At the time I had no idea what he was using to produce those sounds, and later a forum member finally shed some light on my query. It’s an electronic device held over the strings of an electric guitar to mimic the sound of a bow on strings by using the electromagnetic field the Ebow creates. When you hear those haunting notes coming from Steven’s guitar, you know you’re in for an emotional ride, and this is probably my favorite Steven moment during a show.

To stay up with all your Steven Chen news, please feel free to “like” my unofficial Steven Chen fan page on FB:

Purchase the Best of Steven:

Wishing Well

Christina: Fan of The Airborne Toxic EventChristina lives in Orange County, California and between her kids, her job, and school still manages to catch several Airborne shows a year. In addition to maintaining her Steven Chen fan page, Christina is also the administrator of the band’s forum on their official site:

  1. […] The Best of Steven: The Intellectual Rocker […]


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