5 Epic Nights with The Airborne Toxic Event

Posted: January 29, 2014 in 5's
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Steven Chen of The Airborne Toxic Event kills it at the band's most recent epic show in Vancouver, BC. Photo by TATE fan Elva.

Steven Chen of The Airborne Toxic Event kills it at the band’s most recent
epic show in Vancouver, BC. Photo by TATE fan Elva.

By Glen, Christina, Tim, Wendy and Jamie F.

Every great band has them: those legendary gigs that every fan wishes they could jump back in time to attend. They are the performances that come to define the band, creating memories that persist long after the musicians themselves have moved on to new pursuits, kept alive by war stories and fisherman’s tales traded by those who were there – and those who only wish they were.

Sometimes it’s telegraphed. Whether it’s the occasion, the venue or some other unique feature, from the moment the show is announced, you know it’s going to be special. These are the concerts that fans move heaven and hell to get to, travel budgets be damned.

Other times, it’s entirely unforeseen, perhaps even by the performers themselves. On these nights, for whatever reason, lightning is captured in a bottle, magic is conjured, and what you expected would be merely a “typical” show morphs instead into a “Were you there when…” EVENT.

The Airborne Toxic Event is just seven years into their career, but with over 1,000 performances already under their belt and a reputation for crackling live shows, it’s no surprise that they’ve had more than their share of those nights. We asked some fans to help us determine TATE’s five most epic gigs, and with apologies to Europe (who’ve been treated to plenty of incredible shows but had no clear “best” one), here’s what we came up with. Each gig is recapped by a fan who was lucky enough to witness it in person.

5. Hard Rock Hotel & Casino at the Pool, Las Vegas, Jul. 20, 2012 (Tim and Wendy)

Vegas, baby, with The Airborne Toxic Event! It was our second show. We had been spoiled by our first in a tiny Aspen venue called the Belly Up. Meeting the band, heavy flirting, and an incredible show with maybe 200 people. Our son even got called onstage! I almost lost my wife to the bass player, lol. We were hooked. It was such an intense experience that we desperately needed to do it again. We wondered if it was a fluke; could they really be that amazing? Was it possible for the band members to have been so accessible and cool? It didn’t matter if we couldn’t afford the trip, it didn’t matter that we would have to figure out what to do with our young daughter for six days. We had to chase that feeling to see if it had really happened or if it was just some incredible collective figment of our imaginations.

The entire show was such a great example of how close they all are to each other. They laughed and joked the entire time, having just as much fun as the audience. Wendy was wearing a black dress and had a moment when Mikel changed the lyric on Midnight to “black dress.” Every song was personal, every moment struck a chord with us. If we hadn’t been dedicated fans after Aspen, we knew this experience made it inevitable. We realized that night in Vegas that The Airborne Toxic Event are exactly who they appear to be: five tremendously talented individuals with genuine kindness in their hearts, respect for their fans, and an incredibly bright future that we are blessed to be part of, in just a small but hopefully meaningful way. (Watch for a longer review of this show by Tim and Wendy to be posted in the near future.)

4. The Metro, Chicago, Dec. 31, 2012 (Jamie F.)

Though every Airborne Toxic Event show radiates with energy, beauty and an unknown force all of us diehard fans love, there was something about the New Year’s Eve 2013 show that was unlike all the rest. The group played all their hits – and in typical TATE fashion, began closing with “Missy” right around midnight. Right when the clock struck midnight, however, the group broke into “I Fought the Law” by The Clash as the room filled with balloons and confetti. Nearly everyone grabbed someone else to kiss amidst an energetic “Happy New Year!” and TATE continued to rock out to The Clash. What a perfect way to transition from one year to another—music from TATE, a burst of rebelliousness and a kiss. (Click here for more from Jamie on the New Years Eve show.)


3. Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, Dec. 4, 2009 (Christina)

What a treat all Airborne fans were in for! As I entered this iconic hall, I had no idea what to expect, what with the band playing with the Calder Quartet and all the hints dropped about the various “guests” we were promised. Would this be a prim and proper theater performance or a rock ‘n’ roll show? As it turns out, it was both!

Highlights: Mikel on the giant organ for the intro to “Wishing Well.” The baby Grand piano that both Anna and Steven played. Early in the show, Mikel just as confused as the rest of us as to whether we should sit quietly or stand up and applaud and shriek our approval. “The Book of Love” and Mikel’s dedication to his recently passed grandmother, who would later inspire “Timeless.” The Belmont High School marching band transitioning us from the intermission. And of course, “Missy,” with Mikel accompanied by the girls of the Lalo Guerrero children’s choir and their angelic voices. This show proved to be the perfect ending to a 354-show run and marked the beginning of even bigger and better things to come!


2. Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Sept. 20, 2012 (Glen)

The first time playing Red Rocks is a special occasion for any band. Earning a night at the iconic venue indicates that you’ve “arrived” as a performer, at least to a certain degree. As the musicians make their way to the stage, they pass by dozens of photos of the legends who have walked these steps before them, knowing that their own name is about to be added to an exclusive list.

TATE was clearly aware of the significance of the moment, with Mikel in particular awed by how far they’d come. “This is a long way from Spaceland,” he noted.

The fans knew it too, traveling from far and wide to share in the occasion; gathering together on the hallowed ground for a 14-song set backed by the Colorado Symphony that featured a quintet of selections from the upcoming album, Such Hot Blood. “The Fifth Day” was a captivating highlight, rendering the audience utterly spellbound. Little did we know what a rare treat that would turn out to be.

The only thing that could’ve made the night more perfect for the band and their followers would have been a longer set (TATE shared time equally with DeVotchka, with the latter having the honor of closing the show). But that just gives us all a reason to make the pilgrimage again, the next time The Airborne Toxic Event graces the stage at Red Rocks. (Click here for more from Glen on the Red Rocks show.)


1. Troubador, West Hollywood, Sept. 17, 2012 (Christina)

After having seen The Airborne Toxic Event more than 40 times, if you were to ask me what my favorite show was, I’d answer with no hesitation: the Wounded Warrior Project Benefit at the Troubadour. My consolation prize for not being able to attend the Red Rocks gig, this show surpassed my wildest expectations for a TATE show. It was probably a combination of things: it felt like a homecoming since the band hadn’t played in Southern California in over six months; I was front row in my “regular” spot between Mikel and Noah in a small, intimate venue I loved; Mikel sounding incredible; everyone seeming relaxed and rested; they premiered seven new tracks from Such Hot Blood, and they played for almost two and a half hours – 26 songs in all!

My personal highlights: Dancing my ass off for two and a half hours straight! About two hours in, Mikel grabbed a bottle of water and handed it down to me, so that meant he’d seen me bopping around like crazy! “Half of Something Else,” “This Losing,” “The Graveyard Near the House” and the oldie “Echo Park” were real treats. The punk version of “The Kids Are Ready to Die” and Mikel’s impassioned speech that preceded it. And hearing the new tracks before anyone else just made it all so much more special. Seeing Mikel pleased with himself, his band, the music, and us. We felt like family that night, all 500 of us, while the band plays some song about forgetting yourself for a while. But this night will never be forgotten, and surely TATE will be hard-pressed to top it anytime soon!


  1. Kelly says:

    Let’s not forget the Somerville Theater, Sept 8, 2010


  2. […] Editor’s Note: This is the full-length version of a review submitted for our recent post, 5 Epic Nights with The Airborne Toxic Event. […]


  3. […] the last time The Airborne Toxic Event played the Troubadour, they pitched what we deemed to be the greatest TATE gig of all time. On that night, the band debuted a whopping seven songs from their upcoming release, Such Hot […]


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