The Airborne Toxic Event is back on the road for their first real stretch of touring since last October’s European jaunt. It’s short but sweet: this week and next, the TATE traveling circus visits 10 joints in 11 nights (a mini-tour that was teed up nicely by our friend Julie). That should give us plenty of fodder for the next few editions of Toxicity. But the flow hasn’t quite started in earnest yet (except of course for Wednesday’s crazy news), leaving us with an eclectic mix this week.
What’s in a Name?
What do Airborne fans do when there’s not much else to talk about, as has been the case for much of the past few months? They debate the band’s name.
Every TATE fan has been there: “What’s the name of that band you like again? Airborne something something? Something Toxic Whatchamacallit?” Julie recently sent us this amusing series of tweets that we can all relate to:
@ReneeLevene Um, no.
— Radio 105.7 (@Radio1057) January 16, 2014
— Radio 105.7 (@Radio1057) January 16, 2014
My friend Susan bravely wrote about it on her blog sometime ago. As a certified TATE fanatic, it took guts for her to publish her personal confession:
I’m going to say something that may send shock waves into the fandom world. I don’t like the name The Airborne Toxic Event. There, I said it. For those of you shaking your head in agreement, feel free that you are not alone. To the others, before you start in with your Mikel-depth justifications, let me ask you a question. How many times have you had to explain it? Or repeat it three times before the person understands you aren’t saying Rarebone Mocking Tents? And truth be told, how often when someone asks you about the band and their music do you have to explain they look like this:
As a professional marketer, I have to concede that the band’s moniker fails on some basic marketing criteria; namely, memorability. It rates low on the “ease of recall” scale.
But one of the things I most appreciate about the group is that their commitment to their art comes first, their commitment to their fans comes a very close second, and their desire to be marketable comes… somewhere very far down the list, if indeed it’s on the list at all.
And that’s why I think The Airborne Toxic Event is a fitting name for this band. More than any band name I can think of, it reflects the character of the quintet and communicates something about them – a number of somethings, in fact:
- They are a band that challenges their listeners, not just with their name, but also with the depth of their lyrics, their (often) unconventional song structures and the seriousness of the subject matters they tackle.
- They are a literary band, both in their inspiration and their output.
- They are a band that continually circles back to the question, “How do I live in light of my inevitable death – and that of everyone I love?” – the very question that consumed Jack Gladney after his exposure to The Airborne Toxic Event in White Noise.
Mikel has acknowledged that The Airborne Toxic Event may not be the most well chosen name, if the goal is to have your name remembered. But I don’t think that’s ever been his chief concern – and that’s a big part of what makes TATE so incredibly compelling.
There was one notable, newish TATE goodie to surface on the interwebz this week. We’ve seen a number of recorded performances of “Hell and Back” over the past few months. But we’ve never seen it like this: just Mikel and Anna, an acoustic guitar and a viola. Taped back in October while the band was stomping through Europe, it’s a beauty:
With the band making its first appearance in Athens tonight (fitting on the day the Olympics begin – wait, whaddya mean “not that Athens?”), The Red & Black previewed the gig with a sit down with Mikel. Not a lot of new information in the article, unfortunately, but as always, the ever-quotable lead singer provides an interesting perspective, this time on the long, slow process of building a viable career in the music business: “Each little thing keeps inching you forward a little more. There’s never just one day where something happens. Maybe that happens for a handful of artists, but for the most part it’s a very long walk in a shallow circuit,” he explains.
Gasoline for Gamers
I was saving this for a rainy day, and it’s not raining here on the West Coast… but it is freezeing. So just for the hell of it, here’s a taste of “Gasoline” – Band Hero style.
And finally, since we’re being fun and frivolous this week, we’ll close with something else out of the ordinary: “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?” performed reggae-style. This actually happened.
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.