By Tim and Wendy
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.
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. And so it goes.
This was our first trip to VEGAS! A whole different world, which we really knew nothing about. We had driven through, but never stayed. And since we were bringing our 18-year-old son, we were a little nervous. Sin City… good idea or bad? Our hope was the band would be staying in the Hard Rock Hotel, the venue for the show, so we booked our tickets and our hotel stay. Our Aspen experience had us imagining hanging out with them again in the casino, buying them drinks, shooting the shit and all that, just like old friends.
After a 14-hour drive, blasting Airborne all the way, we got to the hotel. I went in to register and called Wendy from the desk to let her know I was talking to the band, and Steven had just signed my brochure. She called, “Bullshit!” and she was right, but I love teasing her! Jacob and I cleaned up quickly and went to stand in line, where we met two new TATE friends, Elva and Vanessa. Wendy, being a girl, took much longer to get ready and met us downstairs later. Too bad for her because shortly thereafter, Noah came by in a rush, waved to the line of people, and continued on. Steven was next, but took the time to stop and sign my E-bow, and the box. He was really excited because I had asked him in Aspen how he made the unusual sound in “Wishing Well,” and he told me about the E-bow. I think he thought the fact that I bought one was cool. They let some people in early to see the soundcheck, while the rest of us waited inside. As much as I would have loved to see it, it was at least 115 degrees in the shade and the stage was outside. We were grateful for the air conditioning.
When they let us in, we ran to the front, getting the same spot we had in Aspen, in front of Noah and Steven. I wanted to watch the guitar playing; Wendy wanted to watch the bassist. The heat was incredible! We immediately went from dry and cool to being drenched in sweat. You could barely breathe. Henry Clay People was the opening band. Really good, and Wendy especially liked that they played “Born to Run” during the encore, one of her absolute favorite songs because it features her name seven times, lol. Elva was to the left of Wendy, and Wendy kept spilling her drink on her. Drunk already; ah well. My fault for buying her the ginormous 44oz. Jim and Diet Coke that cost $20.
As HCP ended their set, Jacob and I prepared to put on our gear: full hazmat suits complete with gas masks. We were incredibly surprised they allowed us to bring them into the venue, considering the day before had been the Aurora shooting in Colorado – our hometown, of all places. We didn’t want to be insensitive or have anyone think we were up to no good, but it WAS an AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT, and we were prepared. When Mikel came onstage, already sweating bullets, wearing a bandana around his head and denim jacket, he began the show by looking directly at us and saying, “I’m just gonna spend the night stating the obvious. It’s really fucking humid out here!” I don’t think he had ever seen anything like us before, all decked out like we were ready for the apocalypse, and was seriously questioning our sanity! We just really wanted to show them our support, let them know that we were on for the full ride and really committed to this band, if not to an actual asylum.
I can’t remember the setlist, but at some point during “The Girls in Their Summer Dresses,” some really drunk guys started throwing punches. Worried security would stop the show, I grabbed both guys and yelled, “Knock it off! You’re fucking up the show!” Thankfully, they split up and moved away from each other. Mikel’s reaction was priceless!
Each song they played was really well done and laid back. It was the same comfortable and fun atmosphere we had experienced in Aspen, and we were soooo stoked to be getting a repeat. We couldn’t believe that they were truly as awesome live as they were in recordings. Noah came out to the front of the stage and started giving us an incredible bass solo. He was right in front of us and I seriously thought Wendy was going to die! I didn’t recognize the song at first but as he continued and Steven stepped up and added his riff, I realized it was “Something New.” Time for our first Mikel climbing experience! Dude, get down, you’re gonna break something, like your neck! He couldn’t do that in Aspen, so we were really surprised and amazed by his antics. Later, he yelled to the people watching from their hotel rooms, “At least come buy a fucking T-shirt!”
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. With the extreme heat, the fight, the hot lights… it could have been a completely different show if they weren’t such an amazing group of musicians who really enjoy what they do and the people they do it for. You could see the friendship and chemistry as they played “Gasoline.” Again, an unbelievable bass solo at the beginning.
About this time, Jacob and I had to take off our respirators and pull our hazmat suits to waist level. Remember, it was HOT – even in the dark. Well, then Daren came out to begin the encore, and I guess he was feeling the same, because he stripped down to his UNDERWEAR. In front of us. You should have heard the screams! Wendy was hoping Noah would come out and do the same, lol. But… he didn’t. He did come out shirtless, which she appreciated I’m sure. All those fangirl fantasies, ha! Mikel sang the praises of his rhythm section, requesting different genres of music from them, which they were more than capable of providing. We especially liked the jazz and punk rock! Mikel had some incredible moves to the R&B riffs. And apparently, nobody in Vegas likes the Dub Step.
Hot, tired, excited, and hoping they would come out after the show, we waited with a small group of people. I immediately took the Nestea plunge into the pool. Man, that made me feel 100 times better! People were looking at me like I was crazy. Well, maybe I
was am. Crazy for this band. Willing to go the extra mile (or 7,000) to see them. I wasn’t ashamed to admit it. Wendy had gotten Jacob a trophy that said, “World’s Greatest Fan,” because that is what Mikel called him in Aspen. She went to the restroom and overheard Noah saying, “There are a lot of hot girls out there tonight!” Ha, ha, they were ALL HOT! Everyone was!
Finally we saw Mikel, standing behind a rope, beginning to sign autographs and take pictures. Jacob got in line and waited. When it was his turn Mikel said, “I just have to ask, what’s with the hazmat suits? Some kind of Breaking Bad reference?” Jacob laughed and said, “Uh, no. I just heard there was going to be some kind of… Airborne Toxic Event?” Mikel slapped his forehead and said, “Man, I shoulda caught that!” He signed Jacob’s trophy and remembered a little about Aspen, saying that was one of the drunker shows they have done. Wendy was the last person to get something signed, White Noise, which she had to read after learning that’s how they got their name. She told Mikel, “You’re really ruining my life with these songs, you know?” He laughed and signed the book, but had to leave quickly. We were hoping we would see him again in the casino later.
Getting back to the room, we showered and changed to head back down to the bar. Wendy and Jacob wandered around with their eyes open, but I had to get some grub. While I was ordering I saw them coming toward me, motioning behind them. Daren and his girlfriend were on the casino floor, as was Noah. Daren said to Wendy, “I remember you… from the front row!” They talked a little about the book, Daren saying he enjoyed the strange perspective of the main character. I haven’t read it, so I don’t know the details, lol.
Noah was at the ATM getting money to gamble, no doubt, and Wendy tapped him on the shoulder. They talked about the upcoming show at Red Rocks, the show tonight, how far we had come to see them, and he signed her book, too. I tried not to be jealous and to forget how he was holding her hand in Aspen. I’m a strong man! There were a bunch of girls from the record company that kept coming up to him, so Wendy, not being one to fangirl openly, came back to us and began talking to Steven and Anna, who had just arrived. No sign of Mikel. Anna was shy and very sweet. She laughed with Steven, said she was excited to be coming to Red Rocks, and stayed with us for about 20 minutes, then wandered to another group. Steven was pretty drunk and talking more than we have seen before or since. We talked about the E-bow, guitars, the Aspen show and upcoming ones. I tried to buy him a drink several times, but he kept saying, “Nah, they are taking care of us!” Mikel never did come down. We were a little disappointed but grateful for the few minutes after the show we were able to talk with him. Wendy was worried maybe the heat had gotten to him and he wasn’t feeling well. It takes a lot to sing and jump and climb for two plus hours in 110 degrees!
As we walked back to the room that night, we had the same feeling you always get after a spectacular show: euphoria at having been there, disbelief that it really happened, disappointment that it is over, and anticipation for the next show. We already had our tickets to Red Rocks, but not the connections we needed to be part of the incredible experience that some fans enjoyed that night. (Thanks to Wendy for not checking her Facebook to get Elva’s invite for a backstage meet and greet with the band!) I know others will tell that tale, and I look forward to hearing it from their intimate perspective.
I don’t exaggerate when I say that our second show in Vegas was life changing. Since then we have been to 12 shows in seven states, in only 18 months. Every show has been a different, equally fantastic experience. 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.
All videos courtesy of Vanessa Campos. Thanks, Vanessa!