“We made a vow to never have people be embarrassed by their tattoos.” – Steven Chen
If there’s one thing that fans of The Airborne Toxic Event cannot be accused of, it is a lack of passion.
In our recent TATE fan survey, we learned that over half of respondents listen to the band every single day, more than 65% have seen them live three or more times, 62% have left their home state or province to catch an Airborne gig, and a majority have waited in line for two or more hours to land a coveted stage-side spot.
And then there’s the matter of TATE-oos.
Lead singer Mikel Jollett has made reference at times to the entire front row being filled with kids with Airborne tattoos. The front man may be engaging in some hyperbole here, given that “only” 4% of the band’s biggest fans actually report having TATE-inspired body art. And yet, it’s a measure of the devotion that The Airborne Toxic Event engenders that a full 50% of respondents have at least considered inscribing the band on their person in indelible ink.
This Is Nowhere recently invited readers to submit photos of their TATE tats, along with any explanation that they cared to share. In no particular order, here are five designs that might inspire those readers who are still on the fence about taking the plunge.
His and Hers: Marc and Kristi
We got these a couple of years ago. It’s my wife’s first tattoo and my first “real” tattoo (I have two other small ones that don’t really count). Never in my life would I have thought I would have a tattoo of a rock band on my arm, but life is full of surprises.
I chose the bird and arrow because it is the most iconic image of the band and also because I love the symbolism behind it. No band or artist in my life has ever reached me on such an emotional and intellectual level as Airborne. There’s not even a close second.
Kristi wanted an Airborne tattoo but she also wanted something a little more meaningful than just a tattoo of a rock band. She chose the upside down umbrellas. We have two sons and she has assigned one umbrella to each of us. They are upside down so as to catch blessings from heaven.
We love our tattoos and our love of the band is something we have shared together for nearly 6 years. We are proud to show them off to all TATE fans and non-fans alike.
Spreading Her Wings: Wendy
This was designed by my husband Tim, inspired by Airborne, of course. The ribbons give the impression of a heart and spell out my children’s names, Jacob and Nesa. They trail to my waist. The work was completed by Julian at White Lotus in Park Meadows, CO. He is incredible! It took four and a half hours and he stayed an hour past his schedule to finish.
The color had to be particularly dark because it is covering an old tat I got when I was 19 and have always hated! There was no hesitation about getting a raven. It was love at first listen, cemented forever with that first show in Aspen. Now it is painful withdrawal and an aching heart until next time.
Tied Like Two in Tethers: Jamie
I decided I wanted a TATE themed tattoo in the middle of a show. The idea popped into my head, probably during Graveyard. It took me 7 months to go through with it, during which time I tossed around a lot of ideas. With so many amazing lyrics to choose from, deciding on just one was difficult, and the contrarian in me wanted to choose something no one else would. In the end, I chose “We are tied like two in tethers” paired with a design reminiscent of a doodle I would sometimes draw on love notes to my then boyfriend, now husband. This specific lyric, to me, represented my ties to my husband and family but also how this band had helped me understand myself.
Tribal Mark: Glen
A few months ago, I joined the TATE tattoo club, a bird proudly emblazoned on my shoulder. A stylized raven, according to Mikel – a fact I probably should’ve known before I got it. I actually decided to get a tattoo almost three years ago, but it took me that long to decide what I wanted. Every time I came up with a new idea, my wife asked me, “What does it mean?” She seemed very concerned that whatever I chose should have significant meaning in my life, as her own tats do for her.
When I finally took the plunge, I had to admit: there was nothing particularly meaningful about it. Just a band that I can’t get out of my head – that I don’t want to get out of my head.
But in the ensuing months, as friendships have been forged, I’ve discovered that the tattoo means much more than I thought it did. I’ve come to see it as my tribal mark. This is my tribe: not my only tribe, maybe not even my most important tribe, but a tribe that I am proud to have chosen, and to have been chosen by.
I should add: the specific design, which comes from the All At Once CD booklet, was selected out of respect for a wife who isn’t particularly enamored with TATE’s bloody bird symbol.
All In: Mike
Mike didn’t have anything to say about his tat – but does it really need any commentary? This is what you call commitment.
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.