I have this odd habit of turning my favorite hobbies into loads of work. As a child I loved golf, so while my friends entertained themselves with TV, video games and, you know, interacting with one another, I spent hour upon hour practicing my chipping alone in the backyard. I’ve always been a reader, but I’ll rarely be found with a popular novel, preferring instead to slog my way through long, dense non-fiction works in which I often have to re-read sentences three times to grasp the gist of them. And I found that the only way to satisfy my addiction to fantasy hockey was to create the ultimate fantasy league, which is only slightly less work than running the actual National Hockey League.
So, naturally, as my passion for The Airborne Toxic Event deepened, I had to find some way to turn it into a job. It’s weird, but it’s what I do.
As a writer, I had long considered starting a blog. I figured I’d get around to it some day, but I could never come up with a hook that appealed to me. Because it’s not in my DNA to half-ass something like this, I needed a topic that would keep me interested enough that I would actually want to write several times a week after a long day of work and parenting, instead of having to force myself to do it.
As a music fan, I have long been a faithful follower of two of the finest fan-run sites on the internet: @U2 and Backstreets. These were my go-to destinations for my daily fill of U2 and Springsteen. Thanks to the hard work of their writing teams, I never missed a morsel of news from either of my favorite musical acts, and I could get lost for hours plumbing the depths of the comprehensive resources they have assembled.
At one time I even applied to join the @U2 staff, making it through the first stage of their vetting process before ultimately losing out to other writers in the final round of cuts. I figured that was it for my fledgling career as a would-be music scribe.
But a few years later, the unthinkable happened: an obscure band from Silver Lake knocked the mighty Irish foursome off the top of my music hierarchy, a spot they’d held relentlessly for two decades. (I hear Bono is still feeling the sting of my betrayal.)
As I scoured the Internet with increasing regularity in search of anything I could dig up on The Airborne Toxic Event, I thought about how great it would be if there was an Airborne equivalent of @U2 and Backstreets: a sort of clearing house of TATE information. I took a long look at those sites as I plotted out what I would want in an Airborne site, while also asking fellow fans what they would like to see.
The defining feature of Backstreets is undoubtedly their show review and setlist archive. The setlist of every Springsteen gig is posted within hours of the lights going out, with a full review and photos following soon after. When my TATE friends confirmed that this should be a priority, I set about piecing together the band’s touring history from every source I could find. The result is a TATE show database of over 570 tour dates and 220 setlists. There’s a long way to go, with the band having played over 1000 shows together, but given the relatively small size of the TATE fan network it’s a solid start. And I’m proud to say that we’ve managed to scrounge up setlists from over 90% of the band’s gigs that have taken place since the launch of This Is Nowhere.
As for @U2, I really appreciate their weekly “Off the Record” posts in which a writer rounds up the biggest U2 news of the week and elaborates with their own thoughts – a column that was the inspiration for our regular “Toxicity” posts. I also greatly enjoy their original content, including their “Like a Song” series in which their staff contribute personal essays on what the songs mean to them – not always the meaning that Bono intended, but reflections on how his words have resonated with them in the midst of their daily life. Mikel Jollett’s meticulously crafted lyrics have provided no shortage of inspiration for me in that regard.
With the skeleton of the site sketched out, my biggest challenge would be time. With a full-time job and several side contracts, plus four ridiculously busy kids, I wasn’t sure that I was going to have the time to make the site what I wanted it to be. In fact, at the time, I really didn’t think I could pull off more than a couple posts per month, which seemed hardly worth the effort.
And so was born the crowdsourcing aspect of This Is Nowhere. If I couldn’t create enough content on my own, perhaps I could find others with stories to tell. Without really knowing if this would take off, I crossed my fingers and hoped that there were enough fans out there like me who just had to try to write it all down. I would hardly be disappointed on that count.
The last thing I needed was a name. I sat down with all my TATE lyric booklets and went through them line by line, jotting down every song title and phrase that struck me as fitting what I was trying to do. “A little less profound.” “Just trying to write it all down.” “The clamoring of the crowd.”
“This is Nowhere.” A year ago, it was far down my list of most-loved Airborne songs. I almost rejected it as a title for that reason. But something about that phrase just lodged itself in my brain. I was drawn to the fact that it conveyed the impression of a concrete place; a destination. And yet it’s a destination marked by confusion, by not knowing. It was strangely resonant with where I was at at the time. So I adopted it, while using the other phrases I’d identified as taglines and section headings. And of course, the song has now become a personal favorite – one that I cannot wait to witness live for the first time on Sept. 18 in San Francisco.
The first two weeks of last summer found me on vacation, but spending every spare moment on my computer. My youngest kids still take naps and go to bed early, leaving plenty of downtime to prepare for launch day.
Finally, on July 13, I held my breath and hit ‘Publish’ on This Is Nowhere’s first post. I had no idea what to expect. Would anyone care enough to read it? Would anyone send me anything to post? Would I have enough time and stamina to make this fly? Would I have enough to say?
In the days, weeks and months that followed, every question was answered in the affirmative. What began on a whim has come to consume more time and energy than I ever anticipated – and every moment of it has been pure pleasure.
Below are five personal highlights from the first year of This Is Nowhere.
5. A Dream Realized
For most of my childhood, I was driven by one career goal: to be a sports journalist. All I ever wanted to do was write, to the extent that I actually wrote, designed and assembled a number of original magazines filled with my fictional sports stories. (Did I mention that I was a major nerd? You probably already picked up on that.) For reasons that still aren’t clear to me today, I abandoned that plan late in high school, to my lasting regret.
This Is Nowhere has given me an outlet to do what I always wanted to do: to write about something I’m passionate about. If I never gained a single reader, this alone would have made this endeavor worthwhile.
4. True Community
I have been Blown. A. Way. by the phenomenal support and enthusiasm of the TATE fan community. Beyond the written submissions (see below), dozens of people have contributed in significant ways to what This Is Nowhere has become. So many talented photographers have generously allowed me to feature their concert photography at no charge (special thanks to Ryan Macchione, Anneke Peeters, Elva Gonzalez and Jennifer McInnis for giving me free reign with their extensive photo collections). Others have acted as my eyes and ears at shows, sometimes sending setlists before the band even leaves the stage. Still others have provided invaluable, wise guidance in how to handle certain issues that I didn’t foresee having to deal with. Countless news items and videos have been brought to my attention by alert readers, allowing me to promptly share them through social media or Toxicity posts. This Is Nowhere is truly a group effort and a product of the entire TATE fan community. To each and every one of you who have participated in some way, thank you.
I hesitate to single anyone out when so many have helped, but I would be remiss if I didn’t say special thanks to Julie Stoller and Jamie Eversole. Julie has been a TATE fan since the beginning, and is a veritable encyclopedia of Airborne knowledge. The diligent work and detailed research she has conducted through the years has made me look good on many, many occasions. And Jamie, of course, recently became our first official addition to the This Is Nowhere writing team, providing a fun and informative article every month to help fill out our publishing schedule. Many thanks to you both!
Even more important than the building of a blog have been the friendships made along the way. Many of my dearest friendships have been made through TATE, and those relationships only multiplied over the past year. I can hardly wait to meet you all on the road this fall!
3. A Weight Lifted
There are those who choose to write, and there are those who have to write. I fall into the latter category. At times I have gotten much more transparent on this blog than I ever intended to get (see here and here). The past seven years have been somewhat tumultuous for me personally, and my way of processing things is to write in my head. These two blog posts in particular were penned in my imagination many times over several years, as I chewed things over and tried to make sense of my world. To finally have a venue for airing these thoughts publicly has been tremendously freeing, and it’s been Mikel’s lyrics that have helped me give voice to what was going on inside.
2. An Anthology of Inspiration
It’s a testament to the devotion that this group engenders that there has been a steady stream of stories submitted by fans from Day 1, sharing why they feel such a deep connection to the band with the weird name and the bloody bird. 28 writers have been featured in the past year. So many of these pieces have left me speechless. Again, there are too many to name, but I will risk doing so anyway: Ginny and Angela’s battles with cancer, Colleen’s tale of heartbreak, Debbie’s overwhelming loss and Susan’s struggles with memory loss were very difficult to read, and at the same time tremendously inspiring. To each of you who have courageously entrusted This Is Nowhere with your most personal experiences, thank you. (See below for a complete list of writers.)
1. A Band Celebrated
Above all, This Is Nowhere is a celebration of the band that brings us all together. Immersing myself in their work and history has only served to deepen my appreciation of them. Mikel has spoken on many occasions about the madness of fame, and how ridiculous it all is. I can only imagine how odd it is to have geeks like me reporting on your career in great detail and putting every word you write under a microscope. I’m very conscious of the potential “creep factor” of a project like this, and try to stay well clear of that line. I’m hopeful that the band takes it in the spirit in which it’s intended: as one long letter of appreciation for their ability to put into words the deepest thoughts and feelings of so many of us.
This Is Nowhere Featured Writers:
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.