Review: The Airborne Toxic Event Unplugged, Washington, DC, Oct. 2, 2014

Posted: October 4, 2014 in Clamoring of the Crowd
Tags: , , , , , ,
Mikel Jollett gets up close and personal during The Airborne Toxic Event's acoustic set in Washington, DC. Photo by Jamie, Oct. 2, 2014.

Mikel Jollett gets up close and personal during The Airborne Toxic Event’s acoustic set in Washington, DC. Photo by Jamie, Oct. 2, 2014.

By Jamie

Reviewing what I witnessed last week when The Airborne Toxic Event presented Washington, DC with a very special acoustic show at the historic Lincoln Theatre is going to be difficult. I’m working on finding words to describe what the fans that filled this rather small venue experienced. Right now all I’ve got is “awesome” and “amazing.” I think I might need to pull out my thesaurus for this…

I knew it would be different than any other TATE show. Aside from the obvious – this would be an acoustic set – the venue was a seated venue. What would the mood be? What songs would we hear? Upon entering the theatre’s ornate, small auditorium, it was clear that we were in for something special. Hanging out at the soundboard, Daren smiled and waved as we entered; “Hey Guys, welcome!” he said, catching me off guard as I shyly smiled and hurried to my seat. Even though the venue is seated, the tickets were sold GA – basically first come first serve. My friend and I hurried to the front row and I sat myself down in front of a large “X” which seemed to indicate center. On the stage, set quite far back, were 5 stools and accompanying microphones and instruments, all in a row.

Daren stayed at the soundboard, acting as DJ over the preshow musical selections. Fans chatted with him as they walked to and from the lobby, casually buying drinks and merch and slowly filling the auditorium. Since the show wasn’t sold out, the balcony was blocked off giving an even more intimate feeling to the room. The seats made everyone very laid back as we lounged and enjoyed the music before Daren slowly made his way to the stage. Noticing him approaching, wearing a 9:30 club belt buckle (a welcome sight in DC), the crowd cheered and then watched curiously as Daren ceremoniously started stacking what appeared to be plastic cases, comically testing them out with a “thump thump” and then rearranging them until he got the desired sound. As the audience realized this was part of the show, they laughed and cheered, enjoying seeing Daren in the spotlight. Once he had achieved the desired effect, he started tapping out a rhythm on the newly arranged cases and a snare drum set up next to them. One by one, each member of the band slowly took their position on the stage, picking up their instrument and building on Daren’s rhythm. By the time Anna took her place, it was obvious the band was opening with “Something New” and we eagerly anticipated Mikel’s entrance. A couple glances towards the back of the auditorium and cheers coming from the same direction made me jump out of my seat and turn around to see Mikel strolling down the aisle, microphone in hand. He was smiling, waving and shaking hands, thanking the audience for being there. As he approached the stage he turned around and gave his big smile to the room filled with jumping and cheering fans. He started singing as he worked his way back through the crowd, walking down rows, climbing seats, making jokes about seeing what the audience sees in between verses. When he had worked his way back to the stage, he jumped up and sat directly in front of me, finishing the song and making every person lucky enough to be there realize we were in for a very special evening.

As the band went into “Gasoline” it was clear that even though this would be an acoustic set, it would not lack any energy. No one sat down, we stood and danced. There was less jumping but more laughing. Most songs were accompanied by a story, similar to Mikel’s tweets leading up to the residency, but sometimes more in depth. Highlights included Mikel talking about the HBO end of year promo featuring “All At Once.” The group laughed and recalled it with the audience, making jokes about Boardwalk Empire. “This Losing” was a welcome surprise, being a rarity before this fall tour. The pace was slow and the atmosphere was cheerful. Aside from a loud, “I love you, Anna!!” (to which she teasingly responded with, “I can hear you… you don’t have to yell.”), the audience was respectful and engaged. It felt like we were sitting in a large living room, watching a private show.

The Airborne Toxic Event acoustic performance. Photo by Jamie, Oct. 2, 2014, Washington, DC.

The Airborne Toxic Event acoustic performance. Photo by Jamie, Oct. 2, 2014, Washington, DC.

Mikel kept joking that the second half of the show wouldn’t find him talking so much and despite someone yelling, “Don’t stop!”, halfway through the set, sometime around “Wishing Well,” Daren moved back to his drum set and the focus was more on the music. The atmosphere didn’t suffer at all.

My personal highlight of the show was “The Book of Love,” which brought Mikel down to that large “x” taped onto the stage in front of me. After singing the first couple of lines, he grabbed my friend and neighbor’s GoPro, singing into it along with a sweep of the audience and band and providing me with a visual documentation of probably my favorite concert moment ever, one I wasn’t willing to interrupt to film myself. I was giddy and ridiculous as he sang the song within arm’s reach of me and I’m sure Mikel’s smiles at me were because he wanted to laugh at my ridiculous grin. I should be ashamed but I’m not, I’m not even a little embarrassed. It was fantastic moment and one that cemented an idea I already had creeping into my head, this was my favorite show ever. As if I wasn’t already on cloud 9, the band followed “Book of Love” with another rarity, “Strange Girl,” the song that left me in tears when I witnessed it live for the first time in San Francisco.

When I think about the rest of the night, the details are blurry but the feeling I had isn’t; how truly wonderful it all was stays with me. I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning. Every moment was special. Leaning against the stage, I kept thinking how fortunate I was that this very special evening was taking place in my hometown, in this historic location.

Mikel Jollett, unplugged. Photo by Jamie, Oct. 2, 2014, Washington, DC.

Mikel Jollett, unplugged. Photo by Jamie, Oct. 2, 2014, Washington, DC.

Nearing the end of the main set, “Midnight” and “All I Ever Wanted” surprised me. Despite being unplugged, they were every bit as explosive and passionate as the traditional version, the lyrics and Anna’s viola propelling the songs, the audience responding as they normally do, jumping and singing along, hands held high.

The encore included the most beautiful rendition of “Elizabeth” which was sung to a crowd that, except for the soft singing along, was as quiet and still as could be.

After a traditional “Missy” send off (“I’m On Fire” serving as the perfect middle-of-the-song cover), the band gratefully waved goodbye to the crowd and left the stage. I looked around and realized we were all smiling and giddy. I love a good sweaty rock show more than the average person but this experience, walking out of a TATE show not drenched in perspiration, bordering on heat exhaustion and dehydration, was one that I was truly blessed to have. The surprisingly small amount of fans that made almost last minute arrangements to attend what we hoped would be a magical evening were repaid tenfold. My fellow TATE fans and I walked next door to the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl and shared some chili cheese fries while we smiled and reminisced about the show we had just seen, most of us looking forward to what should prove to be the hot and sweaty show we are more accustomed to at the 930 club later this week.

I had already started thinking about how I was going to tell you about the night, what words I would use to describe it, to paint a picture of how very special it all was. It was… breathtaking and awe-inspiring and yes, amazing.

Click here for the setlist.

Jamie: A Strange, Strange GirlJamie spends most of her days with her husband as they attempt to raise 4 future TATE fans and all around decent human beings. In her free time, when not obsessively listening to her favorite bands and going to concerts, she is also an aspiring seamstress. She writes about her handmade wardrobe on her blog Such a Strange Girl, and is a regular contributor to This Is Nowhere.

  1. Dawn McElfresh says:

    That was awesome & Jamie – you are so lucky!!! & you have a beautiful smile 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. treendabean says:

    Aww, between you and Glen, you’re both living the dream. Happy for you. Thanks for the review.


  3. Dennis says:

    Thanks for writing this review. Had the fortune to be at this show and hear the range of talent of this band. Thank you TATE!


  4. Keith Thompson says:

    Thanks: next best thing to being there.


  5. The most surprising things…..spare seats! Just as well I didn’t know beforehand; spared me another transatlantic trip. Nice article, really appreciate it.


  6. Rebecca says:

    Just when I think I’m the only woman to have a school girl crush on Mikel….you write about him singing “book of love” to you (or near you). I’m so envious and I wish I could’ve been where you were while he sang *sigh*


  7. […] Review: The Airborne Toxic Event Unplugged, Washington, DC, Oct. 2, 2014 […]


  8. […] As a result, the numbers below are very close to comprehensive. It should be noted that we omitted the acoustic show held in Washington, DC on Oct. 2. That special event had a unique setlist that departed significantly from a regularly scheduled […]


  9. […] last month, just one week after I lived every fangirl’s dream and was practically serenaded with “The Book of Love” (during a show that I proclaimed the most amazing of my life), I stood on a sidewalk sandwiched in […]


  10. […] 2: The Airborne Toxic Event presents a special acoustic performance in Washington, […]


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