For serious followers of The Airborne Toxic Event, every performance has a unique personality that sets it apart, a show psyche. It is born from the locale itself, that particular moment in the band’s unfolding history and the current mood of the audience. Ok, maybe it has something to do with the amount of alcohol consumed as well. In this case, this was the high profile, high stakes Terminal 5 club in New York City, with Epic label reps and media outlets in full attendance. Mikel was back from a two-day vocal rest with a clean bill of health, ready to ditch the Throat Coat tea, jump and scream and climb shit. And the (mostly) New York audience hadn’t seen them in over a year. It was Game On.
The only real indication that Mikel had any vocal difficulties whatsoever three days earlier was in the falsetto portion of “Wrong,” but it was minor and he was otherwise electrified, as was the rest of Airborne, deliciously feeding off the audience’s palpable excitement and energy. This made itself visible in some serious dancing and a precarious scaling of the second balcony (with a bit of groping thrown in for good measure and a little impersonation of manager Pete’s reaction to such risky behavior). There was a foray out into the audience wilds during “Moving On.” Everyone in the band was in top form.
The audience was, for their part, rabid. It had been nearly a year and nine months since the two Webster Hall shows and a year and four months since soggy SummerStage. They had been missed. Badly. There was an overload of intensity with continuous singing and shouting. During the encore, just after the soft acoustic intimacy of “Graveyard” and “Elizabeth,” all hell broke loose. A major surge of crowd frenzy resulted in a no-holds-barred “Moving On” and “Missy” mosh pit, the likes of which I have never seen at an Airborne show. It was so out of control, Hoogie kept a tight hold on Anna’s foot during her crowd surf, quickly yanking her back after a few seconds, before she became a human sacrifice.
Of special note, the extremely rare “The Winning Side,” Airborne’s anti-war song, made a deeply appreciated return visit, for which I am eternally grateful.
Two of the new songs, “California” and “Wrong,” were beautifully performed, the latter of which Mikel introduced with:
“We’ve gotten a lot of comments about this next song. This is a new song from us, and I know you’re all waiting to hear it. I just want you to know that this song is my heart. This song is how I feel about my life. This song is ‘Wrong.'”
On this day, while I was in transit from Boston to New York, a video interview was released. In it, Mikel explains the concept of the new album, about how (paraphrasing wildly here) the electronic devices that increasingly rule our lives are both a blessing and a curse. They enable us to do miraculous things, but they turn us into automatons, eyes glued to our machines. This got me to thinking, as I set a new record for the number of songs filmed at a show (ten, currently uploading to my YouTube channel), about the joys and horrors of documenting live performances. Not the mechanics of actually doing it, because anyone who has tried to film a concert amid the moshing and the mayhem is already intimately familiar with that. No, what I’m referring to is the very act of holding up a camera during a live performance, in an attempt to capture that psyche I mentioned earlier. Some performers don’t like it. A few have even forbidden it, preferring their show to remain untainted by cell phones and well, dope machines witnessing this unique moment in time instead of just human eyes and ears. And yet, particularly at Airborne shows, I sense the importance of something that will never happen again, with the accompanying desire to document it. Those who were unable to attend this spectacular show at Terminal 5 (the bulk of Airborne’s fan base) will now be able feel as though they were, at least to some small degree, a part of it. Translate this to every other area of human life, the ability to share experiences, joyful and horrifying, between the farthest reaches of the planet. And yet, this very action of sharing, of documenting, adds a layer of machine in between the experiencer and the experience. It is a blessing. It is a curse. To be continued.
Along with writing regularly for This Is Nowhere, Julie publishes musingsfromboston.com, a music blog with the bipolar personality of wannabe philosopher and charlatan music critic, where she is just as likely to review the audience as she is the band. Her first Airborne show was at a lingerie party hosted by WFNX at an Irish-Mexican bar in Boston’s financial district. She does her best to live by the motto “only one who attempts the absurd can achieve the impossible.”