Columbus Is For Shovers – A Review of CD102.5 Day Side B, Featuring The Airborne Toxic Event

Posted: April 8, 2015 in Clamoring of the Crowd
Tags: , , ,
The Airborne Toxic Event returned to Columbus as headliners of CD102.5 Day Side B.

The Airborne Toxic Event returned to Columbus as headliners of CD102.5 Day Side B.

By Colleen and Andy

I am fairly predictable – if there’s an Airborne show within a 200-mile radius, you can pretty much guarantee I’m going to be there. Sometimes my husband insists on going with me (he is the original fan, after all), and sometimes it’s just what the doctor ordered. A week of disappointments, disillusionment, and a sense of haunting grief had us ripened for the perfect antidote – a band that epitomizes melancholy at the same time it makes one glad to be alive.

When my Concert Buddy shot me an update earlier this year that The Airborne Toxic Event was headlining a festival in Columbus, there was no question of whether or not I was going. Then came the day the $5 tickets went on sale, and they sold out in less than a minute. Whether they were legitimate ticket sales, or a golden opportunity for scalpers, we may never know, but CD102.5 might need to rethink their incentives, especially with the gross amount of “resale tickets” available to buy online at 10 times the original price. That which was called a “gift” to the fans ended up being a real headache for those who legitimately wanted to go, but were barred during a quick sell-out and couldn’t afford the ridiculous markup.

It had been nearly three years since Airborne’s last performance at the LC Pavilion, my first show and the one that skyrocketed me into fangirl status. This time, I came dressed as a fan, wearing my brand new Airborne tee I got from the merch table in Chicago a few weeks ago, and wanting to make it perfectly clear which band I was there to see.

Not long after we arrived, I spotted bassist Adrian Rodriguez in the back, and said a brief hello before sharing a space with him on the venue floor as we enjoyed the opening band, Shakey Graves.

The raw Tex-Western Style of Shakey Graves demanded our attention, especially for a one-man-band stomping his own rhythm section.  His closer, “Roll the Bones,” was the perfect leave-them-wanting-more moment of the night. He could have played the entire set himself (see his YouTube video of the song and you’ll see why he is more than able), but I’m glad he didn’t. The three musicians had clear chemistry, and it was definitely our favorite from among bands slated to open for Airborne.

Robert DeLong was next on the bill, with “Long Way Down” as the mover and shaker of the evening. His style and presence onstage demanded attention even without the video/light show, which was too “rave” for me.  Still, I wanted a peek at the man behind the curtain and video game controllers to decide how much was prerecorded versus what beats he was actually laying down onstage.

Jungle followed DeLong, winning bass line of the night with the pop/funk of “Busy Earnin.” But the talent of these artists felt overshadowed by the strobe lights and atmospheric mise en scène. The rhythm section blended well with bongos, drums, and glass-bottle chimes, but the rest of the band struggled to keep my attention for a great deal of the set. Guitars and keyboards were lost behind a pinched falsetto that left me struggling to decipher more than one word per song.

All night long we were deliberating whether or not to try to brave the pit crowd for a chance at watching Airborne’s set from the floor instead of the balcony. The mass exodus after Jungle’s performance practically made the decision for us, as the floor opened up extensively to weave through and snag a third-row spot. This would be a nearly impossible task at a regular Airborne show with lyric-and-bird tattooed fans, whose penchant for staking out the gigs and blogging about them is unprecedented. We were left to wonder if the majority of the audience was there for either Robert DeLong, or Jungle, or leaving to catch the Final Four game that just so happened to be during the same time as The Airborne Toxic Event was set to go onstage.

But the further one wades into the crowd, the more the barrier-fans become a mirrored reflection of one’s own dedication, affirmation, and general obsessiveness when it comes to this band. In other words, look no further than the front row of your favorite band or artist if you’re wondering who you are.

Myself, I am a TATE fangirl at heart. When they took the stage, it felt like the night had finally begun.

For a headliner, however, The Airborne Toxic Event felt turned down from the start, especially following such shamelessly danceable bands as Jungle. The opener “Wrong” was fraught with technical difficulties coming from Mikel’s iconic Silver Falcon Gretsch, and left next song “One Time Thing” feeling flat and uninspired compared to its polished version on Dope Machines.

Even in spite of these hiccups, Airborne flies on its soul-baring raw emotion so well, it’s easy to become lost in the sheer expressions on the artists faces as they match the sentiments for each song. A full recovery was made with “Changing,” and the eruption of “Gasoline” set the stage and the audience on fire.

Nevertheless, for an Airborne show, the set seemed rushed, with “Happiness Is Overrated” played almost identically to the album, save for Mikel’s elongated “always,” and without the interchanges and interactions we have become accustomed to as Airborne fans.

“Numb” and “Welcome To Your Wedding Day” torched the stage once again, and “California” was played a little faster and more rock-n-roll than what I had experienced in Chicago. “Hell and Back” got everyone singing and clapping along, and “What’s in a Name” had us dancing along to its melodic brilliance.

“Sometime Around Midnight” delivered its epic and universal appeal to even the most casual of Airborne fans, and the bulk of the show closed with a classic and fiery “All I Ever Wanted.”

Daren alone returned for the encore, laying down a welcoming beat for the rest of the band as they plunged into “Does This Mean You’re Moving On,” with Mikel shaking hands and high-fiving fans along the barrier, and doing his signature phone swipe for one lucky fan.

By the beer-to-time ratio, however, the first few rows of casuals mixed with diehard fans were flanked by your run-of-the-hill drunks, pushing and shoving their way through the crowd and sometimes the wrong person. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fights that broke out, the people behind and near me who were ejected from the premises, or the sudden mass of bodies pushing me in Mikel’s general direction for “Moving On?” It shouldn’t have been a surprise, given the festival setting, but it did anyway, because Airborne. This was not their usual demographic. That representation goes to the family from Missouri standing in front of us, whose ages ranged from 13 to 53, and are also readers of This Is Nowhere. We like our drinks to be whiskey, we like our machines dope, and also it’s really hard to appreciate the glorious kaleidoscope of Airborne lyrics if one is too wasted to stand. The “Somewhere They Foxtrot Madly” acoustic guitar onstage was never touched, an absolute loss for everyone in the room, and not one “Song of God OR Whiskey” was played.

“Papillon” was performed in perfect punk rock glory, followed by closer “Missy” interrupted with “I’m On Fire” and a heroic drum solo by Daren.

But my favorite presence of the night was Mikel’s “Howling Wolf” t-shirt displayed in all its campy magnificence sans jean jacket when he returned for the encore. Something about the clichéd loneliness of a wolf howling at the moon juxtaposed over a musician howling about lost loves made me realize how true it is that an Airborne show will move one to tears at the same time it causes one to laugh and dance about complete and utter heartache.

My hope for every Airborne show is to leave feeling changed somehow, a different person than the one who walked in the door. The music having left its mark at first listen, it becomes nonetheless more powerful when experienced live, like a living piece of art happening in front of you. And the best art – even the kind with imperfections – is transcendent and inspiring, to say the least. And let’s face it – sometimes at an Airborne show, all you want to do is dance about the fact your glad to be alive while the band plays a melancholy soundtrack to your smile.

Setlist

The Clines When she’s not front row at a TATE show with a bird emblazoned on her face, Colleen can be found blogging regularly at These Stunning Ruins. Andy is an Airborne fan since 2011, and this is his first contribution to This Is Nowhere.  He plays guitar, mandolin, piano, and any instrument he can get his hands on, but his favorite style is slap bass since he was 15.  His favorite bands include The Avett Brothers, Primus, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Victor Wooten, The National, Meat Puppets, and Airborne, with “The Graveyard Near The House” being one of his favorite songs of all time. Colleen and Andy have been known to occasionally lay down a wicked Airborne cover.

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Comments
  1. […] Columbus Is For Shovers – A Review of CD102.5 Day Side B, Featuring The Airborne Toxic Event […]

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  2. […] A quick perusal of the video playlist also revealed that the show had also aired “Gasoline” a couple months ago (starting at the 4:07 mark of the video below). Both songs were recorded at the band’s gig in Columbus last spring – a performance that Colleen and Andy reviewed for us. […]

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