Review: The Airborne Toxic Event Returns to KOKO, London

Posted: May 12, 2015 in Clamoring of the Crowd
Tags: , , ,
Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event performs on stage at KOKO on April 14, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. Credit: Andrew Benge.

Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event performs on stage at KOKO on April 14, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. Credit: Andrew Benge.

By Stephanie

I woke to my alarm, my phone said 14th April 2015. The day I had been waiting for, for the past eight weeks since The Airborne Toxic Event’s European tour was announced. Hell, I had been waiting since October 2013. Being a British fan is hard sometimes; you have American friends who seem to see the band almost weekly and we have to wait years to see them again.

But the 14th April was special to me. I committed myself to seeing the band, going to London on my own, something I have only done twice before in my 26 years. Never before have I been to a show without a gig buddy, however this time I knew I would know people when I got there. You see, I may have been a fan for almost a decade but I only knew a handful of other fans. Not this time. With the help of Facebook and This Is Nowhere, I have been able to connect to fans from all over the world – something that completely blows my mind. Blows my mind because sometimes I forget that this band now sells out venues, people know their lyrics and they get in the charts on iTunes. Back in 2006/7 (which feels like yesterday), they were just a band from sunny California that made me feel like only I knew about them.

Anyway, back to the 14th. It was a gloriously hot day in London, I travelled up by train, found the hostel I was staying in and got ready for the show. It was about 2pm. I heard people start queueing early for them these days! I was unbelievably nervous. Thankfully, I have three close TATE friends who I trust with my life to help me make outfit choices and how to have my hair etc. Such a confidence boost! I sent them selfies and they gave their approval.

The Airborne Toxic Event swept across the UK in 2008 with 30 shows in 30 days - G.

Stephanie was featured in one of The Airborne Toxic Event’s video blogs during the 2008 30 Shows in 30 Days UK tour.

Why was this such a big deal, I hear you ask? Well, as you may or may not know, me and the band have a bit of a history; not gonna go on about it but yes I am the girl with the ghastly yellow hair in the 30 Days vlogs… anyway, I have been a terrible fan in the past six years. I have been to shows but since the breakup between me and Sean I had never had the guts to go say ‘hi’ after the show. This time I was going to be brave!

I digress. So I get into Camden and see that thankfully there is no queue as such yet so I went to find something to eat and see if anyone is around. Found some fellow TATErs in a nearby pub and we had a drink and shared stories of shows past. I just love the TATE community, full of all sorts of people and everyone has their own story to tell! We walk over to the venue at 5pm and stand in the sun. We met a guy from Hungary who had been to a few shows before and adores Anna, he had been waiting outside for ages before us! Matt and I ran round the side of the venue to hear the band sound check and then a few more familiar faces arrived to form more of a queue.

About 30 minutes before doors were due to open, Steven and Adrian came out and signed a few things for people. I waited for them to come to the front of the queue, Steven was signing a ticket for someone and I just said, ‘Hi Steven.’ He looked up and a smile flashed over his face. He gave me a big hug and remarked just how long it had been since we last saw each other. That’s when I knew that the show will be amazing. I was so touched that even though it had been years, they still remembered me.

We got into the venue and got to the centre of the barrier – a position in my 8 and a half years of watching them, I had never been. I normally stood to the side but this time it felt right to be right in the middle of the action.

Kid Wave kicked off the show, they were a kind of Siouxie and the Banshees sounding act and although the vocals were hard to hear, I thought they were pretty good!

After the crew checked the equipment and sound for the band (that’s all new to me, the band used to do all that or Blake the roadie from the 30 Shows in 30 Days tour!) “Bohemian Rhapsody” played loud over the speakers and the audience sang at the top of their lungs. The lights dipped down and the band entered the stage.

The show started with “Wrong.” I was so excited. It was the first time I had heard it live, as in actually live and not dodgy recordings from YouTube. It hit me so hard. They were back and it was amazing.

Dope Machines had only officially dropped 8 days prior to the show but everyone knew the words to the new songs as “One Time Thing” came next. Mikel’s little dance and pretending to check his phone while he sings ‘I got your message on my phone’ – totally adorable. It’s great to see him have such confidence and the audience laps it up, especially when they blast straight into “Numb.” The crowd goes wild and the mosh pit gets a bit bigger!

Last time I saw the band, “Hell and Back” was their new record and I barely knew it; this time the audience participation of the ‘na, na, na, nahs’ were spot on and you could see Mikel was happy that we Brits had embraced the song he loves so much.

They jumped back to the debut album for “Happiness is Overrated,” which was super fun to hear as all my memories are based around the original album as that’s when they’ve played the most times in the UK. “Happiness” was followed by “Changing,” another jump around track that everyone can dance to!

“Gasoline” rolled round and the crowd goes wild (the security guards had to break up the mosh pit at one point!). The sound for Anna’s viola worked well for once; in the early days the techy’s couldn’t get the guitar and viola to work together and often Anna would get lost, but these guys are pros now!

They kept with the original record for “Papillion,” which I always love to hear, and then into “Wedding Day,” which I’m not sure if I have heard live before, but it was awesome as expected.

Up next was “Wishing Well.” For those that know me, know this song can make me cry! So as I said, I’m up front, and I didn’t think the band could see me through the lights. I was wrong. Mikel was on keys as usual and midway through the song he comes off stage and over to me, gives me a big kiss on the cheek and then gets back on stage. Made my night!

Just before they played “Sometime Around Midnight,” Mikel says something to the notion of, ‘Koko was the first big show we ever played in London, and there are people in this audience who have been with us since that show.’ Anna points her bow at me and I nearly die! Such a nice thing to be noticed! They play the song the audience has been waiting for the whole night, we all sing at the top of our voices. Will that song ever get old?

They finish the main part of the show with “All I Ever Wanted,” which is actually my favourite song ever by them and I have a line from it tattooed on my ribs as a reminder of just how good it is.

The lights fade down.


They kick off the encore with “California,” again everyone sings all the words. Hopefully this will be a pointer that the UK is ready for the new material; we would love to get shows that the Americans get like the full Dope Machines record or even more of Songs of God and Whiskey. The fans completely adore the band and I think overall the records have been very well received on this side of the pond.

“Elizabeth” played next and then the tempo quickly raised for “Does This Mean Your Moving On?” Mikel ran off stage and grabbed a bottle of Lanson champagne and sprayed it over the audience and then jumped into the crowd with his long mic lead and sang in with the fans. A feature (minus the champers) of the show that never gets old and less worrying than when he climbs the stage lights.

The old classic “Missy” with “I Fought the Law” and then back to “Missy” continued with the theme of debut songs that everyone knows and loves. The show drew to a close with “All At Once,” which was meant to be the final song of the main part but as ever things swapped and changed as responding to the audience.

The whole show was just brilliant; it felt like coming home. It was the sort of show you wish people who had never seen them before could see and feel the energy and electricity felt between the band and the fans.

People often ask me if I think they’ve changed. I honestly don’t think they have. Personality-wise they are still grateful and almost surprised that people show up to the gigs they do, especially in the UK. I think they underestimate the loyalty of the fans here in Europe as it’s not just the UK fans that travel to the US but the German, Hungarian, Swiss, Belgian fans that come to the UK as to not miss out on the UK atmosphere. We don’t get as many shows as the American fans get but we sure make them feel welcome when they are here.

  1. jcstoller says:

    I really enjoyed reading this, Stephanie. Such a unique perspective from a seasoned veteran. I consider you a key part of Airborne lore! 🙂 Thanks so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lzakov says:

    Great article Stephanie! Brought back all the feelings when I last saw them in San Diego in March. I love it so much when the crowd is full of long time fans. So happy for you that the band remembered you. That is really a special night you’ll never forget!! thanks for sharing. 😄

    Liked by 1 person

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