Archive for the ‘5’s’ Category

Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event: manning up. Photo by Ryan Tuttle.

Mikel Jollett: Manning Up. Photo by Ryan Tuttle.

By Glen

Through five records from The Airborne Toxic Event, there are themes that have clearly captivated Mikel Jollett: threads of thought that stalk his work like spirits, weaving their way through the shadows of multiple albums.

Death is the most obvious one of course, its influence limited not just to the songs but extending to the band’s very name and identity. But there are others.

Love. Loss. Home. Angels. Ghosts. Rain.

Amongst these weighty subjects, there is one that sticks out like something of a sore thumb.

Mikel Jollett is kind of obsessed with being a man.

The admonition to “be a man” conjures primitive images of testosterone-dripping, chest-thumping, macho Neanderthals who know what they want and aren’t afraid to take it, even if it means stepping on others along the way.

But unlike certain Presidential candidates, Jollett doesn’t seem overly concerned with flashing his masculine credentials and measuring his… fingers. Rather, his work betrays that he’s still grasping for direction, wrestling with what exactly constitutes manhood in the context of fear, change, uncertainty and relationships.

“What does it mean to be a man?” asks Jollett from the stage one night in Boston. “That’s a really stupid idea, right? I don’t know, like, eating beef jerky? You know, you can think of all these cheesy, simplified things that you can attach to that idea, which is ridiculous. So, for me, I landed on honesty. There was a time when I felt really trapped by so much that I was trying to hide from the rest of the world, and ultimately I realized that I just had to burn the whole fucking thing down.”

The embracing of authenticity and vulnerability is a very 21st century approach to masculinity; one that deals more in questions than answers, as we’ll see as we trace Jollett’s lyrical journey through manhood.


In “Changing,” Jollett treads a fine line between deference on the one side and cocksurety on the other. “I am a gentleman,” he insists repeatedly, offering a litany of proof. He requests what he needs, rather than demanding it: “Didn’t I ask for a place I could stay?” He pays his own way: “Didn’t I pay for every laugh, every dime, every bit every time?” He prioritizes relationship and steps up when he is needed: “Didn’t I answer every time that you call? Pick you up when you fall?”

That said, there’s a firm limit to his flexibility, and he butts up against it when he finds that being a gentleman is getting him nowhere. A deep mistrust is eating at the relationship – at least on her side – and he’s not going to take it lying down. “You say that I lie,” he says with disbelief. “You say I never tried.” Are you serious?

As her deep-seated suspicion seeds mind games and naked attempts at control, the gentleman takes a backseat to a more primal form of masculinity: one that’s had enough of listening, resists compromise and takes a stand. “I won’t hear one more word about changing. Guess what, I am the same man.”

The stubborn man, unwilling to bend and refusing to be owned, is a stark contrast to the gentleman who minded his manners and followed the rules. So what type of man does he want to be?

The Storm

In “The Storm,” an almost 40-year-old Jollett is starting to figure it out. He’s come to a sobering awareness: only just now, after “25 years of running in sand,” has he finally “learned how to stand like a man.”

As it turns out, standing like a man isn’t at all what he expected; perhaps that’s why the lesson was so long in the learning.

“I was going through a lot of heavy stuff at this point in my life when I wrote this song,” Jollett explains. “The idea of the song is somebody witnessing your struggles. You go through these private struggles in your life, and in some cases you feel like you’ve been just barely getting through for a very long time. And the idea is that somebody comes in and just sees it, and is like, ‘Oh my God!’ And that moment of sympathy and empathy, and that sense that somebody can witness who you are and want to help you in your life when you’re just kind of laid bare was really powerful for me at the time. There’s a sense of home that’s kind of the heart of love; that sense of homeness that you can just be yourself with someone, they can see your struggles, and they can see what’s good and bad about you and love you for it. And the minute you recognize that is actually when you know that you have love in your life.”

It’s an extraordinarily counter-cultural take on manliness. We think it’s all about standing on our own two feet and handling shit on our own. But Jollett found manhood in a moment of extreme weakness, even dependence, when he realized there was someone else in the room and it was okay to lean on them. Being a man is not a solo sport.

The Fifth Day

By “The Fifth Day,” the man is broken. The room is empty again.

If Jollett found relationship to be the key to manhood, what does it mean to be a man now that the girl who continually reminded him, “Boy, you’re not so tough,” is gone?

Well, perhaps she’s not completely gone after all. Memories linger: their song in the air, her scent on the sheets. And he knows, even in her absence, “It’s these things that make you a man.”

He may be facing the future alone, but he’s not the same man he was – and he’s not going back. Even if he wanted to, he can’t remember where he started.

But I won’t go back to what I was
I know now that you are lost
It’s your choices that make you a man
Your frozen mind begins to thaw
You think my God my God my God
Where was it I began?

There’s only one way out, and that’s forward, with the lessons of the past in his pocket. That is his choice.

The Way Home

The Such Hot Blood bonus track “The Way Home” introduces us to a man at the end of his rope. Perhaps it’s the same man from “The Fifth Day,” some indeterminate time later; it’s tough to say. The events that have crushed him are not spelled out, but whatever they were, they have left him alone and uncertain.

But also full of resolve.

Rather than yielding to despair and wallowing “beneath this darkened shroud,” the narrator gets his head about him. Change is no longer the enemy. He tears down his prison of shame, brick by ignominious brick. He catches a glimpse of hope – “I can hear the birds, see the light outside” – and it emboldens him to “stand up like a man and swallow my pride.” The hands of time may have beaten him down, but they haven’t defeated him.

The doubts have not been vanquished; not all the question marks have been replaced by periods. He is neither brave nor sure – but Fear will not be permitted the final word.

He doesn’t have the slightest clue where he’s going, just that it’s far away from here – and that’s enough for now. The man closes the door behind him and sets off for the horizon, walking this road on the bricks he’s laid.

Time to be a Man

If the story ended there, you might think he’d finally figured it out. But there’s another chapter, and it brings Jollett full circle.

“Time to be a Man” is a funny song. It seems on the surface to be a bit of an odd duck in the Jollett catalog, with a triumphalist tone that contrasts sharply with his customary cynicism. “Be a man! The whole world is at your door!” What was that we said about chest thumping?

Except it’s not that at all. The man who had boldly set out for a new life somehow finds himself right back where he began: tossing his way through sleepless nights. And still alone. The lessons of “The Storm” have long since been forgotten: he thought he could do it on his own, “like you don’t need no one else,” but he was wrong. “The way home is so steep” – much steeper than he expected.

Yet again, he tries to muster up the strength to be a man. However, his admonition to himself is shot through with self-doubt. “Tell me how does that go? What the hell are you waiting for?”

“The whole world is at your door,” he reminds himself. But walking through that door is not as easy as it seems.

“Time to be a Man” isn’t the optimistic paean to grabbing life by the balls that it might at first glance appear to be. It’s the same secrets and lies and doubts and failures that Jollett has always battled, just wrapped up in a glossier package.

In other words, he hasn’t figured it out after all. Not by a long shot.

But he’s not pretending he has… and that’s a start.

GlenGlen 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.


This Is Nowhere: The Airborne Toxic Event Fan Blog

By Glen

We’re well into our third year of covering The Airborne Toxic Event here at This Is Nowhere, but 2015 marked the first TATE album release since we began – and we got two for the price of one!

The result was our busiest year yet. This little hobby threatened to turn into a full-time job in late February, thanks to an unprecedented 4,000 page visits in two days when Dope Machines and Songs of God and Whiskey dropped. In all, we’ve had over 125,000 page views this year.

Meanwhile, I tested the limits of my ever-patient wife (not to mention our credit cards) by traveling to Seattle, San Francisco, Reno and Sacramento at various points this year to catch the band on the road. What a pleasure it has been to make so many new Airborne friends and share some memorable gigs with many of you.

Things have quieted down since the band began their break a couple months ago, but we’re still hammering away on Toxic History, our would-be book that we’re aiming to finish by next summer. Hopefully by then we’ll have a better idea of what may be next for The Airborne Toxic Event.

In the meantime, here’s a look back at some highlights from 2015.

Top 5 Posts

The following posts were the most widely read of the year.

5. The Airborne Toxic Event Fan Survey: 2015 Edition – Almost 400 fans took our massive survey on all things TATE. Only a few of you cursed me for making the questions too hard, so I consider that a win.

4. Down Thunder Road: Mikel Jollett Discusses Springsteen’s Influence on The Airborne Toxic Event – Thanks to our friend Steven Fein, we had the wonderful opportunity to publish an original interview with Mikel Jollett from a few years back, on the topic of Bruce Springsteen and his influence on Mikel’s songwriting.

3. There Are No Rules When You Fall in Love – A cheesy little piece that I wrote for my wife on Valentine’s Day, with a little help from Mikel.

2. Review: Dope Machines – Fun fact: I started writing this review almost six months before the album’s release, forming my thoughts on The Airborne Toxic Event’s changing musical direction, adding my impressions of individual songs as I heard them live and tweaking it as tracks were released in the weeks leading up to release day.

1. Review: Songs of God and Whiskey – Fun fact: I wrote this review in a matter of two hours after only one careful listen to the album. A snap album deserves snap coverage, right? This article has been read by almost four times as many readers as the Dope Machines review. Interesting.

5 Personal Picks

In case you missed them, here are five of my personal favorites from the past year:

Toxic History Series: This three year labor of love has now grown to 28 chapters, with a (planned) 14 more to come in 2016. We’re on the cusp of Such Hot Blood. Catch up and join us for the rest of the journey!

I’ll Follow You Even If It Was ‘Wrong’ – It’s always a privilege to publish Colleen Cline’s thoughtful work. In the run up to Dope Machines, when many fans were fretting about synths, Colleen wrote about why she implicitly trusts the artistic instincts of the band.

As I Navigate Through the Dope Machines and Revel in Songs of God and Whiskey – An alternate take on the two new albums from Julie Stoller. Thank you, Julie, for all you have contributed over the past couple of years, both publicly and behind the scenes.

A Fans’ Eye View of The Airborne Toxic Event’s Private Show – When Bill Barrish won the right to choose the setlist for a private Airborne show, he generously shared the opportunity with other fans who would be in attendance. Before the show, each of them shared their picks with us, and why they chose them. Following the gig, several of them collaborated on a joint review of the memorable evening, opening up about what it meant to hear their chosen songs.

Enough is Enough: My Song of God and Whiskey – My Airborne-inspired, very personal reflection on my recent journey, warts and all (mostly warts, actually). Written during a dark time, but it still rings true to me today.

Thank you very much to each and every one of you who have read, written, photographed, filmed, commented and bounced alongside me this year, and especially to all who have encouraged my family and I as our daughter continues her cancer battle. (She’s kicking its ass, BTW, though we still have 14 months of treatment to endure.) I hope to see you on the road sooner than later!

Glen 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.

The Airborne Toxic Event: Does This Mean You're Moving On?By Glen

These are dark days, my friends.

Though The Airborne Toxic Event will pop their collective head up for a brief (and no doubt glorious) moment Dec. 5 at Denver’s Not So Silent Night, the band has entered an extended hibernation that is expected to drag well into 2016 at the least.

It’s a well deserved break to be sure, and vital to the recharging of their creative batteries, but that doesn’t make it any easier for us fans to deal with. Following a band that has toured as relentlessly as Airborne has over the past 9+ years has made us a spoiled bunch. For those like me who are lucky enough to live somewhere on the group’s regular circuit, the next show has rarely been more than a few months away. We’re just not that accustomed to staring down a TATE-sized void in our lives.

Though we could resort to the tried and true coping mechanism of sucking our thumbs and rocking back and forth in the corner, there are probably more productive ways to deal with the situation. Of course, if all else fails, we could always just set the All I Ever Wanted DVD on repeat. But for those who want to go a bit deeper, here are five ways to survive an Airborne Toxic Drought.

5. Hit the Books

For those who are readers (and given the sophistication of the Airborne audience, that’s probably most of us), there is no shortage of TATE-related reading material out there waiting to be explored. You can keep yourself busy for a long time reading through Mikel Jollett’s pre-Airborne writings, starting with his short story “The Crack” and then moving on to his vast collection of music reviews, interviews and general interest magazine articles. Click here for a full list, with links.

From there, you might dig into some of Jollett’s favorite authors and most significant literary influences, including Milan Kundera, Vladimir Nabokov, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Alice Munroe, Philip Roth and Kurt Vonnegut. Review the band’s books of the week from 2011. Read the short stories that inspired “The Girls in Their Summer Dresses” and “All I Ever Wanted” – and, of course, don’t forget about Don DeLillo’s White Noise, the source of the band’s name and an influence on many of Jollett’s early lyrics.

Closer to home, this would be a great time to catch up on our ongoing Toxic History series tracing the history of the band. We’re 25 chapters in, just finishing up the All at Once era and preparing to delve into Such Hot Blood after Christmas.

4. Pretend It’s Festival Season

We’re a long way from summer, but thanks to YouTube, it’s easy to relive some of TATE’s best festival sets. There are full-length, pro-quality recordings of Lollapalooza 2014, Coachella 2013 and SXSW 2009, as well as professional recordings of individual songs from many other festivals. And that’s without even getting into the countless fan-shot videos from gigs around the world. Check out some of the Airborne YouTube playlists we’ve compiled here.

3. Discover TATE’s Influences

If you’re looking to expand your sonic horizons, get a taste of The Airborne Toxic Event’s musical roots by immersing yourself in their diverse influences. The Cure, a Jollett-favorite and the inspiration behind “Strange Girl,” recently announced a 2016 world tour – a rare opportunity to see them in the flesh. Other oft-cited TATE influences include The Smiths, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, Pavement and Passion Pit, among others. You could also work your way through the songs of the day that the band recommended back in 2011. Or, learn more about the Silver Lake music scene from whence Airborne sprung in the documentary film Pass the Music, available for free online viewing (watch for a fleeting TATE sighting in the first few minutes!).

2. Branch Out on the TATE Family Tree

On the other end of the musical spectrum are the artists you’ve discovered through The Airborne Toxic Event. To list all the bands who have opened for TATE or shared a festival bill with them would take more space than we have here, but suffice it to say, whether you’ve been to one Airborne show or twenty, you’ve no doubt been introduced to many other talented musicians along the way. Perhaps now is the time to look them up.

For a more direct link, you’ll definitely want to check out the Airborne band members’ other projects, including The Bulls (Anna Bulbrook), Little Richard tribute act Big Dick (Daren Taylor), Avid Dancer (Adrian Rodriguez) and Twin Shadow (Rodriguez).

1. Go Cuckoo for Koko

Back in 2009, The Airborne Toxic Event filmed a full length performance at Koko, London. Along with their entire first album, the show featured the first ever live performance of “All I Ever Wanted,” an early incarnation of “A Letter to Georgia,” and the ultra-rare “Echo Park.”

The recording was released under the title, NME Presents Does This Mean You’re Moving On: The Airborne Toxic Event Live at Koko, London. Unfortunately, the release was limited to the Qello subscription concert video service, and Google Play. As a result, it remains TATE’s greatest secret, even among hardcore fans: our recent fan survey revealed that just 10% of Airborne fans have seen it.

If you find yourself experiencing nagging symptoms of Airborne Toxic Withdrawal in the coming months, Dr. Jollett prescribes regular doses of this gem of a concert film. Qello offers a free one month trial, so if nothing else, sign up for a month, watch it once a day for 30 days, and then cancel your account if you must. That should at least boost the toxins in your system long enough to hold you over till the band resurfaces – hopefully sooner than later.

Here’s “Wishing Well” from the Koko show:

GlenGlen 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.

Steven Chen of The Airborne Toxic Event, Fillmore residency night 2. Photo by Jessica.

Steven Chen of The Airborne Toxic Event, Fillmore residency night 2. Photo by Jessica.

By Jamie

It’s been 5 months since my crazy experience seeing The Airborne Toxic Event perform a 3-night residency at the legendary Fillmore in San Francisco. Feeling as though I had nothing to add to the already superb write-ups featured on this blog about the event, I chose not to share my experiences. In the months that have followed, though, I have gained a new perspective on the whole trip, and some of the things that stuck with me are not what I would have expected to walk away with. Hopefully you find some of these lessons learned as amusing as I do.

1. Being in the second row is not the end of the world.

Yes, I just typed those words. Before last September, if you had told me I would be saying this, I would have not only laughed at you but I also would have laughed with pity at the poor fools who had convinced themselves that this could possibly be true. That was before I found myself in San Francisco with two of the most awesome girls I have ever met.

On Friday, my second day, I was completely intoxicated with the city and spent a little more time than I had planned sightseeing, laughing and drinking with my friends. When I arrived at the venue for “All At Once night” at around 3pm, I realized my chances at front row were slim to none.  I was, after all, battling with the MOST hardcore of the hardcore (just ask Glen what time he started lining up). I sucked it up and put on a brave face but I was absolutely panicking inside. Standing in line, I convinced myself the show was going to be horrible; I was going to feel so far removed from the action that I would never forgive myself for taking that cable car.

What I learned was, second row isn’t that different than first row. Yeah, you’re not leaning against the stage getting hit in the head with Steven’s guitar, but it’s still pretty damn fantastic. What you lose in proximity to the band you gain in proximity to the fans. It was a party; we danced and laughed and drank. That’s right, I was able to DRINK because if I had to pee, I was able to get to and from the bathroom, something anyone who has ever experienced barrier would assure you is near impossible. Even the band could see me way back there, as proven by Steven’s nod in our direction when my girlfriend and I started screaming for him.

What’s the moral of the story? It’s true that barrier is an experience like no other, but these guys play to the whole room, not just the front row. There are no “bad spots” at a TATE show.

2. Strange Girl makes me ugly cry.

In the weeks leading up to the residency, fans eagerly discussed the songs they were most anticipating hearing. For me, that song was “Strange Girl.” Not only had it rarely been performed live, it is in my top 5 TATE songs. When night 2 came along, I had almost forgotten what I was about to experience, what with the trauma of being in the second row. When Mikel announced the song, it was a wonderful little surprise. As he started singing it, a beautiful acoustic version accompanied by Anna’s angelic vocals, the enormity of everything hit me at once. The anticipation of the last 4 months, the reality of what I was finally experiencing and the beauty of the arrangement brought me to tears. Not those small tears that you can wipe away without anyone seeing, oh no… I was balling, so much so that my neighbors took notice and told their neighbors, and soon my ugly cry was the main attraction. “Look everyone, she’s SOBBING!” Slightly embarrassed, even though everyone meant well, I embraced my feelings, ignored the fact that my mascara was probably running and cherished every moment of the song. Just thinking about it still gives me goosebumps.

3. There is such a thing as meeting the band too many times.

Within minutes of arriving at our hotel, we had seen enough of the band’s crew to realize we would be staying in the same hotel as the band. At first, this elicited fan girl glee. Squealing with excitement, my girlfriends and I imagined running into the band and chatting, laughing, maybe even getting some fun selfies. Of course, we weren’t the only giggling fans to have these daydreams and it quickly became apparent that maybe the band just wanted to get from the hotel lobby to their room without smiling for a picture. Not that they weren’t friendly, because they were. They were so very sweet and patient with u,s but it was obvious that they had to be sweet and patient with a lot of people. We ran into the band all right… we ran into them everywhere. Elevators, hallways, hotel lobby, on the streets… it got to the point where I would see them coming and duck down an alley or into a shop or look down at my phone to save them the trouble of doing either of the same. Not to say they would do that, but what if they did? Can you say awkward?  I have to give props to Mikel for not running from my girlfriends and me when we screamed and jumped around the first day we saw him on the streets after visiting the hotel bar for some pre-concert refreshments. It was not my finest moment.

4. TATE is the best.

No, seriously. I know what you’re thinking. How am I only now figuring this out? It’s not that I didn’t already believe this to be true, but after that weekend, I have a new found respect for them. As I’ve said, the band spent the whole weekend being accosted by fans at every turn, and yet they were polite and gracious every time I saw them interacting with one. Even though I’m sure Adrian must have been overwhelmed by all the attention, he never once faltered, answering dozens of questions from curious fans wanting to get to know the new guy a little better. There was at least one member of the band meeting with people after every show, and Mikel took the time to chat and thank every fan that waited for him after the last night, even though I’m sure he was exhausted.

The Airborne Toxic EventMy favorite moment of interaction was after the second show on Friday night when my friends and I stayed to chat with Steven and Anna. As we posed for a picture, Mikel was running out to a waiting car. We screamed for him to join us in the picture and even though he could have pretended not to hear us, he glanced back, turned around and (battling over excited fans and chilly temperatures) made his way back to us, photobombing our picture with Steven before running back to the car. They are just all so wonderful to me. When I take a moment to think about what the members of TATE were doing every day that weekend, how hard they were working, I can’t help but to be so incredibly grateful for every moment they gave us.

5. TATE fans are the best.

Now that we’ve established how wonderful this band is, can I take some time to emphasize how absolutely awesome their fans are? I spent the weekend putting faces to names, meeting people I had only ever “known” online and some I had never known at all. People who had read my TIN articles introduced themselves to me, and I was so honored and moved by their kindness. Every show became less and less about just watching the band on stage and more and more about experiencing the music with the people around you. By the third night, strangers were started to recognize each other and learning each others’ names. We were like one big extended family. TATE’s music brought me together with people I am sure I will be friends with for the rest of my life. If you need a reason to love this band any more than you already do, look no further than the amazing people who support them.

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.

Anna Bulbrook, Mikel Jollett and The Airborne Toxic Event explore new sonic territory on Dope Machines. Photo by Creative Copper Images, Oct. 23, 2014, Vancouver, BC.

Anna Bulbrook, Mikel Jollett and The Airborne Toxic Event explore new sonic territory on Dope Machines. Photo by Creative Copper Images, Oct. 23, 2014, Vancouver, BC.

By Glen

Last fall when The Airborne Toxic Event released “Wrong,” the first single from the upcoming album Dope Machines, it proved that Mikel Jollett wasn’t kidding around when he promised that the band would be exploring a very different sound on the next LP. His advance warnings did little to prevent some major eyebrow-raising on the part of many listeners, however, including but not limited to a number of Facebook fans who’ve taken to obnoxiously loudly registering their objection to the new direction every time the band posts anything pertaining to the release.

Not that the group is likely losing any sleep over it. If anything, it’s a case of mission accomplished. As Mikel said back in the spring, “If people aren’t mad about this next record, I’ll feel like I failed.”

The hubbub surrounding the new sound has obscured something else Mikel pointed out: namely, that this doesn’t represent a 180-degree shift. Rather, the musical terrain explored in Dope Machines has roots that can be traced in Airborne’s previous work.

I think our core fans that are really familiar with the breadth of things that we’ve done won’t be terribly surprised. They’ll be like, “Oh yeah, it’s just a little bit more on this front, and a little bit more on this front.” But, I think, to have a whole record that really goes there.

Which leads us to ponder: which TATE songs of the past can we look to for clues to the future? Some are more obvious than others, but here are five songs from The Airborne Toxic Event that may foreshadow where they are headed with Dope Machines.

5. Welcome to Your Wedding Day

Before morphing into the hardest rocking song on any of The Airborne Toxic Event’s first three studio albums, “Welcome to Your Wedding Day” opens with 30-seconds of bleeps, bloops, fuzzy guitars and synths, the likes of which were heretofore unheard on any TATE recording to date. Is it a coincidence that the band chose to open many of the shows on their fall 2014 tour with an extended version of this intro? Perhaps it was a subtle reminder that the new sounds being experimented with these days aren’t entirely new after all.

4. Innocence

Given its status as the pinnacle of Airborne’s trademark orchestral rock, “Innocence” would seem on its face to be diametrically opposed to the electronica of Dope Machines. But listen carefully to the version found on TATE’s debut album. It opens with a synthesized hum that recurs throughout the near-seven-minute masterpiece. Beginning at about the 5:14 mark, the steady buzz reappears and maintains a consistent presence through the final 90-seconds of the song, laying an electronic foundation for the exquisite instrumentation played over top of it.

3. Hell and Back

In the fall of 2013, The Airborne Toxic Event threw a self-described curve ball in the form of “Hell and Back,” a song featured on the Dallas Buyers Club soundtrack that became an unexpected hit single for the band – bringing them arguably their greatest radio success outside of “Sometime Around Midnight.”

Though it wasn’t necessarily a radical departure from that which preceded it (the stomping, sing-along chorus is reminiscent of “Changing,” to cite one connection), there were certainly elements that made us sit up and take notice – a trip-hop beat on an electric kit from Daren Taylor, an arresting synth solo from Anna Bulbrook – bringing a new flare to a familiar sound. It hinted at more to come, and its success may have emboldened the band to really go for it this time around.

2. You’re So American

In the spring of 2012, Mikel became infatuated (as did many other television viewers) with the new HBO program Girls. He took to Huffington Post to explain why he was drawn to the show, and to introduce a song that was inspired by it.

So I wrote this song after watching a 6-episode marathon of the show. It’s not an homage and it’s not a theme song or something. It’s just how I felt after spending time with those characters. Which is all that means. Maybe that makes it more subjective but I guess that’s the point.

The song, “You’re So American,” is a solo effort by Mikel featuring a screechy riff, distorted vocals and electric drums. Very un-TATE-like – up until now, that is.

1. Numb (Demo)

A couple years ago, Mikel released a demo version of the All At Once hit “Numb” through Soundcloud, stating that he actually preferred this recording to the one that ended up on the album. He reiterated his opinion last fall, saying, “I still prefer the demo of this song to the recording. Dave (Sardy) and I had a series of spirited debates about this song which ended with a compromise and a switchblade being pulled (as a joke, I think).”

The demo version is more fit for a dance club than a rock stage, with its electronic drum beat, spacey, layered vocals, muted guitars and synth flourishes. From what we know about Dope Machines, we suspect that this take on “Numb” would be right at home on it.

Glen, Fan of The Airborne Toxic Event 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.

This Is Nowhere: 2014 in Review

Posted: December 30, 2014 in 5's
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This Is Nowhere: The Airborne Toxic Event Fan Blog

By Glen

2014 was a tale of two years for The Airborne Toxic Event.

The first seven months of the year was arguably the quietest stretch in the history of the band. Apart from the news that Noah Harmon was taking a baby break and a short mini-tour in February, TATE largely disappeared from view as Mikel Jollett ensconced himself in a room somewhere to hammer out the guts of the next album.

And then came August. Noah was fired; Adrian was hired. The first fruits of Mikel’s labor were debuted on stage as the band geared up for their most ambitious tour yet: an eight-week jaunt across North America and back that brought surprises every night. The promotional machine started to rev as Airborne dropped a new single, “Wrong,” and prepared to release the album early in the new year.

As for This Is Nowhere, we went into overdrive at the same time the band did, both in terms of our output and the level of interest from the TATE fan community. We added two writers to the team. For awhile, TIN threatened to become a full-time job.

And then real life rudely interrupted, as it is wont to do. Late October brought news of my daughter’s leukemia, immediately throwing everything into sharp perspective.

I thought about taking an extended break. I settled for just slowing down. I released myself from self-inflicted pressure to stick to a schedule or meet a weekly quota of posts.

But an interesting thing happened along the way: TIN, and the community that has formed around it, became an unexpected source of strength during the most difficult, draining period of my life.

My family and I have been overwhelmed with gratitude for the outpouring of support from my fellow TATE fans. I’ve lost count of the e-mails and cards and gifts that have been sent by people I have never even met, with whom the only bond I share is a common love for the band that provides us with a soundtrack for life’s best and shittiest moments.

I also came to the realization that, while cancer is going to rob us of many things as we go through two years of treatment, it doesn’t have to rob me of this. Night after night spent sitting in a quiet hospital room provides plenty of time to write, as it turns out. And so we continued, albeit with a limp.

As we close the books on a year to remember and look forward to officially entering the Dope Machines era, here’s a look back at some of the highlights from the past twelve months of This Is Nowhere.

Top 5 Posts

The following posts were the most widely read of the year.

5. The Hitchhiking Game: A song analysis of “All I Ever Wanted,” comparing and contrasting it with the Milan Kundera short story on which it is based.

4. Toxicity 40: Newsapalooza Edition: Though their rain-soaked performance at Lollapalooza was one of The Airborne Toxic Event’s defining moments of 2014, the on-stage action took a backseat to a plethora of off-stage news that broke that weekend: namely, the permanent departure of Noah Harmon, confirmation that Adrian Rodriguez was now an official member of the band, and a time frame for the release of the next album.

3. Review: The Airborne Toxic Event Premieres Two New Songs at Boonstock: Two days before Lolla, TATE gave us the first taste of their promised new sound in the form of two new songs (“Dope Machines” and “California”) debuted at a tiny festival in an out-of-the-way town in British Columbia.

2. A Plea to TATE Fans: A few days later, I was awakened in the middle of the night by my phone BLOWING UP with alerts from TATE fans after Noah went public with news of his firing. I wrote this response at 3 am.

1. Ugly Love: After reading that bestselling author Colleen Hoover is a huge Airborne fan who found inspiration for her latest novel in “The Fifth Day,” we interviewed the writer to learn more about the connections between the band and her book. This Is Nowhere was promptly overrun by “CoHorts,” who set a single day traffic record that will be difficult to break anytime soon. Hopefully a few of them were turned on to TATE in the process. (Incidentally, Ugly Love is soon to become a motion picture starring Nick Bateman.)

5 Personal Picks

In case you missed it, here are five of my personal favorites from the past year:

Toxic History Series: Okay, this is kind of cheating, because it’s actually seven posts (and counting), not one. But, of all that we’ve undertaken at This Is Nowhere, I am most excited about our ongoing effort to produce a comprehensive history of the band. We are aiming for completion in early 2016, at which point we hope to explore book publishing options. If you haven’t had a chance to read along, the holidays are the perfect time to catch up.

Crafting an Icon: Creating The Airborne Toxic Event’s Bird: Our team of writers worked exceptionally hard this fall to cover The Airborne Toxic Event’s fall tour to within an inch of its life, providing in-depth Fillmore previews, show reviews, nightly setlists, a digital programme and an exclusive sneak peek at the TATE Fillmore poster series. Perhaps the most unique entry was an interview with James Peterson, the artist who created the giant bird stage prop that literally loomed over the entire tour.

All Your Songs Are Sad Songs: Jamie shatters the myth that The Airborne Toxic Event is a major downer.

My Noah Memories: Julie bids a fond farewell to the bassist, sharing a series of memories collected through the years.

The Way Home: This post was stewed over and rewritten more than any other. As personally revealing as I am ever likely to get on This Is Nowhere.

Thank you very much to each and every one of you who have read, written, photographed, filmed, commented and danced alongside us this year, and especially to all who have encouraged us during my daughter’s illness. We hope to see you on the road in 2015!

Glen, Fan of The Airborne Toxic Event 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.

By Glen

The Airborne Toxic Event’s fall tour was a visual spectacle, providing a superabundance of sublime photo opps for photographers both amateur and professional alike. We’ve spilled more than enough words (and numbers) in our attempts to reflect on paper screen what we witnessed with our eyes and ears; today we give in and admit that pictures say it better than we ever could.

Below, in no particular order, are five images that capture the heart of a tour to remember. If you’ve got a favorite image you’d like to share, link to it in the comments and we’ll share it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Steven Chen of The Airborne Toxic Event, Fillmore Residency

On the second night of the Fillmore residency, Jessica Sandoval captured Steven Chen in full flight: bathed in red, framed by the now iconic bird, green lights shooting from each shoulder as if he’s a puppet on a pair of strings.

Angelic Anna Bulbrook. Photo by Stan Silverman, Sept. 20, 2014, The Fillmore San Francisco.

“Pin the Bird on the Band Member” became a popular game amongst TATE fans this fall. Our favorite example comes from Stan Silverman, who captured the angelic Anna Bulbrook on night three of the Fillmore residency.

Adrian Rodriguez, Mikel Jollett and Daren Taylor of The Airborne Toxic Event

It was a familiar sight almost every night: Adrian Rodriguez, Mikel Jollett and Daren Taylor kicking the encore into overdrive with a 3-man drum solo (is that an oxymoron?). In-the-crowd hijinks usually ensued. This image was captured by Jennifer McInnis (Creative Copper Images) in Vancouver.

Anna Bulbrook leans on Airborne Toxic Event bandmate Adrian Rodriguez in Burlington, VT. Photo by Ayaz Asif, Oct. 9, 2014 (

My jaw dropped the first time I saw this photo by Ayaz Asif, captured in Burlington, and it continues to do so each time I look at it. The sheer joy radiating from Anna is mesmerizing.

Mikel Jollett and Daren Taylor of The Airborne Toxic Event

Elva captured this perfect moment in time as the Vancouver show wound to a close. Daren Taylor’s god shot: “Let there be light,” says the Lord of the Drums, and it dutifully streams from above. In front of him, Mikel Jollett basks in the glow of yet another triumph.

Glen, Fan of The Airborne Toxic EventGlen 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.