Posts Tagged ‘all at once’

Amanda with Anna Bulbrook

Amanda with Anna Bulbrook

Los Toxicos is a monthly feature where we get to know a fan of The Airborne Toxic Event. To nominate a fan (or yourself) for a future month, e-mail us.

Name: Amanda Brown (@AmandaSpeaking… but I hardly ever use Twitter)

Where are you from?

I am from Chester County, PA among the cornfields, Amish families and a whole lot of nothingness. I moved to Philadelphia, PA after graduating from culinary school and love living in the city. It is such a contrast to where I grew up. I love going home to visit though. It is honestly the best of both worlds.

Tell us about yourself (who you are, what you do for a living, hobbies, etc.).

I went to culinary school and was hired by a catering company right after graduation. I have been with the company for 8 years now and I love it. It leaves little time for a social life and no time for “hobbies” so I have created both in discovering a love for live music and dancing. I have found that concerts, music festivals and even local bar gigs are excellent places to meet amazing new friends.

Amanda reminds Mikel Jollett that she is not 9-years-old.

Amanda reminds Mikel Jollett that she is not 9-years-old.

How did you become a fan of The Airborne Toxic Event?

My brother had an album or two and passed it down to me in a bundle of musical suggestions (I usually come to him when I grow bored of my current music inventory). I really liked a few songs. When they came to Philadelphia in 2014, we both went to go see them. I was a brand new baby fan and knew next to nothing about them except that I really loved “Elizabeth.” We were standing in line outside of the Electric Factory and a guy came out to hang with us so I asked my brother who he was. He didn’t know so I was quickly looking up “The Airborne Toxic Event” on google image to try and figure out if he was in the band. I wasn’t fast enough. “Hey, I’m Mikel. Thanks for coming out to the show! What song do you really want to hear tonight?” I hoped and prayed that he was a member of Airborne and not of the opening band (In The Valley Below) and just grinned and replied simply with “Elizabeth” and a handshake. I was too embarrassed to think to ask for a picture, so thank goodness my brother thought of it.

I wish I knew how much my life would change that night. I fell in love with not just Airborne, but with music all together. I felt things I have never felt before and my heart was opened to a world I never dreamed of existing. I can’t explain or describe what it was that shifted in me that night, but I am sure you all know. All Airborne fans know that something secret, something special that cannot be described except as “magical” that happens when you are in their presence. It was life altering for me because I didn’t love them before that night. And then, all of a sudden, I was madly in love. And I was so late to the game. Noah was gone, Adrian had just started, I knew none of the names of any of the band members or any of the words to any of the songs and barely knew any song titles. But I was in love. And I hit the ground running.

Amanda and Mikel

Amanda and Mikel

Do any of your family or friends like The Airborne Toxic Event?

My brother whom I mentioned before likes them, but he isn’t crazy for them. My family (and most of my friends) think I have gone off the deep end after that October 3, 2014 show when I first met TATE. They just shake their head and wonder if I am off my rocker. My boss staged a (friendly, half joking) intervention one day because she thought I was actually insane. People have stopped following me on social media because they say, “All you post about is that band with the weird name” But I don’t mind. I just made new friends.

Airborne shows are GREAT for meeting some pretty amazing people. I have made lifelong friends while waiting in lines for hours and hours to get barrier for shows. One convinced me at the last minute to book a flight to the west coast to follow them through the end of their last tour and offered her hotel room for me to stay in every night because my bank account was flatlined. “Follow your dreams” she said. It was the best thing I have ever done on my life. I met Brooke (who nominated me!) on my west coast adventure and we discovered immediately that we were kindred spirits and were clearly meant to cross paths. She and I are the best of friends and never in a thousand years would have met if it weren’t for Airborne. (‘Cause it’s true love!) Some of my closest friends are ones I have made through Airborne. Soulmates to say the least. So, short answer: yes.

Did you convert them, or did they convert you?

I have yet to convert anyone to the extent of “Loving” them. I like making mix cd’s for my friends (I know, I’m stuck in 2006 still) and I always slip a TATE song or two in there. I am working on my dad right now. I think It was Mikel who converted me. Mikel and company.

What does your Airborne Toxic Event collection include?

I have all the albums, of course, and a poster of the 2014 tour, picks from all the boys (minus Noah) and even an Anna pick (!), 5 setlists, t-shirts, sweatshirts, bags, countless pictures and an infinity of memories.

What’s your favorite TATE song and album, and why?

I absolutely refuse to pick a favorite song. It simply cannot be done. Each album is truly my favorite in some way or another. It is extremely difficult to narrow it down to just one as an ultimate favorite.

Gun to my head though, I would have to go with All At Once if only because of the raw and undefiled emotion laced within the lyrics of each and every song. Each song is such a story and the lyrics paired with the melodies have a magical way of just scooping your soul up and carrying you with them down the roads the songs are flowing through. That being said, and having declared All At Once as my final answer, I must add that since I was such a late bloomer to the game, Dope Machines (and SOGAW) was the first album that I got to experience the release of. Also, I wasn’t really in any kind of relationship with music before discovering Airborne so this was my first everything. First time waiting with held breaths and sheer excitement for the release of the album cover, the setlist, the drop date, the pre-order, the package in the mail containing my first autographed album… and the surprise SOGAW drop… I thought I was going into heart failure. I remember being at the laundromat and falling to the floor when I got the email that there was a surprise additional album being released with Dope Machines. So, obviously, Dope/Whiskey has a special place in my heart too.

Have you ever had a special experience at a TATE concert?

At Irving Plaza in NY, Mikel once stopped in the middle of a song and pointed at me and said, “What are you, 9!? Do you even know what we are singing about?” Then he pointed to my friend next to me and said, “Make sure you explain all this to her at some point of her life. Make sure she understands.” He continued the song and then stopped again at another point to make some other banter or joke about my age and then came down to hug me afterwards and asked my real age. Anna also came running up to me after the show and apologized profusely. She said that she covered her face and backed away from the stage as he was speaking and told him later once they were backstage, “Mikel! We know her! She is NOT 9!” I didn’t mind one bit. We all got a good laugh, some funny pictures and a great story out of it.

What’s on your Airborne Toxic Event bucket list?

All I ever want is for them to keep touring. That would be enough for me. I also want a tattoo at some point. I have committed to the decision, but am having worlds of trouble trying to figure out what and where. It’s like trying to pick a favorite song. I just don’t think I can do it! I would settle for a European tour though.

Are there any other bands you would recommend that Airborne fans check out?

My taste in music is pretty eclectic. Through Airborne, I have grown to also love Kodaline and In The Valley Below but I am not usually drawn to Airborne-type music which really surprises me. I like more of an upbeat, dance-y tune like Matt and Kim, Awolnation and Robyn. I have recently gotten into some new-ish bands: Jackson Breit, Jeremy Loops and Christine and the Queens as current obsessions. They are all good, however none of these resemble Airborne very much at all. So I wouldn’t be offended or surprised if not one soul reading this would be into them, ha.

Amanda and The Airborne Toxic Event

The Airborne Toxic Event album collage

By Glen

Confession: I am a compulsive list maker and favorites ranker.

On my long commute to work each day, I often find myself mentally compiling lists. Favorite movies, favorite books, favorite hockey players, favorite children (justkiddingiwouldneverdothat), favorite bands, albums and songs – they’ve all been rehearsed and rehashed.

On the one hand, I recognize that it’s a pretty lame exercise. Mikel Jollett would probably tell me that analyzing and comparing pieces of art as if they were specimens under a microscope is missing the point at best, a complete and utter bastardization at worst. And he’d be 100% correct.

But I do it anyway. Blame it on the brain.

Sometimes when I just can’t decide which album I like better, I compare them track by track to see how they stack up. Which record has the better opener? Closer? Track #5?

Again, I get that it’s crass. Great albums are way more than the sum of their parts, which is why Greatest Hits albums are never as good as the original LP’s that spawned the hits. Ripping individual songs from their context and judging them in a vacuum devalues them to some extent. But then, that’s all part and parcel with living in the iTunes era, right? Sadly, many music purchasers don’t even bother with albums anymore, preferring instead to build patchwork playlists with a little from Arist A, a smidgeon of Artist B, on and on ad nauseum.

With these disclaimers on the table and full recognition of the limitations inherent in what I’m about to do, once you get past the idiocy of the basic premise, it can actually be a pretty fun exercise. And so, what follows is something of a battle royale: groupings of Airborne songs, organized by track number, squaring off to craft my ultimate TATE album.

All opinions are strictly my own, of course. But, as a preview of our upcoming Airborne Toxic Event fan survey, I invite you to place your vote for your favorite track in each showdown, and in a week or two I’ll post the “Fans’ Choice Ultimate Airborne Album.” Feel free to share your selections in the comments below.

Track 1: Wishing Well vs. All At Once vs. The Secret vs. Wrong vs. Poor Isaac

The Airborne Toxic Event starts every album with a bang, so it’s no surprise that Track 1 is stacked with strong contenders. Under normal circumstances, I would be perfectly satisfied with any of “Wishing Well,” “Wrong” or “Poor Isaac,” all of which are top tier songs. But up against “All At Once” it’s a pretty easy call for me. The opener from Airborne’s sophomore album is amongst my top three songs of all time, and was pretty much guaranteed to beat out any competitor it might face. With lyrics that are instantly relatable to any listener and an irresistible, anthemic quality despite (or perhaps because of) its unconventional arrangement, it’s a song that works equally well as a concert opener or closer, and would do the same on the ultimate TATE album.

Verdict: All At Once


Track 2: Papillon vs. Numb vs. Timeless vs. One Time Thing vs. Cocaine and Abel

Track 2 features one of the most eclectic showdowns, pitting punk rock versus ballad, electronica and brass-tinged barroom hoedown. While the unhinged energy of “Papillon” and the wit of “Cocaine” are hard to ignore, this battle comes down to “Numb” and “One Time Thing” – one of TATE’s purest rockers versus the catchiest song in their catalogue (and my current ringtone). I’ve mentally flip-flopped on this one a dozen times and will probably do so again before I hit ‘publish’ on this, but for now I’ll give the nod to the one whose lyrics have resonated more closely with my life of late.

Verdict: Numb

Track 3: Gasoline vs. Changing vs. What’s in a Name vs. Dope Machines vs. A Certain Type of Girl

With its distinctive bass line, high school lyrics and the Anna vs. Steven face-off that is a highlight of every live performance, “Gasoline” gets strong consideration here. “What’s in a Name” feels like a sequel to “Gasoline,” or perhaps a prequel, and its recent return to the live setlist has been more than welcome. But ever since I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to catch its live world premiere, I’ve been hopelessly hooked on “Dope Machines.” It’s noisy, but such a glorious noise, marrying classic, driving guitar to Mikel’s more recent infatuation with electronic music. If I can’t quite squeak “One Time Thing” onto this list, give me the song that Mikel calls its second chapter.

Verdict: Dope Machines

Track 4: Happiness is Overrated vs. All for a Woman vs. The Storm vs. California vs. Change and Change and Change and Change

Another solid grouping from top to bottom. If I was basing this on live performance, I’d have to go with “Happiness,” which, despite its dour outlook, is just a hell of a lot of fun in concert. “All for a Woman” is the first ballad to appear on a TATE studio album, and remains one of their best with its exquisite lyricism and soaring delivery. “The Storm” is the first number from Such Hot Blood to merit serious consideration for me (don’t worry, things will pick up in that regard very soon). But “Change and Change” is my winner here. My favorite song from Songs of God and Whiskey tells a story that is just so Mikel, delivered at a frenetic pace that you just can’t help but sing along to (if you can keep up).

Verdict: Change and Change and Change and Change

Track 5: Does This Mean You’re Moving On vs. It Doesn’t Mean a Thing vs. Safe vs. Time to be a Man vs. April is the Cruelest Month

Though “It Doesn’t Mean a Thing” has recaptured my affection of late, this is really a two horse race between two of my faves: “Moving On” vs. “Safe.” The former was one of the songs that sold me on the band in the first place, a hooky rocker with interesting lyrics (coquette, anyone?), and a must-play at every Airborne show. But “Safe” is what first sold me on Such Hot Blood. When they dropped that bomb on me under a starry sky at Red Rocks, backed by a 50-piece orchestra, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that my band had done it again. It kills me to cut “Moving On,” but…

Verdict: Safe

Track 6: This is Nowhere vs. The Kids Are Ready to Die vs. Bride and Groom vs. Hell and Back vs. The Lines of the Cars

Okay, I’ll try to be objective about this. When I originally selected “This is Nowhere” as the name of this website, it wasn’t because it was one of my favorite Airborne songs. Really, I just liked the way it sounded, and how it conveyed the sense of a place that isn’t really a place, which seemed fitting for a virtual hangout like this. Of course, since then it’s become a sentimental favorite, and being in the front row to see it performed at The Fillmore is my all-time live TATE highlight. Digging into the history of the band and understanding its connection to Mikel’s short story “The Crack” has also served to deepen my love for the song.

On the other hand, “Hell and Back” thrilled me from the moment I heard a sub par recording of its world premiere radio broadcast on Philly Radio 104.5, and listening to it within the context of Dope Machines has only improved it. And then there’s “Bride and Groom.” When Such Hot Blood became available as a live stream the week before its release, I immediately jumped to this song, the only one on the album that I hadn’t yet heard at least a live recording of. I couldn’t wait to taste the tune that Mikel had referred to as the best he’d ever written. It wasn’t at all what I expected… it was better.

Verdict: Bride and Groom

Track 7: Sometime Around Midnight vs. Welcome to Your Wedding Day vs. True Love vs. My Childish Bride vs. Strangers

Much like Track 1, this one isn’t really a fair fight. “Sometime Around Midnight” is The Airborne Toxic Event’s signature song for a reason, and it’s not likely to fall from that perch anytime soon. The other tracks in this battle are an interesting collection, as each of them have unique elements that set them apart from what TATE is usually known for. “My Childish Bride” would be my runner up here, but there’s no conquering the king.

Verdict: Sometime Around Midnight

Track 8: Something New vs. Half of Something Else vs. This is London vs. The Thing About Dreams vs. Why Why Why

Here we have a showdown of some Airborne classics against some of the band’s most underrated songs. “Half of Something Else” will undoubtedly make many fans’ lists; I will leave it off mine for the reason that I prefer the heartbreaking dirge of the Going the Distance version of the song to the more upbeat All At Once arrangement. “This is London” has some of the very best lyrics Mikel has ever penned, in my opinion, and a moving viola solo from Anna. It’s a sadly overlooked gem that is deserving of more than the small handful of live playings it has received. “Why Why Why” is likewise worthy of more attention; the line, “Like a guilty man who knows he’s gonna fry” gets me every time. But my choice is “The Thing About Dreams.” My first exposure to it came in the form of a 90-second German iTunes preview clip, and when that falsetto kicked in, I was flabbergasted. My first impression was that this may not be the song for me. That lasted only until the end of my first full listen to the song, by which point I was sold. I love everything about this song, from its dreamy atmospherics to its lyrics that fit me like a glove, and, yes, the falsetto – though I pity anyone who has the misfortune of hearing me attempt to sing along.

Verdict: The Thing About Dreams

Track 9: Missy vs. Strange Girl vs. The Fifth Day vs. Something You Lost vs. California (acoustic)

After 9 years as The Airborne Toxic Event’s go-to show closer, some fans have grown weary of “Missy.” I am not one of them. But with all due respect to my daughter’s favorite Airborne song, it plays third fiddle to a pair of heavyweights. “The Fifth Day” enraptured me at Red Rocks. Never before and never since have I felt chills rip down my spine like I did during that performance; I still get shivers just thinking about it. “Something You Lost,” on the other hand, has that effect every single time I listen to it. “Please don’t ever leave” – it’s a moment that never fails to make my hair stand up. The choice between these two exquisite tunes, both of which are comfortably within my personal Top 10, is easily the most excruciating of this exercise. I have gone back and forth more times than I can count. Had the closing wails of “Fifth Day” been left raw and untreated like they are on stage, I would’ve given it the edge, but as it is, I’m going with…

Verdict: Something You Lost The Fifth Day Something You Lost The Fifth Day Something You Lost

Track 10: Innocence vs. All I Ever Wanted vs. Elizabeth vs. Chains vs. The Fall of Rome

From top to bottom, the 10th track is the most stacked, with strong contenders across the board. Each of The Airborne Toxic Event’s albums closes with a gorgeous, memorable song, and in any other match-up, any of these tunes could have earned a spot on my final list. But like “All At Once” and “Midnight” before it, “Innocence” is in a category all its own. Showcasing a band at the height of its powers, it is simply perfection, making this a much shorter conversation than it should be given the depth of the competition here. My top choice in the non-Innocence division is “All I Ever Wanted,” but it’s no slam dunk.

Verdict: Innocence

Track 11: The Graveyard Near the House

All At Once is the only Airborne album to include an 11th track, so technically “The Graveyard Near the House” qualifies by default. But that is no slight. “Graveyard” is a favorite of virtually every TATE fan, myself included, featuring the consensus best lyrics Mikel has ever penned. It is very well deserving of a spot on the ultimate Airborne playlist.

Verdict: The Graveyard Near the House

B-Sides: The Winning Side vs. This Losing vs. The Girls in Their Summer Dresses vs. Tokyo Radio vs. Haile vs. Parson Redheads vs. Dublin vs. The Way Home

Three of The Airborne Toxic Event’s five studio albums have had b-sides attached to them; the fact that their most recent two records were released simultaneously is likely the only thing that precluded b-sides in those cases. Because I couldn’t stand to limit myself to 11 songs, I’m allowing myself two b-sides. TATE’s collection of bonus songs is remarkable, with a good number of them certainly being album worthy. I’ve always loved the hard rocking bombast of “The Winning Side,” and “Dublin” is just a gorgeous flower of a song, but my top two b-sides are “This Losing” and “The Way Home.” The former showcases everything I love about this band: a symphony wrapped in a rock song. “The Way Home,” meanwhile, stands as the single most personally meaningful song in my life. Quite simply, Mikel wrote my story.

Verdict: This Losing and The Way Home

The Airborne Toxic Event: My Ultimate Album

  1. All At Once
  2. Numb
  3. Dope Machines
  4. Change and Change and Change and Change
  5. Safe
  6. Bride and Groom
  7. Sometime Around Midnight
  8. The Thing About Dreams
  9. Something You Lost
  10. Innocence
  11. The Graveyard Near the House
  12. This Losing (b-side)
  13. The Way Home (b-side)

Number of  Tracks By Album (including b-sides)

The Airborne Toxic Event – 3
All At Once – 2
Such Hot Blood – 3
Dope Machines – 3
Songs of God and Whiskey – 1

Overall, the even distribution seems about right. I was very surprised that it took until Track 7 to work a song from the debut album into the mix. It just goes to show the limitation of this approach, as it remains my favorite album as a whole.

How about you? What does your ultimate Airborne album look like? Share your picks in the comments!

Glen-TINGlen 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.

Enough is Enough: My Song of God and Whiskey

By Glen

It was Oct. 28, the night before the major work event that had brought me to Calgary, and two nights before I was scheduled to take in The Airborne Toxic Event’s hotly anticipated homecoming show at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.

I was at my favorite restaurant, enjoying my annual dinner with my mother and grandmother – something we do every October when business brings me back to my home town.

Appetizers had just arrived when I took The Call from home.

And the phrase that fell from her lips left a rip from the top of your shoulders to the point of your hip…[i]

A decade earlier when our third daughter was born, the spectre of Leukemia had rudely elbowed its way into our consciousness. She came into the world with a condition that is unique to babies with Down syndrome, called Transitory Leukemia. Though it looks like Leukemia, it is not actually cancerous, and it self-resolves within the first couple weeks of life with no harm done.

Nevertheless, children born with TL face a higher risk of getting the real deal within the first five years of life. Children with Down syndrome carry a higher Leukemia risk as it is (about 1/125), but until she hit that magical fifth birthday, Becca’s chance was 1/4.

Every six months we held our breath as we awaited test results, exhaling in relief each time they came back clean. As we passed the milestone and her risk level dropped to longshot levels, the fear began to recede. Within a few years, it was nothing more than a hazy hypothetical we rarely ever thought about.

And so when the phrase, “She has Leukemia” fell from my wife’s lips on that evening last fall, it ripped through me like a rapier.

I fingered my appetizer as I stuttered a stunned explanation to mom and grandma, straining to make sense of what I’d just heard, and to figure out what exactly I was supposed to do now.

The next seven hours are a blur. Apparently I made arrangements for the work event to proceed without me, changed my flight, packed my bags, flew to Vancouver and drove an hour from airport to home – though I hardly remember any of that.

I do remember posting something on Facebook, though. Too early to tell the world what was happening, all I could think to do was to quote one of my favorite Airborne songs, the sting of which pierced me like never before.

And it comes like a punch
In the gut, in the back, in the face
[ii]

I stepped through the door, mind swimming. The house was asleep, save for my wife. Becca was sleeping in our bed. As I peered at her in the dim light, she looked exactly as she had when I left a few days earlier, but somehow completely different. Nothing had changed, and yet everything had changed.

As I took her body into my arms and carried her to her own room, I could almost sense the tangible presence of the vicious intruder in her bloodstream. I gazed at her face, innocent and blissfully unaware of the battle raging inside her. A hard lump took root in my chest, rising quickly to the back of my throat.

Please don’t ever leave. Please don’t ever go.[iii]

That knot in my stomach would become achingly familiar in the ensuing months, even to this day. It returns when she asks me for the umpteenth time where her hair went; when she crawls up the stairs because her legs are too shaky to walk; every time we force her to submit to a scary medical procedure that she doesn’t understand the need for; and especially on those occasions when she’s just too spent to protest.

They warned us that, while Down syndrome may actually improve the Leukemia prognosis, it could also make her more susceptible to other complications.

Ha. If only they knew.

The protocol for a typical child calls for a week in the hospital to begin treatment. For kids with Down syndrome, they stretch it to a month. In our case, one month became two; the fall from hell bookended by Halloween and Christmas, hospital style.

If there’s a potential side effect, Becca has suffered through it. Five bouts of c-diff, featuring the most wicked cases of diarrhea you can imagine, causing crippling diaper rash. Irritation at the site of her spinal tap that had the infectious disease team casting wary glances. Temporary diabetes brought on by steroids – something that we can look forward to a week per month for the next year and a half. Kidney function dropping, then recovering. Horrific mouth sores that rendered her lips giant scabs and prevented her from speaking, much less eating. On and on and on it goes, to the tune of 120+ nights spent in hospital out of the past 240.

Every person you meet can tell you’re a ship taking water in a storm and you’re starting to sink.[iv]

For the first couple months, our other three kids coped admirably as mom and dad rotated hospital duty every other day. But they are entitled to their own crises, and life has seen fit to pile on, rendering these last eight months a cruel joke that never gets to the punch line.

In one darkly comical episode, our young son inhaled a cookie. As I sat with Becca at Children’s Hospital, my wife rushed The Boy to a hospital closer to home. While she argued with the intake nurse about the severity of the situation, he passed out in her arms. That ended the argument really quickly. They were whisked into the ER, where 14 hands belonging to seven doctors and nurses immediately descended upon him. From somewhere within the chaos, a voice called out for the pediatric crash cart, while my wife stood by in numb terror.

I learned about all this by text after the crisis had subsided. They revived him, and when it became apparent that he would be in hospital for a few days, we arranged to have him transferred by ambulance to Children’s, so the four of us could at least be under the same roof.

That’s how we ended up with matching rooms on the same floor of BC Children’s Hospital for two nights, where my wife and I swapped places every few hours, meeting for “dates” as we passed in the hallways.

The thing about love: it’s never enough. Circumstance changes and life’s always calling your bluff. Enough is enough.[v]

Each time we think we’ve maxed out what could go wrong, life laughs.

Minivan kicks the bucket on one of our trips to the hospital.

Enough is enough.

Teenager begins to struggle with panic attacks and depression.

Enough is enough.

12-year-old needs braces.

Enough is enough.

The Boy starts waking up four times every night, forcing me out of bed for good at 4:30 am. Every. Single. Day.

Enough is enough.

The Boy faints at school for no obvious reason, ending up back at Children’s Hospital to figure out why.

Enough is enough.

For the piece de resistance, how about an international legal incident? A sleezy Turkish website stole a photo of Becca and offered it for free download alongside other stolen images of children with Down syndrome. An equally sleezy multinational biomedical company based in Switzerland promptly got their hands on it and plastered our beautiful daughter’s face on a building-sized banner promoting – wait for it – their new prenatal testing product that helps families avoid having a child like ours, thus placing us dead center in what has become a worldwide media story and legal situation. As we slogged our way through the most intense phase of chemo, we were fielding calls from reporters on the one hand and lawyers on the other, the point of complete and utter emotional exhaustion having been passed long ago.

When life calls your bluff, she doesn’t fuck around.

And the feeling that you get is if God exists he’s really unkind.[vi]

Ah yes… God. As he’s known to do, he’s been hovering in and around this whole situation.

He’s there in the hundreds of Facebook messages from people promising to pray for us – some of them even crying out on our behalf, “Enough is enough.”

He’s there in the “Praise the Lord for small mercies” comments that come each time there is the smallest hint of an improvement in our lot.

He’s there in the gifts abundantly poured out on our children, in rides given and babysitting offered up and meals lovingly cooked and money freely donated, much of it expressly given as an outworking of our friends’ steadfast faith in God.

There’s just one problem.

I’m not really sure I believe in God anymore.

And what’s more… I’m not really sure I even want to anymore.

Which is not to say that I’m not grateful to the core for the prayers, well wishes, positive energies, healing thoughts, and acts of extreme generosity that have been sent our way by believers (and unbelievers, it should be noted) of all stripes – because I am. We would not have survived without our legion of faithful supporters, and whatever their motivation, I am endlessly thankful. It’s just that, to me, the value of these acts is found in their significant real world encouragement rather than anything that may or may not be accomplished in the heavens.

It would be easy to write off my shift from believer to agnostic as a knee-jerk, bitter and perhaps temporary reaction to our overwhelmingly difficult circumstances. Except that’s not at all how it happened.

As is typical of my all or nothing approach to the things I care about, when I decided to follow God at the age of 16, I was all in. My new beliefs reshaped my entire life, leading all the way to a decade-plus spent in full time Christian ministry.

As someone who tends to live in his head, my faith was built on a foundation of books. Really thick ones, with no pictures – scholarly theological tomes that for most would be a cure for insomnia, but for me were an endless source of fascination and stimulation. Over 15 years, I read more than 300 books and completed a dozen university level religion courses, some at a secular school and others at seminary. I argued with liberal professors and left convinced that I was right. I was as certain as anyone could be about what I believed.

But then, it’s easy to be certain when you only ever engage with thinkers inside your own camp. Every book I read only served to confirm and buttress beliefs that I already held – never to question them, much less refute them. If the other side was ever presented, it was only as a straw man, set up in just such a way as to allow it to be spectacularly knocked down.

If you smash your life up against the wall, you want to break it like a bottle and just let go,
But I don’t know if there’s a God at all, I just know I can’t live like this no more,
I just know I can’t live like this no more.
[vii]

My first gentle nudges in a different direction came not from suspects outside the camp, but from those who were still inside and yet bold enough to explore its edges: those who poked at sacred cows just hard enough for me to see that there may actually be other ways of seeing things.

For eight years I asked questions and sought answers, and the more I did so, the less satisfying I found the ones to which I had once clung; finally arriving at the point where I just had to admit it: I no longer believed what I used to believe.

But I still wanted to. All our friends and most of our family were believers. Our kids were brought up in the church. My wife’s faith has gone through tremendous changes, but remains strong at its core. It would have just been so much more convenient if I could have somehow willed myself back on board.

This is the intellectual and emotional backdrop to my experiences over the past eight months.

Oh and God just go and leave me all alone I’m not your son, I’m not your son, everybody dies alone. In your world, was it not quite hard enough for you? I guess like anyone, you’ve got your own scores to settle too.

And I’m so pissed tonight, I feel just like the last remaining Canaanite, and I’m not sure if I want you to save me. And I’d be less uptight if I knew the sight of blood is just a weakness, right, and not the reason that you made me. Sometimes I think it is.[viii]

Driven as I am by the brain rather than the heart (no doubt to my great detriment at times), I’ve never had much time for emotional objections to faith. Questions like, “If God exists, why did he let this happen?” carried very little weight with me, even when the ‘victim’ of the perceived injustice was me. And while our recent trials and tribulations are not responsible for my step away from faith, they have certainly changed my perspective on the relevance of feelings to the God conversation.

When well-meaning friends promise to pray, or exhort us to have faith in God’s good plan, I can’t help but wonder…

If God exists, what reason do I have to believe that he’s on our side in this? If he is who you think he is, could he not have prevented some or all of this from happening in the first place? Could he not have answered the thousands of prayers that have already gone up on our behalf by at least refraining from adding to our burden, rather than allowing one disaster to pile upon another? If God is in control, then he chose to allow this mess; why then should I look to him to deliver us from it? And if he gets credit for the rare and fleeting piece of good news that we receive, should he not also bear the blame for the mountains of bad news that tower all around us?

Some may point to my lack of faith and posit that perhaps all this is happening so that God might get my attention. In fact, some have come right out and suggested as much.

Truthfully, I can’t dismiss the possibility that this is how God works – except to say that inflicting an innocent little girl with a horrific disease that she can’t even comprehend is a pretty ass-backwards way of convincing her parents that you love them. Whatever may be the consequences of unbelief, a God that either consciously causes or passively permits this type of tragedy in order to draw people back to himself is not particularly attractive. Worthy of fear? Perhaps. Worthy of worship? Questionable.

Further, my previous experiences as a devout believer tell me otherwise. As I look back on thousands of hours spent in sincere prayer over nearly two decades, five requests stand out as the items for which I prayed most frequently and fervently: our five pregnancies. Never in my life have I prayed for anything with more hope, more faith and more urgency.

Five pregnancies. Two stillbirths. Two healthy children. And one precious daughter, loved to the moon and back exactly as she is, born with a disability that will shape her life forever and that has led directly to the disease that is currently wracking her body, while some faceless company questions whether she even has a life worth living.

The numbers don’t add up in favor of a loving God who answers prayers offered in faith. And yeah, I’ve considered every possible justification – theological, philosophical, emotional and otherwise – for why he may have allowed this or that. I’ve written A+ papers arguing that the problem of pain is not, in fact, a deal-breaking problem for faith. I’ve tried hard to talk myself into believing it.

But I can’t. The most I can affirm at this point in my life is that if God exists, he’s really unkind – and thus, I’m not sure if I want him to save me.

I’d love to tie a pretty bow on this and finish off by sounding a hopeful note.

But Songs of God and Whiskey don’t always have a happy ending.

[i] The Airborne Toxic Event, “My Childish Bride.”

[ii] The Airborne Toxic Event, “All At Once.”

[iii] The Airborne Toxic Event, “Something You Lost.”

[iv] The Airborne Toxic Event, “Why Why Why.”

[v] The Airborne Toxic Event, “The Thing About Dreams.”

[vi] The Airborne Toxic Event, “My Childish Bride.”

[vii] The Airborne Toxic Event, “The Way Home.”

[viii] The Airborne Toxic Event, “Poor Isaac” (original demo lyrics).

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.

Steven Chen and Adrian Rodriguez launch into

Steven Chen and Adrian Rodriguez launch into “All At Once,” a cathartic end to a joyous night with The Airborne Toxic Event in San Francisco. Photo by Glen.

By Glen

On October 30, The Airborne Toxic Event played a triumphant homecoming show at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. I had anticipated this date for many months, ever since the date first leaked long before the band’s fall tour was announced. I could hardly wait to jet to California and catch them on their home turf for the first time.

On October 28, I received a phone call that changed my life. My wife was on the other end, and though it took a few minutes for my brain to decipher the words that fell from her lips, it eventually sunk in: our daughter had leukemia.

Two days later, a million miles away from the front row at the Greek, I was at BC Children’s Hospital, checking in with fear and trepidation for what would stretch into a 56-night stay to kick off cancer treatment, with many shorter stays and day visits to follow.

I’m not gonna lie. Life since that day has been hard. Like, really, really fucking hard. On top of the endless days and nights spent watching my daughter bravely fight through pain and discomfort, hardly ever seeing my wife, juggling work and home and three other kids who need their parents, there is the emotional toll. When your child is sick, it never leaves your mind. Wherever you are and whatever else is fighting for your attention, it’s always there, tugging at the back of your brain, haunting your every move.

When The Airborne Toxic Event announced a quickie March tour to promote their new album Dope Machines, I knew immediately that I could not go. The closest the band was coming to me was San Francisco – a long way from Vancouver. And this particular time in my life is not exactly conducive to taking off for the weekend.

But damn, did I ever want to go. As I frantically did the mental calculations, I realized that March 21 happened to fall during a planned chemo break – though admittedly, the schedule is always shifting and we have made more unplanned trips to the hospital than I can count. It was a dicey proposition at best, but if I could arrange for back-up childcare to cover me in the event that my wife and daughter had to dash off to the oncology ward while I was gone – and if I could talk my ever lovin’ partner into my ridiculous scheme – it just might work.

As it turned out, it did work. I’m writing this from an airplane at the tail end of my 30-hour Californian adventure. All is well on the home front, or at least as well as it gets these days. And I had a night that I needed more than I can say.

From the moment The Airborne Toxic Event took the stage at the Regency Ballroom, the atmosphere was electric – and not just because they opened the show by storming through the synth-and-beat driven Dope Machines. The band and the crowd were ready to rumble.

The opening notes of “Wrong” initiated a thundering singalong that wouldn’t let up for two hours. If some fans are still holding out on the new sound, it was hardly evident on this night. The ten tunes that comprise the new album have already embedded themselves in the audience’s consciousness, and even trickier songs like “My Childish Bride” had a backing choir of hundreds.

A mere week and a half into the tour, the band looks to have become fantastically comfortable with the new material. Undoubtedly, the riveting visuals playing on the screen behind them – an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of cityscapes and birds and trees and dancing skeletons and imploding buildings and children and old people and lingerie-clad women and cartoon demons riding motorcycles and stars and galaxies – helped with the acclimatization process, allowing the band to stay in the shadows and focus on hitting their notes without having to dance and preen at the same time.

As expected, Dope Machines in a live setting is a very different experience than it is through headphones. The electro-foundation is infused with powerful guitar riffs, melding to form the best of all possible worlds. The opening volley of “Wrong,” “One Time Thing” and “Dope Machines” is explosive, with all three elbowing their way into my already crowded list of personal live favorites.

Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event holds court at the Regency Ballroom. Photo by Glen.

Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event holds court at the Regency Ballroom. Photo by Glen.

“Time to be a Man,” the lone track that didn’t immediately strike a chord with me when the album dropped, achieved just that when witnessed in person. Stripped of radio polish and presented in much rawer fashion, I couldn’t help but succumb to its triumphalist charms.

I could hardly wait for the moody trifecta of “My Childish Bride,” “The Thing About Dreams” and “Something You Lost,” three highlights from the album that flow together so seamlessly I’m starting to think of them as one long masterpiece. Played in sequence, they made for a dreamy, atmospheric interlude unlike anything I have previously experienced at a TATE show, where the downbeat portion of the set (when there is one) traditionally consists of folksy ballads played on acoustic guitar during the encore. It was a very welcome addition, from Adrian Rodriguez’s brisk handclaps on “Bride,” to Mikel Jollett and Anna Bulbrook’s spot on falsetto harmonizing on “Dreams,” to Mikel’s chilling intensity on “Something You Lost,” which raised the hairs on the back of my neck in a manner reminiscent of the first time I heard “The Fifth Day” at Red Rocks.

The Dope Machines portion of the set came to a close with “Chains,” which was an utter revelation. The excitement of the crowd rose audibly as Anna reached for her viola for the first time of the night. The live arrangement has evolved significantly since I saw the second-ever live performance seven weeks ago in Vancouver. They have evidently decided to give the people what they want, which in this case is Anna wielding her strings throughout the song, including an extended solo in the bridge.

If “Chains” brought down the house, “Gasoline” immediately brought it right back up again as the band transitioned into the second half of the show. The video screen was shrouded by a black curtain and the stage bathed in hues of red, purple and orange, giving us our first clear view of the musicians. Freed from their appointed stations, the energy rose even further; it almost felt like we were back at the start of a whole new show.

That energy never flagged once through the eight songs that closed out the main set. After ripping through “Happiness is Overrated” and “Changing,” Mikel called an audible, leading the band into “Change and Change and Change and Change,” though the setlist called for “Numb.” While the crowd as a whole seemed less familiar with the Songs of God and Whiskey number than they had been with Dope Machines, I hit the roof; “Change” being my favorite track from the acoustic album and the one song I was desperately hoping would be played. Another checkmark on my TATE bucket list.

The ferocious pairing of “Papillon” and “Welcome to Your Wedding Day” led into the always spellbinding “Sometime Around Midnight” and “All I Ever Wanted,” after which the band exited for a well-earned breather. Upon their return, we were treated to a lovely rendition of “Elizabeth,” which ensured that all five studio albums were represented on this night.

On the day I received that fateful phone call, I felt the need to do something to express my angst to the world, but we weren’t quite ready to share the news with the masses. So, without explanation, I posted some lyrics on Facebook that captured how I was feeling at that moment:

And it comes like a punch
In the gut, in the back, in the face

And so it was fitting that this most cathartic of concerts came to an end with “All At Once” – and with it, the momentary release of five months of anxiety and anguish and exhaustion and fear.

My wife’s final words to me before I left home yesterday morning were, “Have fun. Let yourself forget about everything for a day.” And while I had no doubt that a very fun time was in store, the latter part of her wish seemed unlikely at best. I haven’t forgotten about everything for five minutes, not since that phone call on October 28.

But as I gaze at the clouds beneath me from seat 19C on the plane that is taking me back to Real Life, the highest compliment I can pay The Airborne Toxic Event is that they played some songs and managed to get me to forget myself for a while. These days, that is no small feat.

Addendum:

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that there was a person of note in attendance at the show: Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple. The man has good taste.

Setlist

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.

By Glen

(“All At Once”) is just about the stages of life, and how you wake up one day and your whole life changes, and it tends to happen very, very quickly. You know, you sort of tend to live in these quiet moments in between these massive moments of change. The change happens all at once. That’s sort of what the song’s about, just being in that moment: the birth of a child, the death of a parent, maybe you get diagnosed with a disease or some terrible accident or something awful happens to you – or something wonderful, some great opportunity happens to you. And your life five minutes before that is one way, and five minutes after is another way.  Mikel Jollett

I’ve experienced my share of All At Once moments; if I’m being honest/self-pitying, (which is how I’m feeling today, so please bear with the whimpering self-indulgence), I’d say I’ve had more than my fair share. But then, life doesn’t seem terribly concerned about what’s fair, or whether or not now is a convenient time, or how much you think you can handle. Tragedy is indiscriminate, and fate can be a cruel, cold-hearted bitch.

Another one of those moments struck this week, and this one was a real punch in the gut… in the back… in the face. 

It came when I was in Calgary on a business trip, enjoying a long-awaited dinner out with my mom and grandma. I had barely savored the first taste of my appetizer when I received the call: a call I had once dreaded, but long since forgotten.

When my daughter Becca was born, she entered the world with transitory leukemia, a rare condition occurring only in newborns with Down syndrome, in which blast cells that are normally associated with leukemia are found in the blood. They are not cancerous and they clear up on their own within a week or so.

Having this condition meant Becca had an elevated risk of getting real leukemia for the first five years of her life, and had to get regular blood tests to confirm that it hadn’t developed. I tried to push the fears away, but they stubbornly lingered in the back of my mind, except when they rudely shoved their way to the front around check-up time.

I breathed a sigh of relief when the five-year window closed and her risk level dropped to the normal range for children with Down syndrome, which is higher than for typical kids, but still a long shot. It seemed we had dodged the bullet.

And yet, there I was five years later in a Calgary restaurant, processing the news I had convinced myself was never going to come. And now, here I sit three days later beside a bed at Children’s Hospital, my brave, beautiful girl hooked up to a machine, wondering why these strangers keep poking and prodding her, too wiped out to enjoy a Halloween she’d been talking about for weeks.

As leukemia goes, we’re told that we got lucky. She has the most treatable kind, and it was caught very early. While there are never any guarantees with cancer, her prognosis at the outset is good.

Somehow, it doesn’t feel lucky. 

From the Department of Things That Don’t Matter At All, this brought an abrupt end to my 90 days of TATE, 48-hours earlier than expected. My scheduled detour to L.A. for The Airborne Toxic Event’s homecoming show at the Greek was abandoned as I hightailed it back to Vancouver on the first available flight out of Calgary. Not that I have much to complain about when it comes to TATE, having been spoiled rotten with six other exhilarating Airborne shows over the past three months. And clearly, missing this final gig was the least of my concerns, given the circumstances. Still, it sucks. Just the first of many things that cancer will rob our family of over the next two years.

But if you’re going to go through shit like this (and we all do), what better band to have in your ears for the journey than The Airborne Toxic Event? The group’s unvarnished, unsugarcoated perspective on the ugly, disappointing and downright terrifying side of life is just what the doctor ordered, at least for me. Many others have shared how the band has helped them through similar battles (see here and here and here and here); now I’ll have a story of my own to add to the mix.

Even more important than the music, though, are the people. First, the band members themselves, who are just wonderful human beings. What other band would take the time to send a message of support to a fan like the one seen above? It is so much appreciated, and just another reason why TATE is the best band, bar none.

And then there are the fans. I’m overwhelmed by the support and encouragement we’ve received from the TATE fan community. Thank you to each and every one of you for your kind words, positive thoughts and prayers. It is so much appreciated, and just another reason why TATE fans are the best fans, bar none. 

Many have encouraged me to step back from This Is Nowhere for as long as I need to. And believe me, I will.

Sort of.

The next seven months are going to be a full-time juggling act as my wife and I attempt to balance our daughter’s treatment with the needs of our three other kids (one of whom may be facing major surgery of his own during that time), along with work, school and perhaps even occasionally seeing each other. It seems there will be little time and energy left for such frivolous pursuits as breathlessly reporting on every move a rock band makes.

On the other hand, these months will also include countless evenings spent in a dark, quiet hospital room next to a sleeping beauty, with little else to do but fiddle with a dope machine.

Besides which, I need something in my life besides leukemia and work. That slice of time that is set aside for me will get squeezed and bent out of shape to be sure, but it’s critical that we maintain something of ourselves in the midst of this storm, however small. And there’s nothing I love more than writing about this band that gives me so much to think about, especially at a time like this.

So yes, This Is Nowhere is still alive, if not well. I’m freeing myself of any expectations or sense of obligation to stick to a schedule or stay on top of every single piece of breaking TATE news, so it may be more sporadic than usual. But as time and motivation and inspiration allow, things will keep rolling around here.

“And I feel the water rising around us
Maybe that’s okay
Yeah, I feel the world changing all at once 
I guess it’ll be okay”

Here’s the little girl who is already amazing me with her huge courage: TATE’s cutest fan.

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.

The Airborne Toxic Event's Steven Chen takes flight at The Fillmore. Sept. 19, 2014. Photo by Glen.

The Airborne Toxic Event’s Steven Chen takes flight at The Fillmore. Sept. 19, 2014. Photo by Glen.

By Glen

The Airborne Toxic Time Machine jumped back to 2010/11 on night two of The Airborne Toxic Event’s Fillmore residency on Friday night, as the band presented their sophomore album All At Once to a delirious in-house crowd and a worldwide audience that tuned in through Yahoo! Screen.

Whereas the previous night’s show found the band in full throttle rock mode from beginning to end, the follow-up showed off the full range of Airborne’s versatility, allowing viewers to sample the many diverse flavors the group has to offer. The result was a set that gave both band and audience some room to breathe, with a number of ballads and mid-tempo numbers mixed in among the more high octane tunes.

The first half of the show found TATE ripping through the featured album with many highlights along the way. Though a good two thirds of the tracks on the record have been setlist staples for the past three-plus years, that still left a number of rarely played treats on the menu.

The first on that list was “All For a Woman,” which enthralled the audience with singer Mikel Jollett’s impassioned vocal delivery and Steven Chen’s shimmering guitar solo. (The band’s new configuration found Steven taking lead electric guitar, with Adrian Rodriguez holding down bass – unlike the former arrangement which saw Steven and original bassist Noah Harmon swap instruments for the song.)

Next up was “It Doesn’t Mean a Thing,” which was ever-so-slightly slowed down from the Gasoline-esque pace of the studio album. Hot on the heels of that one came the one-two anti-war punch of “The Kids Are Ready to Die” and “Welcome to Your Wedding Day,” with the former played punk style a la the All At Once Tour.

The undeniable highlight of the album portion of the set came in the form of “Strange Girl,” a song that Mikel introduced as being about how, as an adult, you wish you were as passionate about anything as you were about a song by The Cure when you were 16 years old. (Incidentally, I can personally attest to the fact that some of us are even more passionate about our music as adults than we ever were as teenagers!) We had previously wondered whether “Strange Girl” would be played in upbeat fashion as per the album, or in the stripped-down ballad format favored by the band during their previous (rare) live performances. The answer: both/and. It started off slow, with all focus on Mikel’s arresting vocals, but as the first verse wound down, pausing just long enough to have me wondering if we might only get a truncated version, the band kicked into high gear and presented the rest of the song at full power. It was a rapturous performance; one that would be most welcome to be repeated as the tour progresses.

An amusing moment came during the ever-popular, album-closing “The Graveyard Near the House.” After Anna Bulbrook made a mistake by repeating the first “You have no idea about me” ahead of schedule, one could detect just the slightest hint of playful chastisement as Mikel glanced at her accusingly as he sang, “Did you memorize your lines, ’cause I did…”

The next question to be answered was what rarities would be pulled out of the hat. Rather than playing B-sides from All At Once, the band dipped into the All I Ever Wanted live album and dusted off a couple of seldom-played fan favorites: “A Letter to Georgia” and “Goodbye Horses.” Scratch two more off my ever-dwindling bucket list.

Moving into more current material, the first Such Hot Blood tune of the residency, “Safe,” was sandwiched between a pair of songs from the yet-to-be-released fourth album, “California” and “Wrong.” “California” differed from the arrangement seen at recent festivals, as Steven stuck to guitar and did not have to juggle two sets of keys on top of that; Anna provided all that was needed in that regard. “Wrong,” meanwhile, is just so damn right. Fans had been buzzing all day about its premiere the previous night, and on second listen it was even stronger.

After closing the main set with “Sometime Around Midnight,” the band took some time to revise their planned encore. Obviously feeling the urge to go out with a bang, the setlisted “Duet” was scratched in favor of a spontaneous “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?” which opened with an extended drum trio from Daren Taylor, Mikel and Adrian, and climaxed with Steven leaping from the elevated drum riser as he struck the familiar riff. Before long, Mikel was into the crowd for selfies and monkey dancing. (Brief aside: “Moving On” opened the encore at my first TATE show, and for my money, it’s still the best song for that slot.)

The energy continued to flow through a raucous “Happiness is Overrated” and “Hell and Back,” before they turned it down a notch for “The Book of Love,” which found Mikel sitting on the edge of the stage, delivering a moment of intimacy to some lucky fans in the front row.

Finally, the band reconvened to sign off for another night with their signature “Missy”/”I Fought the Law” combo, leaving an exhausted crowd in their wake as they disembarked to rest up and prepare for the third and final night of this memorable San Franciscan adventure. All told, we were treated to a massive 22-song setlist that featured just ten repeats from the previous evening. The scope of what TATE is undertaking this week, and on this tour in general, is truly remarkable. We can’t wait to see what the grand finale has in store.

Click here for the setlist.

Click here to download our FREE digital Fillmore programme.

Missed the live stream? It’s being replayed for 24 hours on Yahoo! Screen.

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.

The Airborne Toxic Event, All At OnceBy Jamie

Ed. Note: Just 9 days from now, The Airborne Toxic Event will take to the stage of The Fillmore in San Francisco, CA, to play their self-titled debut album from front to back. They’ll do the same the following two nights with their next two albums, All At Once and Such Hot Blood. As part of our countdown to this momentous occasion, each of This Is Nowhere’s writing staff will share why one of these albums is their favorite TATE record. Last week, Glen made the case for the debut; today, Jamie  delves into the sophomore album; and on Sept. 16 Julie will tackle the band’s most recent release.

When Glen asked me to write a blog post about why I thought All At Once was The Airborne Toxic Event’s best album I accepted… and promptly panicked. Remember when I said I am NOT a writer? Well, that insecurity reared its ugly head once the full realization of what I had agreed to do hit me.

I needed to do the album justice. When taking This Is Nowhere’s fan survey, I surprised myself when, much like picking my favorite song, I chose All At Once as my top album without hesitation. According to the results of that survey, I wasn’t the only one. All At Once came in second for favorite album, and won the title of favorite album lyrically. During the last tour, the record was largely represented, having more songs in rotation than the album TATE was supporting, Such Hot Blood. Still, when it comes to singing praises, it feels like the album has gotten lost in the mix. It’s the middle child, often times being overlooked for the popular big brother or the newest member of the TATE family. It receives its fair share of criticisms, too. Even Mikel has recently admitted to preferring song demos to the versions that ended up on the album.

However, none of that can dull the glow that I can still feel from the first time I heard it, and so I’ll defend this album because even though the first record made me a fan, All At Once is why you’ll find me here month after month, sometimes pouring my heart out for a band I love.

It’s not hard for me to remember what it was like to be a fan back in 2011. Fairly new to TATE, I was experiencing my first new release. I was ravenous for new material, curious and even a bit apprehensive about what to expect. Their self-titled debut had set the bar high; could they even meet it, let alone top it? Recreating that magic seemed impossible, but I’ll admit to having high hopes.

What I heard, upon first listen, was wonderful. This was the record that crossed me over into super fan territory. These were the songs that left me breathless, crying in my room. In this album are 11 songs that inspired me to accept, love and enrich my life. It was the same TATE I had initially fallen in love with, a band that took profound words and brought them to life with music, filling the spaces in between the lyrics with something so impassioned, it can bring tears to my eyes.

Refusing to fit into any kind of genre, the band chose to represent a theme, instead. The opening title track, “All At Once,” feels, for lack of a better word, epic. An anthem worthy of stadiums, it also set the stage for what was to come; a song about life, beginning to end, and the changes that are inevitable, loss and death. Standing in a room of strangers, it is my favorite to sing along to, screaming at the top of my lungs and thrusting my fists in the air.

Everything that follows builds on the ideas presented in the opener. These songs contain some of Mikel’s best lyrics; songs such as the romantic, folky “All For A Woman,” and the politically charged “The Kids Are Ready To Die,” leave you reaching for the liner notes, reading and rereading the text like poetry. Every song offers some little gem that had me going back for a second and sometimes third listen before I could move on to the next.

It all culminates in a final, gentle conclusion in “The Graveyard Near the House.” Standing in stark contrast to the chaos that precedes it, the song offers a simple message: love is all that matters, all we can hope for, all that is worth anything in the end. It is the love song to end all love songs, the one I can sing to my children and my husband alike, the lyrics perfectly reflecting feelings so deep and intense, I would have sworn they could never be translated by mere words. There are no Mikelisms here; familiar words somehow create an extraordinary song, proving the songwriter’s gift more than any “big words” ever could. Equally fitting at a wedding or a funeral, this song is a perfect celebration and portrayal of life and love.

In this album, I found myself. My fears, doubts, frustrations, hopes, dreams and desires were all laid out before me, through the eyes of a stranger. Mikel had used his words to somehow tell my story even though this wasn’t my story it all. He showed me that we all have the same struggles and triumphs, and most importantly that none of us are alone. There it was again, that great comfort: I was not alone. This album changed me without really changing me at all. I armed my fears like soldiers and, well, you know the rest. I will be forever grateful.

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.