Posts Tagged ‘All for a Woman’

The Airborne Toxic Event's Whiskey Machine TourBy Glen

On the heels of last week’s “Unsolved Mysteries” Toxicity, in which we provided more questions than answers, this week some of the blanks were filled in. The Airborne Toxic Event gave us something to look forward to in the fall, and a little something else to satisfy our appetite in the meantime.

The Whiskey Machine Starts its Engines

Questions as to whether The Airborne Toxic Event would tour this fall did not remain unanswered for long, as the band released ten dates for the so-called “Whiskey Machine Tour” on Monday.

The schedule includes a number of east coast stops in late September, and a trio of mid-October west coast(ish) gigs. These headline gigs are mixed in amongst previously announced festival appearances along with one new one at Atlanta’s Midtown Music Festival.

While the announcement was greeted with predictable elation by fans in the lucky markets, it elicited disappointment from those whose cities are not on the list, or who are seemingly only slated for a shortened festival set rather than the full tour experience.

But fear not: the band promises that there are more dates to come. One would imagine that the gaping hole between the September and October dates will be filled, and the tour could well extend beyond its currently announced Oct. 22 finale in Los Angeles.

Keep in mind, the fact that the band is playing festivals in Denver, Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta and Toronto does not necessarily preclude them from adding club shows in those areas soon after. Some festivals prohibit artists from announcing headlining gigs in the same city until after the festival, to guard against fans forgoing the festival in favor of the dedicated gig. The same thing occurred last year when Airborne announced their Fall 2014 tour. Milwaukee and Minneapolis were absent from the initial itinerary, but when TATE played festivals in those cities in early July, they announced fall dates from the stage, with the official announcements and ticket on-sales following days later.

In this case, the festivals are scheduled for much later in the summer, so if indeed this is the reason for delayed announcements, we may be waiting awhile for confirmation. Or, I could be talking out of my ass, and there will be no headlining gigs in those cities. But it’s hard to imagine the band skipping some of their favorite markets on the tour proper.

And of course, there are plenty of frequently visited cities (*cough* Vancouver *cough*) that are not yet getting either a festival or a club gig; chances are most of us will be satisfied by the time the final plans are crystallized. Which is to say: patience, friends.

“One Time Thing” Bombastic

The other mystery to receive swift resolution in the past few days was the “One Time Thing” Bombastic video, which tantalizingly cropped up in Germany several days before finally receiving worldwide release through YouTube in the wee hours Monday morning. As you can see, it was well worth the wait; it has quickly taken its place among my very favorite TATE acoustics.

Anna Bulbrook and The Bulls shoot a video for new single

Anna Bulbrook and The Bulls shoot a video for new single “Small Problems.”

Big Shoot for Small Problems

While The Airborne Toxic Event takes a breather before returning to action in late July, Anna Bulbrook has been free to focus on her work with the Bulls – specifically, shooting what looks to be a gorgeous video for the band’s second single, “Small Problems.” No word yet when the video will drop, but in combination with first single “Come Unwound,” it is clear that the Bulls’ debut project will be grand.

Big Ass Review

The Big Ass Show seems forever ago, but it’s not too late for a review by Music of a Madwoman: “I have honestly never heard a song by them I haven’t liked, and that’s really difficult for me because even my favorite bands have songs I just can’t stand. Each song is so unique and they all have such amazing lyrics. This band is so great to watch simply because of the fact that each member is so talented and it’s very difficult to find a band where each member can come together to create something so beautiful.”

Toxic Gold

My 20th wedding anniversary is just a few weeks away, so I guess I’m feeling romantic or nostalgic or something. This week’s Toxic Gold takes us back to 2011’s Last.fm session for “All for a Woman” (preceded by a brief interview segment).

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.

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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.

Daren Taylor of The Airborne Toxic Event: Ready to bring the power to The Fillmore. Photo by TATE fan Elva.

Daren Taylor of The Airborne Toxic Event: Ready to bring the power to The Fillmore. Photo by TATE fan Elva.

By Glen

Ed. Note: Over the next five Tuesdays, we’ll be gearing up for The Airborne Toxic Event’s upcoming residency at San Francisco’s Fillmore (Sept. 18-20) with a series of posts to whet our collective appetite. Today’s is the first installment.

I’ve seen a lot of Airborne Toxic Event gigs. Well, I suppose “a lot” depends on the context. Compared to some fans who have seen them 40, 50 times or more, I’m just a rookie. But by normal person standards, I’ve attended plenty of shows.

Despite that, there are a surprising number of TATE songs that I’ve never seen performed live. And that’s a big part of what makes the impending San Francisco residency a must-attend event: with the band performing a different one of their three studio albums in full each night, it’s a golden and perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any fan to cross a bunch of songs off their live TATE bucket list.

Below are ten songs that are guaranteed to be played, that I can’t wait to see. If you’re going to be there, what’s on your list?

10. It Doesn’t Mean a Thing

The first of six songs on this list that I have yet to experience in the flesh, “It Doesn’t Mean a Thing” promises to be a rollicking good time with its Gasoline-esque rhythm and relentless energy.

9. Strange Girl

One unknown heading into the residency is whether the band will feel compelled to stick close to the album arrangements, or whether they’ll pull out some alternate versions. For example, will “The Kids Are Ready to Die” be played in the punk-style that we’ve come to expect in concert, or will we witness a live rendition of the powerfully stark album version? In a similar vein, the rarely-played “Strange Girl” has at times been presented as a slowed down, bare bones vocal tour de force by Mikel Jollett. Is this what they have in store for us? Either way, it will be the first time for me.

8. Dope Machines/California

After witnessing these new songs at Boonstock, I’m champing at the bit to see them again. It’s always interesting to see new material evolve as the band gets comfortable with it in a live setting. Some have noted that Mikel’s falsetto in “Dope Machines” wasn’t entirely successful in its first couple of performances. Will he perhaps take it down an octave or three going forward?

7. What’s in Name?

Though “What’s in a Name” has never been played since its release on Such Hot Blood, I was lucky enough to see it at the pre-release Red Rocks show – another occasion in which a falsetto chorus didn’t quite do it for me. Subsequently, the high notes were shelved in favor of a full-throated attack that worked a lot better, and I’ve been waiting ever since to experience it again.

6. This is London

Another seldom-played Such Hot Blood track, “This is London” boasts some of the very best lyrics in the TATE catalog, in my opinion. I’m looking forward to hearing them sung in person.

5. All for a Woman

Of the three All At Once songs that I’ve yet to see, “All for a Woman” has been at the top of my list. It will be even more interesting to see how the band arranges it in light of Noah Harmon’s recent replacement by Adrian Rodriguez. Traditionally, Noah and Steven Chen have swapped instruments for this song. Will it be the same this time out?

4. Elizabeth

One of my favorites from Such Hot Blood, and the final song I haven’t witnessed from that album. “Elizabeth” is beautiful in its simplicity.

3. Innocence

“Innocence” is my all-time favorite song, bar none, and with it having become a rarity after years as a setlist standard, it would normally be atop my list. It slips down a couple spots only because I have seen it a few times previously. This time promises to be different, though, as Noah’s departure will surely necessitate some degree of reimagination of the arrangement. I have no doubt this will be one of the highlights for everyone in attendance.

2. The Fifth Day

The first time I heard “The Fifth Day,” from the fourth row at Red Rocks, I was stunned into silence. Seriously – it was drop-dead gorgeous, and I was certain that it would be a showstopper on the subsequent tour. Whether it’s because the band didn’t feel they could do it justice without an orchestra or for some other reason, it didn’t happen. I expect that the version we hear on Sept. 20 will be significantly different, with only Anna Bulbrook and her viola to bring the symphonic element, and I’m counting the days till I get to see what they do with it.

1. This is Nowhere

It’s funny. Had I written this list a year and a half ago, “This is Nowhere” would have been on it, but much farther down. But once I decided to name the website after it, it became my great white whale of TATE songs – the one I have to see in person, but feared I never would. And yet, here it comes.

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.

Pete Galli (l), Manager of The Airborne Toxic Event, was a recent guest on Darren Rose Radio.

By Glen

It’s just 104 days till the Fillmore residency, and The Airborne Toxic Event fan base might be as excited as it’s ever been. With sky high anticipation of the new tour on top colliding with growing expectations for the next album, it’s a fun time to be an Airborne fan. Here are a few TATE tidbits plucked from around the Interwebz of late.

Pete Galli on Breaking Ba(n)d

Last time in Toxicity, we covered Mikel Jollett’s startlingly revealing interview that launched Darren Rose Radio. Rose didn’t stray far for his second installment, sitting down with Pete Galli, Manager of The Airborne Toxic Event (among other acts). Darren and Pete’s conversation veers through a variety of topics, with plenty of Airborne references and anecdotes along the way. Most interesting are Pete’s four steps to breaking a new band: great songs, a good story, a clear identity and a kickin’ live show. It’s easy to see how each of these factors played a key role in growing TATE’s popularity.

Pete’s prioritization of a good story is particularly striking. Mikel’s week from hell that led to the formation of the band is TATE legend, and well known to every follower of the group. But according to Pete, it’s a story that the singer was initially hesitant to share, until the manager convinced him that he had to tell it, and tell it often. Those of us who are drawn to the way in which Mikel wears his heart on his sleeve may have Pete Galli to thank, at least to some extent.

Our friend Julie published a review of Rose’s first four episodes. It has quickly become apparent that the podcast is a must-listen for anyone with an interest in the music industry. Plus, it’s clear that Rose is a huge Airborne backer (in case you can’t tell from his t-shirt), having already referenced the band a number of times in his non-TATE-related shows. Well worth checking out.

#YesAllWomen

On May 27, I opened my Twitter feed and saw @Mikel_Jollett’s profile photo cascading down the page. Clearly, he had something to get off his chest. I scrolled down… and down… and down to the first entry. It seems the trending topic #YesAllWomen, which caught fire in the wake of the latest sexually-driven mass shooting in the U.S., grabbed the wordsmith’s attention:

Once again, Mikel expresses what’s on so many of our minds, better than we ever could. #Amen

Airborne Toxic Treats

Our favorite baker has been cooking up a storm. Having previously whipped up the ultimate cake for a TATE-themed baby shower, as well as cookie replicas of an assortment of band members, guitar picks and instruments, Susan has once again brought The Airborne Toxic Event into the kitchen.

First, she put her considerable talents to work on Steven Chen’s ghostly guitar pick:

And then, she baked her way straight into violist Anna Bulbrook’s heart with these adorable doggie treats:

Now that she’s immortalized Io the Wonder Dog, where can Susan possibly go from here? A leather jacket clad baby for Noah Harmon, perhaps?

Susan also took some time out of her busy baking schedule to pen some reflections on turning 40 – a reality that was driven home when she became aware that Mikel too reached that milestone recently.

Fun and Games?

This could be huge. Or it could be nothing at all. We have no idea.

Last week, The Airborne Toxic Event retweeted this:

Confused? So were we. So we clicked on over to the profile of Day For Night Games, where we found this description: “A new indie game studio working with a group of former Irrational Games developers and LA-based musicians on The Black Glove.”

So our favorite LA-based musicians retweeted an obscure clue to a video game that is being developed by, among others, some LA-based musicians. Form your own conclusions.

Toxic Gold

One of the rare tracks we’re very much looking forward to at the San Francisco full album shows in September is the shimmering ballad from All At Once, “All for a Woman.” We leave you this week with a pretty teaser from NAMM 2011 with Taylor Guitars.

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.

Noah Harmon of The Airborne Toxic Event Photo by TATE fan Ryan Macchione

Noah Harmon of The Airborne Toxic Event
Photo by TATE fan Ryan Macchione

By Wendy and Gail

Ed. Note: This is the fourth in a six part series in which fans of The Airborne Toxic Event select their Top 5 musical moments of their favorite band member. Previous entries: Mikel Jollett’s Top 5 Vocals; Daren Taylor, the Ultimate Beat Keeper; Anna Bulbrook, Classically Trained Punk Rock Chick. Next week: Steven Chen.

“You’re not going to find a better musician than this guy right here. You’re just not. I don’t co-write with anyone because I think most people aren’t very good at it, and I co-write with him because he’s good at it. When you see people who are that talented… shit. I don’t even know how he does it.” – Mikel Jollet, speaking of Noah Harmon, Bandologie Interview, 2011

With his unquestionable good looks, self-deprecating sense of humor, quick intelligence, and genuinely friendly personality, Noah Harmon is a fangirl’s dream come true. He is much more than that, however. Born in Tucson, AZ in the early 80’s, Noah has said he learned to play guitar to meet girls because he couldn’t skateboard (he has since learned.) Over time, he developed a talent for a variety of instruments that showcase his incredible talent: standing bass, electric bass, keyboards, mandolin, banjo, and guitar, to name a few.

With a degree in jazz bass from the Herb Albert School of Music at the California Institute of Arts, Noah has incorporated his classical training, his teenage love of heavy metal and his current eclectic musical tastes into being one-half of the best writing team in modern music: The Airborne Toxic Event. Here we give you our top five Noah moments; the songs and videos we feel best represent his talent as an artist, both writer and musician.

1. Sometime Around Midnight

Although this song is usually credited with highlighting the talents of Mikel, and in particular, Anna, this live version clearly demonstrates the contribution Noah makes on the standing bass. Providing a sensuous background for Mikel’s astounding lyrics and Anna’s heartrending viola, the rich bass undertones carry this generally quiet, melancholy tune.

2. True Love 

Mandolin in rock n’ roll? Yes! Absolutely, yes. When asked personally what he felt was the shining moment in his musical career thus far, Noah said, “(it was) ‘True Love.’” Co-written with Mikel, we wonder the circumstances of this song and the story behind it. The bombastic video provides a window perhaps into what they were thinking. When Mikel places his hand on Noah’s shoulder in comfort or camaraderie, many of us can relate to the heartache and disappointment that results from mistaking physical attraction for an authentic emotional connection. At least they seem to be able to find the humor in it now. The mandolin solo performed by a self-taught Noah yet again demonstrates his musical prowess.

Noah is a classically trained musician who plays electric bass. You never see a mandolin in a rock song, but when he pulls it out for “True Love,” it showcases another side of Noah we might not have known; almost a country-rock fusion. His harmonies on the song are out of this world as well. Mainly, though, it’s a treat to get to see him rock out and show off yet another side of his multi-dimensional musical personality.

3. Changing (Vevo Go Show)

A favorite in any format, this particular video provides an unparalleled bass experience for every Noah fan. Never has each individual bass note been more clear than in this rendition. If you are like us, you want your bass to reverberate so deeply into your heart that your whole body moves in time with each note. This fun jam fits the bill, hands down!

4. Something New

There is nothing like watching Noah perform “Something New” live. Co-written with Mikel, the song begins quietly, building in intensity as Noah plays off the crowd’s obvious adoration: smiling, leaning in, and teasingly coaxing us to love him. We are happily willing to comply.

5. All For A Woman (Bombastic)

There are no words… but we will somehow try to find them. The softly strummed guitar, each note cutting, heartbreaking, perfect; as if Noah is gently playing our heartstrings with every melodic stroke of his fingers. We want to be the woman, the source of such emotion, such regret, such all-encompassing love. We want it to all be just for us.

6. Bride and Groom

Cheating, we know! But try narrowing favorites down to five with two people. It is impossible. And there could be no list of enduring Noah moments without mention of “Bride and Groom.” To fully appreciate the incredible sound created by our favorite classical bass player, you have to listen at maximum volume in the car with the windows up, or on a particularly good sound system at home. A song with less emphasis on guitar and a focus on rhythm, the deep pounding beat created by the combination of Noah’s standing bass and Daren’s bass drum is haunting in its simplicity.

The very tip of the iceberg: that is all we have explored here in sharing just a few of our favorite Noah moments. Are they truly his best? Perhaps not. They are just some of the many that have already occurred and will be added to the countless others that have yet to transpire. We hope, through this journey into the hearts and minds of a couple of silly fangirls, you will have gained a greater appreciation for the inimitable talent that is Noah Harmon.

Purchase the Best of Noah:

Sometime Around Midnight
True Love
Changing
Something New
All for a Woman
Bride & Groom

Wendy, fan of The Airborne Toxic EventGail, fan of The Airborne Toxic EventWendy (left) lives in Colorado with her husband and two kids. They all love the mountains, motorcycles and The Airborne Toxic Event. Gail (right) was born in Brooklyn, NY, and moved to Yonkers while still in grammar school. She is a huge music fan and loves to travel. She combines these passions by seeing the people whose music influences and inspires her wherever and whenever she can.

By Colleen

[Read the prelude here…]

In the spring of 2011, an indie rock band out of Los Angeles had just released their sophomore album.  The reviews were pouring in.  Expectations were high for the band with the sensational albeit unconventional breakout hit “Sometime Around Midnight.”

And I was oblivious.

In the spring of 2011, I was pregnant with my first child.  For me, the responsibilities were pouring in.  Expectations of my own were higher than ever before.  Caring for this unborn child was top priority.  No distractions allowed.  Not music.  Not even writing.  The novel I had been working on for almost two years was shelved indefinitely.  In fact, I gave up on the hope I would ever finish it at all.  More exciting things were about to happen.  There would be no time for writing, and I wasn’t sure I cared.  I was going to be a Mom.

Yet it was during this time – that spring – that like it or not, I was being introduced to a band.

Hubby had found them on Pandora, and he liked what he heard.  Their name was casually mentioned in conversations we had, but Hubby likes a lot of bands, and I thought he was going through a rotation with them.  I was never that interested.  I had a baby inside me, and there was no need for music.  I didn’t fault him for having outside interests – I just didn’t care to have any myself.  Nothing would distract from this single-minded goal of mine – to take care of myself, to have a healthy child, to be a good mom.  A band was not going to help me with any of those things.  Especially a band whose name I could not for the life of me remember anyway.

However, this was the band that was waking me up in the morning on Hubby’s cell phone.  I dreaded one particular song he used as an alarm of which I didn’t even know the name.  Its opening tones gently jostled me from sleep, but I knew I had seconds before the song blew up into a loud nightmare at 6:30am.  I tried shaking the bed.  I tried nudging his shoulder.  I even tried kicking his shins.  Fortunately, he usually woke up enough to hit the snooze button.  But there were times he slept right through it all.  And then it erupted with its loud guitar riffs and angry singer, until I yelled “Turn it offffffffff!”

The song was “Welcome to Your Wedding Day.”

And one day I finally told Hubby to pick a different song or sleep somewhere else.

This was also the band Hubby elected to listen to while we did chores around the house.  One particular time, I remember we were irritated each other (probably because we had to do chores around the house) and we may have launched a few accusations and exchanged a few short words.  Then Hubby disappeared and put on a song with a playful beginning but whose lyrics felt like they were being directed at me.  “All these things that you say, like I’ll forget about the mind-numbing games that you play . . . I am a gentleman . . . didn’t I pay for every laugh, every dime, every bit every time, and then you feed me some line . . . I won’t hear one more word about Changing . . .”

Wait . . . I don’t play mind-numbing games, do I?  Does he think I’m playing mind-numbing games?  Does he think I don’t appreciate him?  Does he think I’m asking him to change?  Is that why he’s playing this?  Oh my god, is he that mad at me that he is expressing his anger through music?  I feel like this song is attacking me.  I don’t like it.

It wasn’t, though.  And he wasn’t.  But the memory of that moment is forever attached to that song, like a disclaimer.  This song is about me, but it isn’t.  Or wasn’t.  But maybe it was.

Then one night we were driving home from his parents’ house.  The conversation we had in the car took on a serious tone.  Perhaps we were having another “discussion.”  The red and yellow lights of the highway raced past the windows.  The sky above was cloudy.  Nothing but darkness on this late night with the iPod on shuffle and the volume down low.  The conversation suddenly stopped, or perhaps it gradually eased into silence.  The next thing I remember was the song that came on, and Hubby turned the volume up.  The pretty melody of the guitar filled the air.  The melancholy feeling it gave me was uncanny.  It had an early 80s rock ballad feel, and the harmonies were hauntingly beautiful.  I was transfixed for almost four minutes, just feeling the emotion in this random song.  Though when it was over, I never thought to ask what it was.  But I never forgot that song, and I would go searching for it ever since.  It was several months and a lifetime later before I figured out it was “All For A Woman.”

Not but a few weeks before our son was born, in the early summer of 2011, I was sitting in a booth at Applebee’s with Hubby, his friend who was visiting from out of town, and a few other friends of ours. I remember the shirt I was wearing – a hand-me-down maternity piece from my sister-in-law – slightly sweaty from the walk Hubby and I had just taken at a park nearby. I remember my round belly resting against the table, and I remember laughing with my best friend, who was sitting on the other side of me.

“You know that brand of cheese, Laughing Cow?” she said. “I always get the name wrong. I always call it Silly Moo Cheese.”

I giggled, then added, “Oh, that’s like me with this band Hubby is always listening to. I call them ‘The Atomic Fireballs’ but I know that’s wrong.” I leaned over to him. “What’s that band you like now? The Atomic Fireballs?”

Hubby took a breath and narrowed his eyes. Then he sighed out his exasperation. “You mean The Airborne Toxic Event?” he said slowly, like I was a child.

“Yes! That’s the one! Geez, what a long name for a band. How is anyone supposed to remember that?!”

These small, insignificant memories are like faded photographs – snapshots of my Old Life. Because it was just a few weeks later that our son, Wesley, was born. And then, he was gone, and life as we knew it and everything in it was blown to bits, unrecognizable rubble in a wasteland of ruins.

A month or two later, we were still just going through the motions, either crippled from grief or desperately numb. One evening, we decided to clean the house. Silently, we began to work, until like he always had before, Hubby chose the music.

It was my job to tackle the bathroom, and mid-toilet cleaning (where all life-changing moments happen), the sound of mournful violins filled the expanse of our house. They echoed in these ruins in the spaces between the rubble, and the valleys and caverns that had been left from an earthshaking, life changing event.

And I hated it.

It was the sound of mental anguish in a mind and in a place where there had been enough.

I marched into the living room, toilet brush in hand, as he was picking things up around the living room.

“Turn this off,” I ordered.

“Why?”

“Because it’s depressing. Listen to him. He misses her. He misses her. Turn it off!”

Likely, Hubby thought I had lost my mind. He was right, of course, which is why I can’t blame him for saying no. “I like it,” he declared.

An earthshattering, lifechanging event will teach a person which battles are worth fighting, and which songs are worth letting alone. Also, I was dripping toilet water on the carpet. I let him have his way and his depressing song and went back to cleaning the toilet.

There were bigger things at work here, however. Only later did I realize what this song actually did, and why it bothered me so much. I was in the middle of grieving, but just trying to stay numb, shutting out all emotion for fear it would open the floodgates and I wouldn’t be able to stop feeling every horrible, grief-stricken emotion that threatened to fill the canyons of my wasteland. And then this song comes on, cornering me, forcing me to feel the horrible emotions of someone else – a different kind of desperation, but a desperation nonetheless. This was not fiction, this was real. These events had truly happened to him. How else could he so accurately, so acutely, make me feel as though it had happened to me?

But then I suddenly felt as if it had.

This song reminded me of something. A memory. A fictional place long buried by time and the destruction of an empire.

In those few minutes of that song, a part of me resurfaced that I thought I’d never find again.

It’s hard to explain what losing a child is like, because it’s so many things all at once. But one of the results is a kind of amnesia, an inability to recall events before the loss occurred. And not just events, but it reaches its cold hands even further back and erases entire memories as well, so that a person is left with nothing but a shell and a sense of “How did I end up here?” It is confusing and scary both to the person experiencing it and the people who are helpless to watch it happen.

But this song reminded me that I was a writer. That I had started my own story about unrequited love. That it was about a song, about a musician, about life and loss and disappointment and that desperate feeling “You just had to see her, you know that she’ll break you in two.”

It happened so suddenly, a bolt of lightning from the swell of a song. I was struck with inspiration. Driven to finish. Did he ever tell her? I wondered. Does she know this song exists?

I raced back to the living room as the song finished. “Play it again,” I ordered.

This time, I remembered to ask him the name.

“Sometime Around Midnight.”

What a title for this short story, I thought. What a scene it creates in the listener’s mind, from the bar lights to the band, to her melancholy smile and white dress, to her “tonic like a cross.” This song was brilliant. Brilliant! A breathtaking combination of literature and music. It literally transcended the emptiness I felt, the unwillingness I had to feel something so tragic, and the desolation of my own creativity. It filled me with wonder, forced me to feel and deal, and sparked my interest in finishing that stupid book.

Now I was consumed with the desire to write. In just over a month, I blew away the proverbial dust on things I considered “outside interests” earlier that year and made them worth working for. I blazed through a 400-page Word Document, rewriting as necessary, and finished my first novel. I started listening to music again, too, swapping bands with friends like trading cards. But nothing inspired me more than this Airborne Toxic Event.

I listened to All At Once on repeat during writing sessions that would last until dawn. It wasn’t so much the lyrics I was listening to at the time, either, but simply the music. I was enchanted with the idea of a rock band with a violinist, like this was something groundbreaking, and I had always planned to use this idea for my story about the musician. Now there was a band just like the one I imagined. In the deranged mind of a writer, this was akin to the stars and planets aligning. This was where the lines of fiction and reality were blurred, like something from my imagination escaped into the real world.

And in a world that was now a wasteland, this was like finding a cave in the side of a mountain full of glittering, glowing gems, made brilliant by the pressure and refined by all the ecological changes that had occurred from something that could destroy the empire under which it lay.

These were the days when The Airborne Toxic Event was simply the background noise that echoed in these ruins.

Then one day, a month or two after I finished my book, I was waist-deep in the process of editing when I listened to “The Graveyard Near the House.”

A line struck me out of nowhere: “And so I pictured us like corpses, lying side by side in pieces.”

I remember sitting on the bed with my laptop when my heart stopped for a moment. What had I been listening to?

I Googled the lyrics, started the song over, and finally heard it for the first time the way it was meant to be heard.

Mid-song, I was bawling my eyes out.

It was a mirror – I heard myself in the words. It was also like a window – I heard my husband. I heard a conversation we were having constantly in the weeks and months since Wesley died. I saw us there each night, when we would “talk and read and laugh and sleep at night in bed together.” I saw myself “wake in tears sometimes” wondering if he would “be a good man and stay behind if I got old.” I realized I shared the same belief, that “it’s better to love whether you win or lose or die.” And there I was with the memory of my son, carving his name out of the sky, and trying desperately to “write it all down” at the same time I was absolutely terrified of losing my best friend, my husband.

It was uncanny, hearing someone else lay bear everything going through your mind and every emotion bleeding from your broken heart and every fear that keeps you up at night.

I raced into the living room where Hubby was watching TV.

“Oh my God,” I said, tears still streaming down my face.

“What?” He turned off the TV in a panic. “What’s wrong?”

“Oh my God. Have you heard ‘The Graveyard Near the House’?”

“What?”

“The Graveyard Near the House! Have you heard it?”

“What are you talking about?”

“The Airborne Toxic Event!”

“Oh. OH. Yeah. Yes. I think so.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Tell you what?”

“About that song!”

“What about it?”

“It’s SAD!”

“Oh. Yeah. It is, I guess. Sorry.”

“It sounds like it’s about us.“

“Hmm.”

“Look up the lyrics. You’ll see. It’s about us.“

Hubby went back to the TV, and I went back to the bedroom, still confused and a little shaken. I knew I had probably scared him to death. Perhaps he even felt guilty he hadn’t warned me, as we try to prepare each other for anything that might even smack of something sad. And “Graveyard” was a full-blown descent into the reality of life, love, and loss.

These ruins are very isolated. So few people understand the weight of the loss, and how deep these ruins truly run. They confuse people. They scare people into silence. They provoke the most thoughtless conclusions from others who are quick to cast judgment. We were alone in this vast canyon of sadness, ignored by some, and misunderstood by most, if not all.

To hear a song that perfectly matched the way I felt, down to the very core of my being, was as shocking as a voice out of the sky. Where did it come from? Whose was it?

Who wrote this?

[Read Part 2 here…]


When she’s not front row at a TATE show with a bird emblazoned on her face, Colleen can be found blogging regularly at These Stunning Ruins, where this post originally appeared. She and her husband have also been known to occasionally lay down a wicked Airborne cover.