Posts Tagged ‘Changing’

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

Mikel Jollett: Manning Up. Photo by Ryan Tuttle.

By Glen

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

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

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

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

Mikel Jollett is kind of obsessed with being a man.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

The Storm

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

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

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

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

The Fifth Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Way Home

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

But also full of resolve.

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

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

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

Time to be a Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GlenGlen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.

Mikel Jollett and Steven Chen of The Airborne Toxic Event. Photo by Ryan Tuttle.

Mikel Jollett and Steven Chen of The Airborne Toxic Event. Photo by Ryan Tuttle.

By Glen

Stop the press – there was an actual sighting of The Airborne Toxic Event this week!

Live from Ohio

The band emerged from hibernation just long enough to announce that a live performance would be airing after last weekend’s Saturday Night Live, on the Ohio-only television program PromoWest Live. The announcement gave the impression that it would be an extended feature; as it turns out, the show only aired one song, amongst performances from a variety of other bands.

Nevertheless, for parched Airborne fans, the sight of our favorite band belting out “Changing” was welcome indeed. Jump to the 48-second mark of the video below.

A quick perusal of the video playlist also revealed that the show had also aired “Gasoline” and “Happiness is Overrated) a couple months ago (starting at the 4:07 and 17:40 marks of the video below, respectively). All songs were recorded at the band’s gig in Columbus last spring – a performance that Colleen and Andy reviewed for us.

While it would have been nice to see some of the newer material get some exposure, beggars can’t be choosers!

Small Problems, Big Video

After slacking off for like, an entire day, Anna Bulbrook was back in the spotlight this week with the release of the Bulls’ long-awaited video for “Small Problems,” which was shot way back in June in 115F temperatures. The video is described by the band’s publicity company as follows:

Directed by Evan Mathis, the video is one long tracking shot of Anna and bandmate Marc Sallis strutting through Joshua Tree that anyone from one of the colder parts of the country will yearn for this time of year. Special shout out to Sallis’ “November Rain” power stance during the guitar solo.

Said Anna to Flood Magazine, which premiered the video: “Evan (our director) came up with the visual of eternally walking through different desert moonscapes in different washes of transitional sunlight to illustrate the song’s lyrical themes—which are endlessly, cyclically, desiring a change that isn’t going to come and wishing for a chance to go back and do things over again.”

Speaking of Anna, Vinyl District posted another extensive photo set of her in action at the recent Girlschool Festival.

Toxic Gold

Speaking of under-exposed newer TATE songs, here’s a rare live performance of “Strangers” from last fall’s Shazam contest pre-show in Philadelphia, courtesy of Rick.

GlenGlen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.

By Glen

Though some of you wouldn’t know it by looking out your window (or so I’m told), spring has officially sprung. For me, that means today is my last day of work before I start a much-needed week off… which also means that next week will be quiet here on the blog. Before I go, here’s the latest in Toxicity: a grab bag of odds and ends collected from around the Internet in recent weeks. See you in April!

On the Road Again

While those who are hankering for a TATE tour (ie. everyone who is reading this) will have to wait awhile, the band does have a couple new dates to satisfy those who happen to live in the right place, or who have the capacity to get there. First up is New Orleans on April 4, less than two months after the band’s most recent visit to the city (lucky bastards). The show will be held at the Old U.S. Mint, and will benefit the Louisiana Museum Foundation. At this point, you have to win your way into the gig.

On the distant horizon, the sizable L.A. fanbase will be thrilled to hear that Airborne will play their home turf on Oct. 30, taking the stage at the Greek Theatre. Currently, tickets can only be purchased as part of a package with other Greek shows, but individual show tickets will go on sale within the next two months. This could be THE Airborne show of the year, especially with Noah Harmon presumably back in the fold by then, so get there if you can!

Ask Anna

As quiet as the band has been publicly for the past month and a half, Anna Bulbrook has been as active as ever on social media, most notably hosting an Ask Me Anything session through TATE’s Facebook page – her second such Q&A. This one was very interesting in terms of getting to know Anna as a person, as she answered tons of questions about her personal likes and dislikes. It was less informative when it came to band news, as she seemed hesitant to reveal recording and touring plans. Nevertheless, it makes for a fun read on a rainy day.

And that’s not to say that Anna hasn’t provided some tantalizing hints of late. She shared a pair of photos on March 16 (see here and here) that made it clear that recording was happening that day. Now, there was nothing in there to confirm that it was indeed TATE she was recording with, as opposed to one of her many side projects. But it would certainly be consistent with the many reports we’ve received that the band is recording this spring. Things are happening, people!

Daren Taylor’s stylish St. Patrick’s Day footwear. Source:


Daren Taylor fans have been deprived by the drummer being the only member of the band not on Instagram. But weep no more – he has joined the club! Daren’s Instagram account has actually been active for awhile now, but until recently it was set to private. Now that he’s gone public, we anticipate that we’ll have some fun shots of the drummer from which to choose the next time we’re selecting our Top 5 TATEstagrams.

Incidentally, Daren celebrated his 34th birthday on Tuesday. Happy birthday Daren!

404 Sessions

In early February, The Airborne Toxic Event took some time out of their jam-packed schedule to swing by Atlanta’s Radio 105.7 for a three-song acoustic set, as part of the radio station’s 404 sessions. Though they seem to have been posted for awhile now, it was just a few days ago that we stumbled across these videos of the full performance, which included “Changing,” “Hell and Back” and “All At Once.” For your viewing pleasure:

Noah Goes Barbershop

Granted, the videos above are lacking a certain “Noah Harmon” quality, as the bassist continues his baby-related leave of absence. But fear not… the bassman has surfaced in – of all things – a barbershop video. No, not a quartet. Like, an actual barbershop. Ah, just watch:

More TATE-y Treats

Our favorite baker was back at it in February. Following up on her previous confectionary creations including the band members’ faces, Noah’s bass, Anna’s viola and Daren’s drum kit in cookie form – not to mention the most phenomenal baby shower cake you’ll ever see, Susan has immortalized Mikel Jollett’s guitar pick as a cookie. Well, I guess technically it was not immortal, since it was consumed shortly thereafter… but you get the point.

Toxic Gold

Last but not least, we step back to 2010 for the latest edition of Toxic Gold. Not only do we get a killer rendition of “Half of Something Else” courtesy of Julie, we also get Mikel geeking out with some Alexander Hamilton trivia. Happy spring!

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.

Toxicity 27

Posted: February 28, 2014 in Toxicity
Tags: , , ,
The Airborne Toxic Event soundchecks at Vancouver's Portside Pub Photo by TATE fan Elva, Jan. 25, 2014

The Airborne Toxic Event soundchecks at Vancouver’s Portside Pub
Photo by TATE fan Elva, Jan. 25, 2014

By Glen

It’s the calm after the storm. Almost two weeks have passed since the last stop on The Airborne Toxic Event’s February tour. The band (and their roadtripping fans) are back home and settling in for what’s next. But we’ve still got some post-tour mopping up to do.

Indy Unplugged

We’ll start at the end: at the Ale Emporium in Indianapolis, where the band put an exclamation mark on the tour with a stripped down, invitation-only performance for Radio X103. “Hell and Back” is quickly becoming one of TATE’s most frequently recorded songs – in the five months since its release, we’ve been gifted with at least half a dozen pro-quality performance videos of the single. X103 provides us with the latest:

The radio station followed that up with a second video: this one a partial recording of “Changing,” with audio from the performance superimposed over a mix of footage shot throughout the event.

Tour In Review, Part 2

Picking up where we left off last week, here’s a look back on the tour that was:

Nuvo supplements the videos above with photos, giving us a glimpse inside the Indy show through a brief slideshow. Earlier in the tour, a similar radio session was hosted by Atlanta’s Radio 105.7, and though the show was shorter, the photo gallery is much larger. The biggest collection, however, comes from The Rave in Milwaukee. You have to sign up for a free account on their website to view it, but their 92-photo gallery is well worth a gander.

The Valentine’s show in Detroit yielded three reviews, one of which we covered last week in Toxicity. The next one comes courtesy of TATE virgin Korynne Hatcher, who like most first-time viewers was blown away by what she witnessed:

As soon as there was even a whisper of the band walking on stage, it was bedlam inside the theatre. People clapped incessantly and sang along from the opening notes of “Wishing Well” to the final song of the night. As I looked around, there was not one person whose eyes were not glued to the stage. I loved the passion that these people played with. Another thing that I really enjoy is seeing musicians able to play more than one instrument and whether they were playing a soulful ballad or an up-tempo song that inspired you to dance; they played with so much energy and love that it was impossible not to enjoy yourself. As the night went on, they commonly switched from one-person playing guitar to playing keys and from only playing to singing lead. That to me shows pure talent and love for music.

Musicholics4U caps off the Detroit reviews, echoing Hatcher’s appreciation of the various band members’ musical versatility:

What made the band truly unique was their musicality and energy. It amazed me how each member was able to play numerous instruments. Anna Bulbrook showed her music skills by playing the violin, keyboard, tambourine, and even singing! She was just one of the members who was able to jump from instrument to instrument, spicing up the performance. The Airborne Toxic Event also brought a contagious energy. The band ran all around the stage and jumped into the crowd, getting every audience member singing, dancing, and clapping along.

A New/Old Interview with Mikel

The brief tour didn’t generate as many published interviews as we might have hoped. However, the Detroit Free Press did release an article shortly before the band arrived in their town. And though it contains extensive interview material with Mikel, it appears to be drawn from an earlier sit-down with the singer, from around the time of Such Hot Blood‘s release. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting read, with Mikel waxing enthusiastically about the band’s dedicated, tattooed fans, and delving into his experiences in writing and recording the album.

“I spent so much time doing that, months and months and months alone with all of the instruments in my house and playing different melodies and arrangements and harmonies and different instruments for different parts, and moving things around and writing and rewriting them, just notebooks filled with lyrics,” he said. “Most of these songs went through 10 or 11 drafts in different forms. And that also included all of the time I spent with the band rehearsing and all of the time we spent with (producer) Jacquire King in Nashville recording and all of the time we spent mixing it. So at the end of this long process, I felt as if I’d made 10 things I wanted to share with the world.”

Toxic Gold

We’ll wrap things up this week with yet another video from a small performance for Indianapolis’ Radio X103. But this one comes not from this February, but February 2012, when The Airborne Toxic Event stopped by the excellently-named Pop Machine.

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.

Mikel Jollett preps a young guitarist for his first performance. Photo by Glen, Vancouver, Jan. 25, 2014.

Mikel Jollett preps a young guitarist for his first performance.
Photo by Glen, Vancouver, Jan. 25, 2014.

By Nicole

As a concert goer and music fan, I love seeing band members interact with each other, and with their fans. Some of the best moments in live music history have involved one of the two – or sometimes on certain, special occasions… both!

Mutemath, my second favorite band, has some of the craziest high-energy performances I have ever seen. They know how to entertain. Norah Jones, who creates some incredibly beautiful music, talked to the crowd more than any other band or musician I have witnessed in my short 22 years. She was making small talk, and bantering with the crowd and her band all night long. On top of the relaxed, musical atmosphere, the crowd and band engagement made for a really enjoyable night. And if anyone has ever seen Flogging Molly in concert you know what I mean when I say that watching them jam out makes me, the viewer, flat out exhausted from all the energy they bring to the stage. Especially in today’s ever changing music industry, putting on a good live performance seems to be critical to making a living for bands and musicians.

You cannot say that a YouTube or Vine video recreates the same feeling as a live concert. No sir! No ma’am! Seeing a band live is one of the best feelings because it is a collective excitement shared by all of the fans in the room, and ideally that energy is shared by the bands that are taking the stage throughout the night.

As good as the bands mentioned above are, to me (and I am sure to a good portion of the This Is Nowhere audience), The Airborne Toxic Event takes the cake when it comes to live performances. And while it may not be even close to the thrill of seeing them live, there are some really great TATE moments caught on camera. So, I present to you my favorite YouTube videos of The Airborne Toxic Event live in concert.

5. Changing, Featuring a Young Fan, Filmed by Brook Pooni Associates in Vancouver

I mean, COME ON! How cute is this? I have absolutely no doubt that this kid will be a fan for life now that he has had the chance to play onstage with his favorite band. Watching or hearing about moments like this always reaffirms my love for this band. It never really occurred to me how many kids are into The Airborne Toxic Event until the band posted on their Facebook late last year the picture of Anna and hardcore, 9 year old fan Megan (megantheshy as Anna calls her, I think?). There were some parents posting in the comments and on the band’s wall about their own kids. Then, shortly after, they posted a picture of one fan’s kids who were seriously rocking the mini-Steven and mini-Anna looks. Adorable! I know there are other similar accounts out there too, and just reading parents’ stories about what these people have done for their young fans over the years makes me insanely happy! (And I know you don’t know me, but congrats to Colleen on your newest little TATE fan. I thought the TATE themed baby shower was perfect!)

4. Mikel Scales the Orpheum Theatre Balcony, Filmed by Julie in Boston

When I was watching this video for the first time I was really, really, really hoping that Mikel would climb that ladder in the back of the theatre. How epic would that be? But I just don’t think it would have been stable enough.

Pushing the boundaries for on-stage antics seems to be a hobby for TATE, and especially the front man. After slithering his way up to the balcony seats, embarrassing Anna’s parents and family, jumping from one platform to another to mingle with fans, and casually gliding back down to the stage, Mikel decided that wasn’t enough. He jumped off stage and made a high-five beeline straight to the back. And he accomplished all this while singing two upbeat, high-energy songs. Who does that? Crazy people. Crazy people who I want to see in concert over and over again, that’s who!

3. Does This Mean Your Moving On? Filmed by Pokabeb at ACL 2011, Austin

So much awesomeness in one video I can’t even comprehend. First off, I love that Mikel was just jumping from speaker to speaker in the intro of the video.  Once he’s finished and is heading back to the stage to climb the pillars, Anna jumps down and motions to the crowd that she is going to jump. Then she proceeds to blow everyone’s minds by sailing through the air, and landing on top of the audience for a briefly lived crowd surf before (correct me if I am wrong) Punchy yanks her back down and she heads to the stage. I guess Mikel is not the only crazy person in this band. Thank goodness for that because it makes for great, nerve-wracking entertainment. Shortly after, Anna climbs onto Noah’s shoulders and jams out while the rest of the band is keeping an eye on daredevil Mike, who is probably 20-30 feet above stage level now. Once the song concludes, Anna falls fearlessly backwards into Punchy’s arms, and Mikel descends from the sky to start the next song. If I were in this audience I would certainly be thinking, “These people are FREAKING AWESOME!” because that is what I still think re-watching the video two years later.

2. Rita Featuring the Drowning Men, Filmed by Julie in Boston

This is one of my favorite Airborne videos. They all look like they are having such a great time despite the tragedy that had happened the night before. As the lead singer of The Drowning Men states in the beginning of the video, the opening act’s van had been hit by a drunk driver traveling on the interstate, and consequently their vehicle was trashed. Thankfully, the crash left the band members and their equipment with no permanent damage. He goes on to say that the Airborne Toxic crew turned their bus around, and put the band and all their equipment on their tour bus. That must have been some crowded sleeping quarters! The level of companionship in this epic moment makes me smile every time.

1. Missy Medley, Filmed by Jessica in Sacramento

There really is nothing to say about this one except… God, I love this band. I’ll just let the videos speak for themselves!

Nicole is a university student majoring in Chemistry, but loves listening to music. She was introduced to TATE by one of her good college friends, and has attended her first Airborne concert recently. Now she is patiently waiting for them to hit the road again on another U.S. tour!

Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event Photo by TATE fan Anneke Peeters

Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event
Photo by TATE fan Anneke Peeters

By Keith

Can you imagine the Rolling Stones gigging “My Way” in dress suits?


Then consider Bob Dylan in the sixties. A folk hero of the sixties generation in the UK after his initial two albums, the audience for his upcoming London gig was ready and hungry for a night of acoustic guitar protest anthems. But he turned up with a rock band for a heavy gig, which was not what his fans had bought into. He was jeered off the stage.

Change is inevitable, and it usually evolves in a natural way. Transform yourself too quickly, and you leave your fans behind.

I’m sure some fans would go home happy from a show if their favourite group had played their favourite song on live repeat all night (maybe an idea for an April Fools Day gig.) Myself, I was delighted to hear some old stuff at my one and only show by The Airborne Toxic Event, even though the original arrangements of most of their songs have been and will be changed several times over.

However, would I like TATE to end right now and just leave us with what is on the table?

Good grief, no.

I am excited by the thought of not only new songs and albums, but also whatever different direction they may take to continuously improve their music. Any progression might even leave me behind for a little while, but any group worth following will and has to change, usually for the better.

The alternative is to grow stale, playing continuous gigs with similar setlists. The answer is to write new material and try out different arrangements during soundchecks and in their down time.

Hopefully that has been the case, because the anticipation on this end has never been greater.

KeithKeith is a self-taught artist from Ireland. He is CEO of a leading Irish company producing print products from over 200 of his watercolors depicting scenes all over Ireland. He has exhibited at The RHA Dublin; his paintings are in worldwide collections, including that of an Irish Prime Minister. Watercolors & oils now compete for his time alongside the exciting new age of digital painting. Many of the youthful new bands Keith saw live in the sixties are now worldwide headline acts. The honest raw emotion he felt then, he feels now with The Airborne Toxic Event.

By Glen

On September 18, 2013, The Airborne Toxic Event returned to Chicago for a triumphant show before their adoring masses at The Vic. Prior to the main event, however, the band had other business to attend to: the taping of an appearance on JBTV, which has previously hosted many of the the biggest names in modern rock history early in their careers for intimate performances and revealing interviews.

JBTV recently made the 5-song set and 20-minute interview available through Archlive, a subscription-based online TV service. A monthly subscription to the JBTV channel costs $3.99/month, which gets you access not just to the TATE performance, but all the videos in the JBTV library. Though you may or may not want to keep your subscription going indefinitely, it is certainly well worth paying for one month to indulge in another excellent performance by Airborne.

Daren Taylor kicks off the proceedings with a familiar drumbeat before Anna Bulbrook plinks the unmistakable keyboard intro to “Changing.” As Steven Chen rings out the opening guitar riff, the small, reserved crowd bobs along respectfully – a pose they would maintain throughout the show. As the front row sings along in unison with vocalist Mikel Jollett, it’s clear that the room is filled with fans. Soon, they’re joining the entire band – save Daren – in an enthusiastic clap-along.

As Mikel switches guitars and takes a moment to tune up for the second song, Daren takes it upon himself to entertain the crowd by putting his full range on display – first tapping out a quiet, jazzy number on the symbols, then pounding out a couple of brief but energetic sequences. Finally, the singer is ready to introduce the band’s newest song, “Hell and Back.” This JBTV broadcast represents the first pro-shot, non-acoustic live performance of the track, and it doesn’t disappoint, with most of the band stepping outside their usual comfort zones: Steven hammering away on an additional drum at the front of the stage, bassist Noah Harmon taking a spin on keys, and Daren trying a hip hop beat on for size.

After Mikel gets a few expletives out of his system (wrongly noting that he doesn’t think they’re recording his between-songs banter), Anna steps into the spotlight, and leads out with the melancholy viola notes that signal the band’s biggest hit to date, “Sometime Around Midnight.” As usual, it’s note perfect, with all five band members completely enveloped in their performance. It’s unusual to see a crowd remaining so stationary as the music swells to its crescendo, but perhaps that’s just the nature of a made-for-TV special like this.

“Timeless,” the lead single off the band’s most recent album, follows, the lone ballad on this day. The song is enthusiastically received, and I’m reminded how much I prefer the slightly-less-than-perfect live rendition to the more polished album version. The way that Mikel, Steven and Noah attack their instruments during the guitar breakdown late in the song breathes a ferocity into the tune that belies its sentimental lyrics, while also reflecting the real agony of loss.

The too-short set comes to a close with fan favorite, “All I Ever Wanted,” a piece that shows off each band member at their very best. It works perfectly as a finale, with the music building to a dramatic conclusion that only leaves the audience wanting more.

After a slightly awkward start to the interview portion of the broadcast, in which the band members are presented with JBTV stickers, both TATE and interviewer Lauren O’Neil hit their stride. As is typical of an Airborne Q&A, it can be difficult to discern at times whether they’re being serious or funny – when in doubt, I assume they’re jesting, particularly when they’re running down the names of their instruments (Mikel’s Gretsch: Sweetheart; Anna’s viola: Louanne; Daren’s drumkit: Bertha; Noah’s bass: Samuel L. Jackson; Steven’s guitar: Steve). There’s also a reference to a picture of a naked yoga guy who looks just like Steven, reportedly stuck to the underside of Steven’s amp.

After Daren denies that his ever-present bowler hat is an homage to Breaking Bad‘s Heisenberg, the band provides some insight into the Silver Lake music scene from whence they sprung, as well as the thought processes behind the popular Bombastic video series. “The idea was to redo the songs in a totally different context… it’s cool to hear how the songs change and they kind of take on their own life,” Steven explains. “The best part is to challenge ourselves and see what’s going to mess us up the most.” As much as playing in a moving vehicle posed some difficulties, the toughest shoot was for “It Doesn’t Mean a Thing” – an unsuccessful attempt at wrangling about 50 kittens into a video shoot, involving a “kitten whisperer” who was clearly in over her head.

While it’s disappointing that this showcase is only available via subscription, no fan of The Airborne Toxic Event will want to miss this. It is a shame that it can’t be enjoyed indefinitely without paying an ongoing fee, but I’d encourage you to check it out once, at least. Click here to view the video.

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.