Posts Tagged ‘Echo Park’

Anna Bulbrook bends over backwards, with a little help from Adrian Rodriguez, to give Airborne fans a great show. Photo by Ryan Tuttle.

Anna Bulbrook bends over backwards, with a little help from Adrian Rodriguez, to give Airborne fans a great show. Photo by Ryan Tuttle.

By Glen

As winter gives way to spring, there is still nary a peep out of Camp Airborne Toxic Event. But six weeks between Toxicity updates seems like just about enough, so let’s see what we can scrounge up.

Not So Epic

There actually is one legit piece of Airborne news – or non-news, as it were. A recent visit to the website of Epic Records led to the discovery that The Airborne Toxic Event is no longer anywhere to be found on the website. Not only are they absent from Epic’s artist listing, but a search for the band’s name yields zero results anywhere on the site.

One can only conclude that, if and when The Airborne Toxic Event releases another record, it will not be under the Epic banner. After the wildly popular, self-released Songs of God and Whiskey, not to mention the smash success of their independently released debut album, one wonders whether the band would be better off just going it alone next time around. Time will tell.

Wrong is Right

In our last Toxicity, way back when we were still munching on Valentine’s candy, we shared a couple live TATE videos aired on PromoWest Live. An alert reader uncovered the fact that there was another TATE video hiding away in their archives. Jump to 14:25 for “Wrong.”

Dope Machines

Mikel Jollett has a love/hate relationship with mobile devices. On the ‘pro’ side, jumping into the crowd and stealing someone’s phone for a smirking selfie has become a staple of “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?” And he’s intrigued enough by the omnipresent technology to have based an entire album around it.

On the other hand, he has made it known in no uncertain terms that he would prefer the audience to keep the damn things in their pockets and experience the performance through their eyeballs rather than through a tiny rectangular screen. And he has a point. In my early days of TATE gigdom, I couldn’t seem to stop myself from trying to capture every moment for posterity, even though 98% of my photos turned out to be complete and utter crap. Lately, I’ve become more disciplined about it. I usually pre-select a couple of songs in which I’ll snap a few photos to use in my TIN reviews, and apart from that I try to leave it alone.

Vocativ recently printed a thought provoking piece considering both sides of this issue. They note that some artists are taking matters into their own hands to force their fans to live in the moment.

Over and over, artists cite the disconnect phones create. “It seems stupid to have something happening in front of you and look at it on a screen that’s smaller than the size of a cigarette packet,” the Guardian quoted Pulp singer Jarvis Cocker as saying. “If anything, it undermines the experience because it seemed like a really good moment, and now I can see it were crap. It’s like wedding videos.”

In April of 2013, art-rock trio the Yeah Yeah Yeahs made headlines when they posted a flyer at a Webster Hall show that asked fans, “Please do not watch the show through a screen on your smart device/camera. Put that shit away as a courtesy to the person behind you and to Nick, Karen and Brian.”

According to Spin, Karen O reiterated the message when, after the second song, she told fans to snap away for the next couple of minutes, then “put those motherfuckers away.” The crowd mostly complied.

Other artists demand no phone use, and include threat of removal if the request isn’t heeded. That was the case on a recent Prince tour, when ticket buyers were reportedly warned by venues in Australia and New Zealand in advance via email that “The use of mobile phones will not be permitted during the show,” according to the Mercury News. “Any person using a mobile phone or camera/video device will be identified by security and asked to leave the venue immediately.”

The Eagles banned cellphones during a 2014 tour, employing security guards to shine flashlights at offenders, issue warnings, and then throw them out. Don Henley recently applauded Mumford & Sons decision to follow suit, saying “the madness, the rudeness, the thoughtlessness… must stop. Constantly looking at the world through a viewfinder is not seeing. Listening to live music while recording on a ‘smartphone’ (or texting every 5 seconds) is not hearing. Experiencing life second-hand is not living. Be here now.”

Some artists simply deal with the nuisance on a case-by-case basis. Neil Young angrily doused two women with water in 2012 because they wouldn’t quit texting during a show even after he gave them the stink eye. In April of 2014, Peter Frampton reportedly scolded two fans in Carmel, Indiana, who arrived late to front-row seats, having missed or ignoring the warning prior to the concert beginning that flash photography wasn’t allowed. They took loads of pictures; Frampton asked them to stop. When they didn’t, he asked them to let him see the pictures, and when the fan handed Frampton his phone, he flung it across stage.

On the other end of the spectrum are these examples:

Brad Paisley encourages fan cellphones at his shows, going into the audience to sing into them, or take selfies that show up on big screens, telling Rolling Stone, “I want to see it. Get a good one. Get good audio if you can. Your videos [are] a memory, something you can have, and what an amazing experience. Yeah, you see people looking at the concert through their phone. But that’s what they want to do. And what YouTube video of a concert ever made you not go?”

Taylor Swift said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in 2014 that the use of cellphones, and therefore the widely available recordings of her shows, setlists and secret guests every night, was actually the impetus for changing things up every night. “In the YouTube generation we live in, I walked out onstage every night of my stadium tour last year knowing almost every fan had already seen the show online,” she wrote.

“To continue to show them something they had never seen before, I brought out dozens of special guest performers to sing their hits with me. My generation was raised being able to flip channels if we got bored, and we read the last page of the book when we got impatient. We want to be caught off guard, delighted, left in awe. I hope the next generation’s artists will continue to think of inventive ways of keeping their audiences on their toes, as challenging as that might be.”

What’s your take? Would you like to see The Airborne Toxic Event put some regulations in place, or just leave it up to the fans to experience the show as they see fit?

Toxic Gold to the Max!

If you’re currently experiencing Airborne Toxic Withdrawal (and let’s face it: if you’re reading Toxicity during the dark days of the band’s hiatus, it’s safe to assume you are), Murray Jay Siskind has the cure for what ails you. The YouTuber has become a must-follow for Airborne fans, unearthing one rare gem after another.

A couple years ago we reviewed an Airborne acoustic recording from Montreal that is only available for purchase from iTunes Canada. Thanks to MJS, those of you outside our fair country can now lay ears on it. While you listen, enjoy a bevy of TATE trivia and photos. (And watch for the shout out to TIN!)

For years I’ve been beating the drum for the full length concert video Live from Koko, which features, among other things, the world premiere performance of “All I Ever Wanted.” Now, courtesy of MJS, here’s the only professional recording of the ultra rare “Echo Park.”

And another oldie-but-goodie – one that I’m still surprised didn’t make the cut for Songs of God and Whiskey: “Days of Wine and Poses.”

Last but not least, here’s a double shot of “Papillon” and “Gasoline” from Paris, circa 2009.

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 of The Airborne Toxic Event: Glasgow Garage, 2012. Photo by TATE fan Jennifer McInnis.

Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event: Glasgow Garage, 2012. Photo by TATE fan Jennifer McInnis.

By Glen

Ed. Note: Each Tuesday for five weeks, we’re 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. See last week’s post for 10 Highlights We Can’t Wait For at the Fillmore.

As a parent, I’ve noticed a disheartening phenomenon. It seems like the more I give my kids, the more they want.

You’d think they’d be grateful for what we work so hard to provide for them. And sometimes they are – for a few hours, or a day, or even a week. But inevitably there comes a day when they come home from school and tell me how their friend’s _______ is so much better than theirs, patiently explaining exactly why they need more.*

The Airborne Toxic Event can relate.

You see, no sooner did they announce their intention to play their three studio albums in full on consecutive nights in San Francisco than fans began to clamor for the b-sides, rarities and deep cuts that we desperately hope they’ll add to the agenda.

You’d think we’d be grateful for what the band is working so hard to give us: by my count, 11 rarely-to-almost-never played tracks from their previous albums, with the tantalizing promise of new tunes to boot. Add in the fact that new bassist Adrian Rodriguez has to familiarize himself with all the band’s material, new and old, and that some favorites will have to be rearranged in light of Noah Harmon’s departure from the group, and it’s clear that these five musicians have bitten off a lot as it is.

But, we fans are greedy that way. What’s better than 11 songs we never get to hear? How about 12, or 15, or 20?

In all seriousness, it would not surprise me or disappoint me in the least if the remainder of the set each night is filled out with familiar standards, and nary a b-side is heard. Any way you slice it, this is going to be a dream come true for any TATE fan.

But just for one day, I’m putting on my selfish brat hat and pondering my wish list. With apologies to “The Winning Side” and “Duet,” here are five songs I’d kill to see for the first time at The Fillmore.

5. A Letter to Georgia

“A Letter to Georgia” was The Airborne Toxic Event’s first true ballad – and the bar against which every subsequent one measures itself. Elegant and poetic, “Georgia” is an understated, underplayed fan favorite that occupies many Airborne enthusiasts’ live performance bucket lists.

4. Echo Park

If the band truly intends to plumb the depths of their history, they could take it a step further by pulling out this never-released fan favorite. Last played in 2012 at the legendary Wounded Warrior Benefit at the Troubador, “Echo Park,” would be a nod to the many long-time TATE fans making the pilgrimage to San Francisco – and an eye-opening revelation to newer fans who may not be familiar with it.

3. Wrong/My Childish Bride

“Wrong” and “My Childish Bride” are stand-ins for whatever new music the band intends to bestow upon us at The Fillmore. The previously performed “Dope Machines” and “California” would seem to be shoe-ins, but with a new album looming this fall, it seems safe to assume that more tracks will be unveiled in San Francisco. The band confirmed “Wrong” as a song title for Album 4 in a recent interview, while “My Childish Bride” was referred to by Mikel in an extended interview with Darren Rose Radio.

2. This Losing

Musically, “This Losing” is one of The Airborne Toxic Event’s most arresting compositions. And though it has been played more than most of their b-sides, I’ve yet to be in the right place at the right time to catch it. I’m not sure I will be this time, either, as it would require a major reworking without Noah, who teamed with Anna Bulbrook to create the signature symphony-in-the-middle-of-a-rock-song moment that makes this number such a standout.

1. The Way Home

I’ve written elsewhere about how much this song means to me personally: more than any other in the Airborne catalog, to put it plainly. I’m not expecting this never-before-played b-side to crack the setlist on Such Hot Blood night… but if it does, there will be at least one wildly ecstatic TATE fan in the house.

*Disclaimer: My kids are actually pretty awesome, and not at all as ungrateful as I’ve portrayed them here (usually). But you know… sometimes a writer’s gotta make a point.

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.

Anna Bulbrook of The Airborne Toxic Event, circa 2011 Photo by Glen Hoos

Anna Bulbrook of The Airborne Toxic Event
Photo by Glen Hoos, 2011

By Adi

You can say, okay, what are you trying to get across? And the best thing you can do is just – ‘everyone, shut the fuck up’ and we’ll play the record. Because if we could describe it, we wouldn’t have had to make it. (Mikel Jollett, FUSE TV interview, January 2013)

I’ll be honest – I started this post because I really wanted to talk about Tokyo Radio. Not how it relates to me, because while everyone has their own reasons for listening to The Airborne Toxic Event, it all comes down to the same thing – we connect with the tracks. “The most interesting things that ever happened in music, happen between the ears of somebody listening to their favorite song,” Mikel has said more than once. “The ideas that it conjures, the emotion that it conjures. It’s the sense of relevance and communication, kindred spirits. The rest is just bullshit.” Pretty spot on. There’s no point in trying to convince someone of a song’s brilliance when they just don’t connect with it. Having said that, I do believe that there are a handful of Airborne songs that are pretty underrated. So consider this a public service announcement to give the following songs another spin. They’re worth it.

1. Tokyo Radio

Described by Mikel as a song about “being lost on tour,” “Tokyo Radio” feels like a cry from beginning to end. The opening guitar and keys are roughly interrupted by abrupt staccato bangs on the drums, giving the impression of a heart struggling to beat before bleeding out all over the song. Everything about the track feels raw and exposed, something that’s heard best in Mikel’s slightly distorted vocals. “I’m sorry, I haven’t slept in weeks. It’s a waking dream at best, I could use a little less.” There’s a plea in there, followed by a quiet resignation which only adds to the punch-in-the-gut feeling that the song provokes: “I stare at the ground and tune my strings. We’ve got 3 days to the show, I’ve got nowhere else to go.”

It’s not the only Airborne track dealing with the chaos of being on tour. “Numb” famously covered the rapid-fire montage set to music experience of continuous shows and waking up hung-over to the thumping beat of sound checks. But “Tokyo Radio” takes this tour-narrative a step further: there’s a different desolation woven through the words, reminiscent of “Wishing Well” (“You screamed, you cried, you thought suicide was an alibi”) and “Heaven Is A Map” (“If heaven is just a long road home, tell me it’s true – I’ll go too”).  It speaks about being pushed beyond, needing to give more all the time and hitting that moment where you just can’t take it anymore: “I was thinking of jumping from my window last night – I’ve got one more year to live, I’ve got nothing left to give.” Through the years, the song has only made a few rare appearances on stage; Mikel’s and Steven’s guitars both wailing, while Noah starts on synth then switches to bass. “Tokyo Radio” is a personal favorite of mine, and a track best experienced live, or with a good set of headphones.

2. The Winning Side

From the moment the song kicks off it’s a non-stop sprint in more than one way. “The Winning Side” probably holds the title for most topics touched upon in an Airborne song – as Mikel himself said, “[T]his song is about a lot of things.” One of those things stands out in particular – the references to the armed forces, making it impossible not to relate the song to the band’s charity work with The Wounded Warrior Project (for which they raised $25.000 in one night with a benefit concert) and the song “The Kids Are Ready To Die” from their second album. “It’s not about politics or whether you’re left or right,” Mikel has said many times during concerts and promo appearances. “It’s important as Americans to take care of your boys when they come home from war. It’s important that Americans question their leaders.”

“He says, the sky falls and your duty calls – man, it takes some balls to be so obscene,” does precisely that, as the song was written and recorded during the Bush administration. But that’s not the sole focus of the track – it skips through personal regrets, the mortality of the self and of loved ones, and even what appears to be a nod to Mikel’s years in the corporate world. “Like every day is just a loss, spent arguing with your boss over a coffee break – well, the same is true for me, I mean one more indignity and I’m going to break,” he snaps, before mentioning all the “white noise and the static” on the screens, which effortlessly pulls in the band’s name origins from the novel by Don DeLilo. The lyrics go on and on, backed up by keys, guitars, bass and drum in a rising crescendo – but just as captivating is a stripped down version of the song at Fingerprints, Long Beach, CA in 2008. Impulsively deciding to honor a request from the audience, the band takes a moment to prepare while Anna tells the crowd, “This is pretty much how we arrange all of our acoustic songs.” Album release or acoustic performance – both versions do full justice to the song.

3. The Girls in Their Summer Dresses

It’s impossible to overlook the band’s literary influences. Mikel, in particular, has been vocal about his favorite authors – Milan Kundera, Philip Roth and F. Scott Fitzgerald. He credits the latter two with having “shared a desire to be unflinching in the face of terrible things. I really admire them for that.” Drawing inspiration and its title from Irwin Shaw’s short story, “The Girls in Their Summer Dresses” reframes the story’s argument between a man and his wife when she confronts him with his wandering eye. “Are you mad again? If you like, I’ll take it back. They’re just your feelings, I wasn’t looking at her ass,” Mikel sings, a line that, without fail, provides a playful moment onstage with Anna.

As can be heard in several Airborne songs, there is a striking contrast between the events happening in the lyrics versus the music. The latter is upbeat and almost cheerful, befitting the first few lines of the song with their “golden rays of sunlight on the subway tracks,” rather than the actual fight. But that blend is precisely what makes the song interesting. You’re not getting narrowly framed tidbits of predictable music, but a layered track – both lyrically as well as musically – that has a back story. Daren’s cymbals punctuate the “oh no, no, no” chants before the band heads into the final verse – the man’s defense as he argues that he was only honestly answering his wife’s question on why he keeps looking at the girls. Do you need to know the original story in order to like the song? Not really. But if you like your fair share of band trivia or are interested in writing, it’s interesting to discover how a classic Irwin Shaw story became an Airborne song.

4. I Don’t Want To Be On TV

One thing the band has always been quick to point out is that their roots are firmly in East LA – this is not a glossy La La Land band. But the song I Don’t Want To Be On TV seems to give a nod to that ‘other LA,’ which eventually landed the song a spot on the 2009 NCIS: Official TV Soundtrack. The track kicks off with, “It’s so quiet in here tonight, she looks skinny in the light, in her underwear her face so fair, she’s higher than a kite,” accompanied by a catchy bass riff that will remain stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

Call it social commentary on the city, or perhaps experience that has been lived through. Either way, “I Don’t Want To Be On TV” stands out from much of the Airborne repertoire. There is the song structure that employs a simple “Oh no oh, I don’t want to be on TV” for a chorus – but it’s also one of a very few (if not the only) non-album tracks that’s musically more captivating than the lyrics. An early performance of the song in 2007 features the presence of TV screens onstage showing mere DeLilo’s static; fans will remember this from the early stage setups, which have been described by the band as starting out as an art project. The screens aren’t part of their stage nowadays, but they hold their charm as the performance offers a glimpse of the band’s beginnings in their old (East LA, represent!) neighborhood. Not your ‘typical’ Airborne song – if there even is such a thing – but worth checking out if you’re not familiar with it, or haven’t listened in awhile.

5. Echo Park

Unlike the other songs listed here, “Echo Park” was never officially released and has only been played during live shows. The title points to the neighborhood where the band started out in 2007, playing at small venues such as the Echo and the fabled residency at Spaceland. What makes the song so catchy is the confessional tone Mikel strikes, as if sharing the story over a warm whiskey with a friend.  This is a characteristic found on several debut album tracks; self-aware, but tongue in cheek with a nod to how messed up things were. “Fuck, I gotta get my head together, just give me some time to catch my breath,” Mikel starts off, then adding “my head is just a wreck,” reminiscent of the closing lines of “Papillon” (“I’d be alright I guess, if I wasn’t such a mess”).

Heavy on the guitars, the song talks about a girl with whom things did not work out – yet he’s unable to get her off his mind. “The thing feels like a waste of breath, like some ashes from a cigarette you’ve already smoked,” he sings, as frustration swells his voice from an almost conversational tone to a screamed “I choked, I choked!” As with many other songs, Anna and Noah are on board to provide additional vocals, backing up Mikel who trails off into a little rant as he closes the song, wondering “what you’re doing, where you are, who you’re with.” It’s a shame that there isn’t an official recording of the song, but when watching the live performance, it strikes you that maybe that’s exactly how it should be – sweat and curses included – instead of bottled up and neatly contained.

Get the Music:

Tokyo Radio (Bonus Track) – All At Once (Deluxe Edition)
The Winning Side (Bonus Track) – The Airborne Toxic Event (Deluxe Edition)
The Girls In Their Summer Dresses (Bonus Track) – The Airborne Toxic Event (Deluxe Edition)
I Don’t Want to Be On TV – NCIS (The Official TV Soundtrack)

AdindaAdi lives somewhere in between Amsterdam and Detroit, touting Missy as an example for ‘trying to figure out what you’re gonna do with your life.’ She travels around the world as she writes, designs and works for non-profit organizations while plotting her next move.

Anna Bulbrook of The Airborne Toxic Event, KOKO, London, 2009By Glen

The Airborne Toxic Event loves to dabble in diverse musical styles. Any attempt to describe their sound requires some sort of an amalgamation of indie rock, punk and folk, with frequent orchestral flourish.

This eclectic mix manifests itself in the band’s live shows. Most commonly, TATE can be found sweating their guts out, climbing balconies, crowd surfing and blowing the roof off clubs from here to Kalamazoo.

But every once in awhile, they do something a little different, a little grander, filling out their sound with guests like The Calder Quartet – and even, upon occasion, a full orchestra. On these nights, Airborne is a little more restrained, trading reckless abandon for extra attention to musical craftsmanship.

Two very different experiences, both exhilarating, and impossible to choose between.

Three years ago, the band released All I Ever Wanted, a feature-length film and live album showcasing the latter type of show: a virtuoso performance with the Calders and a variety of other special guests. And of course, TATE fans have eaten it up.

But, ever greedy for more material to satiate our boundless appetite for this band, we’ve also longed for a DVD and/or live album that captures those sweaty club shows to which we’ve become addicted: The Airborne Toxic Event in full-on rock mode.

Little do many fans know, it’s already been released.

This past summer, TATE forum member javier unearthed a gem, hidden away in plain sight. NME presents Does This Mean You’re Moving On: The Airborne Toxic Event Live at Koko, London is a complete TATE show circa 2009, with DVD-quality production. But it’s not available on DVD or Blu-Ray, and as far as I know, the release has never been announced by the band.

Currently, the video can only be purchased digitally through Google Play for Android, or through the subscription-based Qello music app ($5 per month). You can see it for free by signing up for a one-week Qello trial, though it won’t be easy to give up your subscription after seeing this show, because it’s exactly what we’ve wanted out of a future DVD release, save perhaps for the fact that the most recent two albums are of course not represented in this early gig. Nonetheless, it’s an incredible capsule of TATE’s early days, complete with a genuine moment of Airborne history.

With a running time of an hour and a quarter, the 15-song set incorporates the entire debut album, early versions of a couple more recent fan favorites, and one highlight in particular: a song that long-time TATE fans have always wished to hear at this level of recording quality.

The Airborne Toxic Event takes the stage at KOKO, LondonAs the band takes the stage, suited in black as was typical of that era, a few things immediately jump out. Singer Mikel Jollett’s beloved Gretsch is nowhere to be seen. Noah Harmon’s bass is red and shiny, the paint just beginning to wear in a couple spots. And the crowd is an impressive size (and impressively engaged) for a band so young in their career – a factor no doubt fueled by their earlier 30 shows in 30 days UK tour.

The band kicks into gear with a two-minute jam that starts slowly and ramps up in intensity before suddenly dropping off. Mikel introduces the opening number: “This is a song about dying young.” And then we’re off with This is Nowhere.

Now, it’s possible that I may be biased towards this song, but seeing it here, it’s a shame that this number has completely fallen off the map the past two tours. The energy is tremendous, and it seems worthy of at least the occasional appearance, a la Papillon – which just so happens to be the next song in the set, Mikel pushing his voice into crazed territory. Tough to believe him when he barks, “Oh yeah, I’ll be just fine!” Such a mess indeed – but a compelling mess.

Gasoline is next, with Mikel concerned to let everyone know that it’s a true story – “they’re all fuckin’ true stories.” The familiar dueling solos from Steven Chen and Anna Bulbrook are present already, though Anna’s using some distortion on the viola, as per the album version, as opposed to the unfiltered rendition she’s favored more recently. Much like on the current tour, Gasoline gives way to Happiness is Overrated, notable for the fact that the intro is not drawn out or extended in any way.

And then we have a real treat, as the band launches into Echo Park with its thumping bass intro, similar to Something New. Echo has long been the great white whale for diehard fans, having received many live airings in the early days, but never having been released in any format. To this day, whenever any of the band members submit to an online Q&A, you can always count on some old time fan asking if this tune will ever receive an official release. So it’s wonderful to see Echo Park included here – the first clean, pro quality recording available. Truly, it’s worth the price of the video just to get your hands on this beauty.

Noah Harmon and Anna Bulbrook of The Airborne Toxic Event perform This LosingSomething rare is followed by Something New, with the familiar extended bass opening, and then we’re right into This Losing. The more I see it, the more convinced I become that this track deserves more love. I’ve not yet had the privilege of seeing it live, but for my money, it’s a top 10 live TATE song. Anna and Noah’s mini-concerto two thirds of the way in, with Anna on viola and Noah taking bow to bass guitar, is a shiver moment.

It’s surprising to see Sometime Around Midnight turn up so early in the set, but it’s no less climactic despite coming at the show’s midpoint. The crowd appears on the verge of lifting right off the ground and going into orbit. And a lyrical twist: that famous white dress is now black, for one night at least.

If there’s anything that can compete with Echo Park as the treasure of this collection, it comes hot on the heels of Midnight: the world premiere of a new song called All I Ever Wanted, Mikel ingratiating himself to the crowd by saying they thought it only fitting to debut the song in London.

All I Ever Wanted as it exists today is, among other things, a showcase for Anna, whose viola lends the track so much texture and drama. However, in this debut version, she takes a back seat, the viola present but very much on the periphery. Instead, the guitars are at the forefront, with Mikel providing the melody line between the first and second verses. The dramatic build-up prior to the last stanza and chorus is likewise carried by Mikel and Steven on the guitar, with the final notes having a mild punk feel to them.

There are also a few minor lyrical changes. Instead of the wires humming, it’s sprinklers. Rather than pretending she can’t hear him, he just hopes she can’t. In place of the virgin bride referenced in the All I Ever Wanted film version (and left out entirely on the All At Once rendition), we have a pristine girl. And as the song reaches its dramatic conclusion, we’re left with a final haunting line: “We’re both dying.” Overall, it’s a spectacular rendering, and an undeniable treat to bear witness to this moment in Airborne history.

The Airborne Toxic Event, KOKO, LondonFollowing a cover of Goodbye Horses that sees the stage bathed in green and a massive mirrorball setting the crowd alight comes another new song: A Letter to Georgia. Mikel warns that “it’s kind of a quiet song… We don’t do a lot of those.” With the band now having a fine collection of tender ballads under its belt (Duet, All For a Woman, Graveyard, Timeless, The Fifth Day, Elizabeth, Dublin and more), it’s easy to forget that this was new ground for a band whose debut album was balls-to-the-wall rock ‘n’ roll.

The crowd may not have expected it, but they can’t help but fall under its spell. Anna’s delicate plucking of strings sets the tone, with the whine of bow on bass adding further color to an arrangement that starts out more sparse than the version that would eventually be released on All I Ever Wanted. The second half of the song, however, sees Steven’s chiming guitar take on a prominent role, giving the end of the song a harder edge than we’ve become accustomed to. A new fan favorite is born.

As the main set turns toward the finish line, the opening and closing songs from the debut album find a home side by side. Wishing Well – “the first song we ever played” – leads into Innocence, with the full Heaven is a Map intro. Noah pulls out the bow for a fourth time, while Steven takes his first turn on the keys (something we see only twice in this show) and later leads a fierce mass clap-along. As the song climaxes, it seems to send the entire venue into a trance-like state: crowd bouncing as one; musicians bent over, heads bowed, playing with abandon; all lost in the music. Only after the last note dies out do you realize how exhausted you are – in the best possible sense.

Drummer Daren Taylor of The Airborne Toxic EventThe encore arrives quickly, with drummer Daren Taylor offering up a “Helloooo London!” and exhorting the crowd to join in a rhythmic clap, leading into his blistering drum solo. Mikel leaves his guitar to the side for the first and only time, and seems awed by the fervent crowd. He climbs a speaker as Steven leans into the blistering riff of Does This Mean You’re Moving On? Before long, Mikel has the crowd jumping around like “a bunch of fuckin’ monkeys,” the roof having officially blown off.

The fans aren’t ready for it to end, but Mikel laughs, claiming that with only one album to draw from, they only know one more song. But of course that’s not true, as tonight’s Missy medley includes snatches of The Smiths’ Ask and Panic. Noah thrills with his customary bass solo, and then Mikel handles the introductions. On this night, he expands it to include the audience, pointing out a number of fans who caught his eye over the course of the show, and summing things up with a statement that now seems prescient:

“This is London.”

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

By Glen

Steven Chen and Anna Bulbrook of The Airborne Toxic Event perform in Costa Mesa, CA. Photo taken by TATE fan Ryan Macchione.

Steven Chen and Anna Bulbrook of The Airborne Toxic Event perform in Costa Mesa, CA. Photo taken by TATE fan Ryan Macchione.

As the band hits the road for a full slate of fall dates, this week’s Toxicity brings you news of TATE shows old and new.

The New: Closing the Books on Costa Mesa

The Airborne Toxic Event’s 903rd show, backed by the Pacific Symphony in Costa Mesa, CA, was by all accounts one to remember. The superlatives have been flowing since the moment they took their final bows and exited the stage.

As we mentioned previously, there’s a different type of energy about the symphony shows, which are more about creating a truly memorable musical experience than shaking (and climbing to) the rafters. Not that the fans were any less into it, according to Cornel Bonca:

The mood was buoyant if not quite as raucous as usual (no “Gasoline,” no “Papillon” or the punk version of “Kids Are Ready to Die”), but when you’ve got a fleet of violins and flutes behind you, better to highlight Anna Bulbrook’s gorgeous viola solos or Noah Harmon’s stand-up bass-bowing. They underscored the essential seriousness of Jollett’s recent songwriting, whose basic theme is learning to face yourself when death hits you–say it with me again–“in the gut, in the back, in the face.” But don’t say it like Airborne fans last Friday night, scream it, polite classical orchestra behind you or not.

Blogger and TATE fan Marcie Taylor was particularly impressed by the diverse crowd of music lovers brought together through the unique marriage of rock band and orchestra:

It was amazing to see the audience at the show – it was all ages, young hipsters, families with their children, older people singing along to every song. Executive Producer Steve Beazley who I had met by accident next to the stage said, “I bet many people watching today have never even seen an orchestra!” To which I replied, “I bet many of the orchestra-fans here have never seen a rock concert either.”

The Airborne Toxic Event with the Pacific Symphony.  Photo taken by TATE fan Ryan Macchione.

The Airborne Toxic Event with the Pacific Symphony. Photo taken by TATE fan Ryan Macchione.

The show also proved to be a goldmine for photographers. Friend of This Is Nowhere Ryan Macchione (known as Ryebread in the TATE forum) managed to snap a number of tremendous shots of both the show and his backstage experience, despite the fact that he only had his pocket camera with him. (Ryan has generously given permission for This Is Nowhere to use his photos on the blog, so you’ll be seeing more of his work in the future.) Meanwhile, Ryan Tuttle’s Costa Mesa gallery is also a must-see.

The Old: Two Vintage Shows Appear Online

For several years now, all I ever wanted was another live TATE DVD, this one featuring a full-on rock show to go along with the more musically sophisticated/subdued All I Ever Wanted film. Well, we may not have that DVD yet, but we may just have the next best thing with the recent appearance of not one but two DVD-quality, vintage Airborne shows online. (Can we use the word vintage in relation to a band that’s only been around 5-odd years?)

First to surface were 10 YouTube videos that together comprise the band’s 2009 SWSW performance at the Bat Bar in Austin, TX. If you haven’t checked these out already, we’ve created a virtual gig for you over on the setlist page for that show. It’s the next best thing to being there.

Almost immediately on the heels of that came the discovery of the availability of Airborne’s 2009 Koko (London) performance. This 15-song set can be purchased through Google Play, and can also be seen through Qello, a subscription-based music video service. Qello can be tried free of charge for a week, so it’s possible to view the show at no charge and then cancel your subscription – but be warned: after seeing this video once, you may find it nigh impossible to give up. Aside from featuring the entire debut album, the concert features the world premiere of All I Ever Wanted and an early rendition of A Letter to Georgia, both with some different instrumentation and lyrics than later versions. It also boasts the only crystal clear audio/video of Echo Park that I’ve ever come across. This is must-see viewing for every hardcore TATE fan.

One Tasty Kit: Daren Taylor cookie drum kit

Now here’s something you don’t see every day. TATE superfan and aspiring writer Susan Prunty (whose work has been previously featured on This Is Nowhere) has been known from time to time to display her passion for the band in cookie form. In fact, I was once the lucky recipient of a delicious batch of Airborne guitar picks, which my kids promptly devoured. She’s previously frosted Noah’s bass (which sounds dirtier than it is), and this week she turned her attention to the drummer, creating a truly awesome 3D cookie replica of Daren’s drum kit.

I know our mothers always told us never to play with our food, but that’s gotta be awfully tempting…

YouTube Gold:

For this week’s YouTube Gold, we’ll go back to the new and the old shows discussed above. First, from Costa Mesa, Sometime Around Midnight:


And next, from SXSW 2009, This Losing:


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.