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.”
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.
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.