Posts Tagged ‘Gasoline’

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.

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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.

Take a Bow: Anna Bulbrook of The Airborne Toxic Event basks in the glow of another sterling performance in Dublin. Photo by Stephanie Webb.

Take a Bow: Anna Bulbrook of The Airborne Toxic Event basks in the glow of another sterling performance in Dublin. Photo by Stephanie Webb.

By Glen

The Airborne Toxic Event is settling into summer mode this week with headlining performances at a pair of radio station festivals. We’ve got plenty of coverage from the road, the latest Bombastic release and much more in the latest edition of Toxicity.

“The Fall of Rome” Gets the Bombastic Treatment

For the second week in a row, we were treated to a new entry in the ongoing Bombastic acoustic video series. The latest addition to the collection is “The Fall of Rome,” featuring Mikel Jollett all alone in front of a lazy river contemplating life, love, choices and regrets.

We don’t know how many of these videos will be forthcoming, but it seems likely that there will be more. If the pattern of the past two weeks holds, keep an eye on YouTube late Monday/early Tuesday.

In the meantime, enjoy this Songs of God and Whiskey fan favorite:

“Cocaine and Abel” and “A Certain Type of Girl” Back Story

Before they took the stage at last weekend’s Radio 104.5 Block Party, The Airborne Toxic Event chatted up the station’s Wendy Rollins. Entertaining as always, the gang joked around about blowing the speakers on a previous visit, the medicinal benefits of weed, and some fictional, quintessentially African reasons why their scheduled stop in South Africa last month was cancelled. But the highlight of the interview was the band sharing the history behind a couple of key tracks from Songs of God and Whiskey: “Cocaine and Abel” and “A Certain Type of Girl,” both of which date back to earlier days.

Mikel: There’s a song called “A Certain Type of Girl” that we did – remember when we did the All At Once, we had the extra days at Sunset Sound? We recorded it then. I think we recorded it once also in the first album…

Anna: I think a song called “Cocaine and Abel,” that was probably one of the first songs we ever played.

Mikel: Anna and I used to just jam at my apartment in Los Feliz, she and I and this other friend of ours, Hunter, and we would all just sit around and we would drink and we would play songs. And the first time she ever came over, we played this song called “Cocaine and Abel.” She was like, “Is this song about the Bible, but kind of about coke, and what the hell is this?”

Anna: I was like, “How much cocaine do you do, Mikel?”

Things pretty much devolved from there, as these off the cuff TATE interviews are wont to do…

Mikel Takes Over Dublin Radio 105.2FM

A few weeks ago when The Airborne Toxic Event was in Ireland, Mikel took over the airwaves of Dublin Radio 105.2FM, playing some of his favorite tunes new and old, including songs by Graham Parsons, The National, The Smiths, The War on Drugs and Talking Heads, along with TATE’s own “One Time Thing.” He also spoke at length in an interview that ran over 24 minutes. In the course of the conversation, he touched on everything from his days as a freelance writer, the week from hell and the genesis of the band’s name, musical and literary influences, through to the writing and recording of Dope Machines. He also reflected on the importance (or lack thereof) of lyrics and storytelling in music today:

I don’t know if lyrics matter. I hear that a lot in interviews, and I know our fans feel that way, but then I look around at what’s popular in popular music, and I – I’m not sure. I’m not sure. I think they used to matter, and maybe they will again. I’m not lamenting the past; I think you should burn the past. This isn’t what I’m saying. What I’m saying is, I think there’s something visceral about music, that a melody and a beat paired with a lyric is what makes something so powerful. And you can’t underestimate that melody, and you can’t underestimate that beat. And so, I think that lyrics can be very powerful, but then, complete nonsense can also be very powerful.

Towards the end of the interview, Mikel opened up on the inspiration for “One Time Thing.”

I’d have to start musically. That’s one of the few songs where I really started with the music. I started with that bass line and I was like, “This is cool!” It just had like an attitude from the first time I played it. And then I spent six weeks, I’m not joking, on that one track, building beats and then keyboard lines and then harmonies, and I spent some time with friends, like, “What about this harmony? What about that harmony?” The story of the song itself is something that happened to me, and it happened also to my friend, so the story’s an amalgamation of two different stories really. But I just like singing it, the [sings] “moonshine and cheap ass wine.” It’s just got this nastiness to it, you know? I feel like Prince when I sing it, or something. That’s why you’re in a rock band: you want to put on your mother’s dress and hang from the chandelier, or else why do it?

Finally, asked what the future holds, he had this to say:

I don’t know… I’m sure there will be more albums. But as far as the future – the future’s unwritten. Sometimes it feels as if we’re living in some kind of post-apocalyptic version of ourselves, because it just keeps going. There was a moment when people were like, “You made it, kid!” And that moment was like eight years ago, and since then we’ve played Coachella, we’ve played Lollapalooza, we’ve played all these big festivals, Oxygen and T in the Park, and then our own thing has really taken off. We played our biggest show ever at the Greek in Los Angeles four months ago…

Where they go from here, only time will tell.

In Review

This week’s roundup of TATE reviews includes another take on Dope Machines, plus coverage of the band’s last show in Europe and first appearance back on North American soil.

News.com.au provided a brief but positive overview of the new album, saying, “It retains their melodies, harmonies and rock hooks while recalling some new-wave acts of the ’80s such as Depeche Mode and Ultravox… There’s nothing wrong with doing what you do well, but TATE have proved willing to step outside their core competency.”

Stephanie Webb, who recently wrote about the TATE Glasgow show for This Is Nowhere, followed that up with a review and photos of the group’s Dublin performance, published on AltSounds:

Responses to the poppier, electronic Dope Machines had been mixed, with European fans mainly appearing to relate more to the sound and lyrics of Songs of God and Whiskey. This, the band not having toured Europe for 18 months, and the unknown factor of ‘new to Europe’ bassist Adrian Rodriguez meant that a lot of fans were sceptical of what to expect from the shows which, disappointingly, didn’t sell out.

The fans needn’t have worried, The Airborne Toxic Event’s live sound is reminiscent of their previous European shows – with Mikel strumming his Black Falcon and Steven Chen picking his White Falcon Gretsch. Guitars! Whilst many of us do love the electronic songs on Dope Machines, the live sound is so ‘right’ with guitars.

Returning to their home and native land, The Airborne Toxic Event marked the unofficial start of summer with their first festival of the year, the Radio 104.5 Block Party in Philadelphia. TATE’s scorching set, played before a largely young, well-lubricated crowd, was thoroughly chronicled by photographers, including Sipa Press, Radio 104.5 and This Is Nowhere featured photographer Ryan Macchione of MacPhotographers.

A Big Ass Pre-Party

If you’re just learning about this now, you’re a little too late to the (pre-) party, unfortunately, but The Airborne Toxic Event quietly squeezed an extra performance into their schedule last night, playing an acoustic set at the Big Ass Show 20th Anniversary Pre-Party in Salt Lake City. Admission was free to those who produced a ticket to the Show, which takes place today.

Charitable Auction Update

Thank you very much to all of you who have shown interest in our Airborne Fan Art Auction in support of the Down Syndrome Research Foundation. Most of the items have bids on them at this point, but there is still amazing value to be found – including half a dozen TATE mugs starting at just $15. Bidding for most items closes Sunday evening, though the MacPhotographers items that were added earlier this week will be up till Tuesday afternoon.

Toxic Gold:

This week we head back to Koko, London for a bird’s eye view of “Gasoline,” shot from the balcony during last month’s show.

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 of The Airborne Toxic Event performs in Vancouver, BC. Photo by TATE fan Elva, Jan. 25, 2014.

Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event performs in Vancouver, BC. Photo by TATE fan Elva, Jan. 25, 2014.

By Glen

The Airborne Toxic Event is back on the road for their first real stretch of touring since last October’s European jaunt. It’s short but sweet: this week and next, the TATE traveling circus visits 10 joints in 11 nights (a mini-tour that was teed up nicely by our friend Julie). That should give us plenty of fodder for the next few editions of Toxicity. But the flow hasn’t quite started in earnest yet (except of course for Wednesday’s crazy news), leaving us with an eclectic mix this week.

What’s in a Name?

What do Airborne fans do when there’s not much else to talk about, as has been the case for much of the past few months? They debate the band’s name.

Every TATE fan has been there: “What’s the name of that band you like again? Airborne something something? Something Toxic Whatchamacallit?” Julie recently sent us this amusing series of tweets that we can all relate to:

My friend Susan bravely wrote about it on her blog sometime ago. As a certified TATE fanatic, it took guts for her to publish her personal confession:

I’m going to say something that may send shock waves into the fandom world.  I don’t like the name The Airborne Toxic Event.  There, I said it.  For those of you shaking your head in agreement, feel free that you are not alone.  To the others, before you start in with your Mikel-depth justifications, let me ask you a question.  How many times have you had to explain it?  Or repeat it three times before the person understands you aren’t saying Rarebone Mocking Tents?  And truth be told, how often when someone asks you about the band and their music do you have to explain they look like this:

Not this:

As a professional marketer, I have to concede that the band’s moniker fails on some basic marketing criteria; namely, memorability. It rates low on the “ease of recall” scale.

But one of the things I most appreciate about the group is that their commitment to their art comes first, their commitment to their fans comes a very close second, and their desire to be marketable comes… somewhere very far down the list, if indeed it’s on the list at all.

And that’s why I think The Airborne Toxic Event is a fitting name for this band. More than any band name I can think of, it reflects the character of the quintet and communicates something about them – a number of somethings, in fact:

  • They are a band that challenges their listeners, not just with their name, but also with the depth of their lyrics, their (often) unconventional song structures and the seriousness of the subject matters they tackle.
  • They are a literary band, both in their inspiration and their output.
  • They are a band that continually circles back to the question, “How do I live in light of my inevitable death – and that of everyone I love?” – the very question that consumed Jack Gladney after his exposure to The Airborne Toxic Event in White Noise.

Mikel has acknowledged that The Airborne Toxic Event may not be the most well chosen name, if the goal is to have your name remembered. But I don’t think that’s ever been his chief concern – and that’s a big part of what makes TATE so incredibly compelling.

Duet

There was one notable, newish TATE goodie to surface on the interwebz this week. We’ve seen a number of recorded performances of “Hell and Back” over the past few months. But we’ve never seen it like this: just Mikel and Anna, an acoustic guitar and a viola. Taped back in October while the band was stomping through Europe, it’s a beauty:

Athens Invasion

With the band making its first appearance in Athens tonight (fitting on the day the Olympics begin – wait, whaddya mean “not that Athens?”), The Red & Black previewed the gig with a sit down with Mikel. Not a lot of new information in the article, unfortunately, but as always, the ever-quotable lead singer provides an interesting perspective, this time on the long, slow process of building a viable career in the music business: “Each little thing keeps inching you forward a little more. There’s never just one day where something happens. Maybe that happens for a handful of artists, but for the most part it’s a very long walk in a shallow circuit,” he explains.

Gasoline for Gamers

I was saving this for a rainy day, and it’s not raining here on the West Coast… but it is freezeing. So just for the hell of it, here’s a taste of “Gasoline” – Band Hero style.

Toxic Gold

And finally, since we’re being fun and frivolous this week, we’ll close with something else out of the ordinary: “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?” performed reggae-style. This actually happened.

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

Steven Chen of The Airborne Toxic Event Photo by TATE fan Ryan Macchione

Steven Chen of The Airborne Toxic Event
Photo by TATE fan Ryan Macchione

By Christina

Ed. Note: This is the fifth 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; Noah Harmon: Classical Rock God. Next week: Mikel’s Top 5 Lyrics.

Steven Chen (also known as The Chen or The Chenster), by all accounts, is probably the quietest of the Airborne bunch, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have presence on stage. This writer/journalist/musician started his musical career at the age of six when his parents forced him to learn the piano, so it made sense when Mikel asked Steven to join their band to play keys. But Steven insisted that he’d rather play guitar, and so with the final piece in place, The Airborne Toxic Event was formed.

Steven has always been a favorite of mine to watch onstage, so I was more than happy to contribute my Top 5 Steven “moments.”

5. The Steven “Hair Flicks”

Coined by my friend Stephanie, Steven’s “hair flicks” are probably his signature move. While Steven is usually reserved on stage, flashing brief smiles and head nods to the fans that call his name during the a show, he will come to the edge of the stage and lean out toward the crowd, head banging in time with Daren’s cymbal crashes.

I asked Steven once why he doesn’t interact more with the crowd, especially when they are trying to get his attention, and he said it “throws him off.” Ha! I don’t believe Steven could be so easily distracted!

4. Papillon

This song fell off the set list for most of the All At Once tour, so I was very pleased to see it resurrected for several shows this past year. That distinctive opening riff carries the entire track and drives the crowd into a frenzy. It often follows “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?” at the shows I’ve been to, and it just Doesn’t. Let. Up. One of my favorite songs live, in this video, there are a few good shots of Steven shredding.

3. Missy

The set closer for almost every live show the band has ever played, this song features The Chen on keyboard for most of the song, but he also bounces back to resume the guitar parts for the medleys and then back to the keyboard. I chose this particular video (it’s an entire set plus an interview, actually) because at the 44:58 mark, Steven’s mike is turned up too loud (or he’s too close), and you actually get to hear him sing! I personally think Steven should sing more often!

2. Gasoline – the “Guitar/Viola Off” with Anna

Coming up with my number 2 and 1 choices for favorite Steven moments was pretty tough. This is a fan favorite at any live show. Mikel pits Steven and his guitar against Anna and her viola, but the great thing is everyone wins! Some trivia: this song is where Mikel often refers to Steven as Steve McQueen.

See the 2:55 mark in this show from 2007:

And as a bonus (because I couldn’t pick between the two), see the 2:24 mark from this show in Vegas in 2012 (and at some shows you get to witness some tomfoolery from Mikel, too!):

1. Wishing Well

I remember the first time I was down on the barricade in front of Steven at a live show, mesmerized by his Ebow. His Ebow, not his elbow! At the time I had no idea what he was using to produce those sounds, and later a forum member finally shed some light on my query. It’s an electronic device held over the strings of an electric guitar to mimic the sound of a bow on strings by using the electromagnetic field the Ebow creates. When you hear those haunting notes coming from Steven’s guitar, you know you’re in for an emotional ride, and this is probably my favorite Steven moment during a show.

To stay up with all your Steven Chen news, please feel free to “like” my unofficial Steven Chen fan page on FB: https://www.facebook.com/airborne.steven.chen

Purchase the Best of Steven:

Papillon
Missy
Gasoline
Wishing Well

Christina: Fan of The Airborne Toxic EventChristina lives in Orange County, California and between her kids, her job, and school still manages to catch several Airborne shows a year. In addition to maintaining her Steven Chen fan page, Christina is also the administrator of the band’s forum on their official site: www.theairbornetoxicevent.com/forum.

By Colleen

[Read Part 5 here]

The frantic gallop of Steven’s guitar.  The soft and gentle pull of bows against strings.

These are the sounds of an invisible curtain that lifts to reveal The Airborne Toxic Event, performing tonight in these stunning ruins.

The lights illuminate the stage to a cool glow that shines on sober, downcast faces.  Anna clutches her shining viola at her side, waiting for the moment at which to wake it.  To her far left is Noah supporting an upright bass, his brow lowered and serious.  Beside him is Steven, launching us out of the gate with the precise gallop of his guitar.  In the back and center, Daren waits patiently for his moment to strike the drums, and we are waiting with him as one might wait for a pulse.  And behind them all is a force waiting to be unleashed – a seemingly endless sea of faces with instruments, eyes fixated on the conductor, the master of this musical tempest.

With his back turned to us, Mikel is at the center of this tempest, and we wait with bated breath to see what is to become of us.  Of them.  Of this moment we have been reaching for, dreaming of, and clinging to like the guardrail in front of us.

This is the uphill climb of the rollercoaster.  This is the beginning of a two-hour ride through a man’s struggles, heartbreaks, reflections, and triumphs.  All we can do is hold our breath and hold on when he suddenly turns around to sing.

“We were born without time

Nameless in the arms

Of a mother, a father, and God.”

I find myself invisible.  Transparent.  Though I can feel the presence of a thousand bodies, I can no longer feel my own.  His empty gaze at the audience is a reflection of my own emptiness, in that I have lost myself in the music.  The beautiful crashes of drums and the flashes of light from violins have emptied the contents of my figurative soul.

They are spread unseen before my eyes.  Images.  Memories.  The sounds of my past.  They light up the sparkling night sky above the stage, and I remember everything.

All at once.

The struggle to survive.  To go on.  To live.

The heartbreak of losing what you thought you could never lose and yet somehow go on living.

The reflection of the time that has passed and the persons you once were.

And the triumph of having made it this far.

These are not just his struggles, heartbreaks, reflections, and triumphs.  They are ours.  They are mine.

And tonight, we celebrate them all.

We start with “Gasoline.”

This tongue-in-cheek ride leads into smiles and screaming the lyrics at every sudden drop of Daren’s beat.  Noah’s bass line dissolves our hearts into that heady mix of adolescent hope and angst, then Steven lights a match with his guitar and sets us ablaze.  Anna turns her viola into a siren of rock and roll, and even Mikel’s sedated seriousness melts into a smile of disbelief of something only he knows.  But perhaps we are all thinking the same thing: that this is more fun than we could have possibly imagined.

And then he throws us down a “Wishing Well.”

We have all been there before.  We have all been the coin, and we have all cast our hearts into a fountain of hope with waters we can only dream of reaching our parched lips.  It is quite possibly this song that connects us the most, and what connects Airborne fans in general.  We have sat in that dark corner, fearing that This is All There Is.  Afraid we may never come out.  That the sun will never shine again, and if that happens, we will surely wither away to nothing.  But we haven’t given up hope just yet, and we cast that hope into a well.  And tonight, it feels as though our dreams may come true after all.

But not before we all experience a “Changing.”

Lighthearted foot-stomping, eager clapping, and cheerful cries of “I am a gentleman” ensue when Mikel turns the mic on us.  They are the hosts, and we are the life of the party.  This atmosphere easily transitions into “Happiness is Overrated,” the most tongue-in-cheek of them all.  “I’m sorry, I really lost my head.”  We all have, Mikel.

The ride picks up speed with “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?”  Mikel abandons the Gretsch for a roving mic and an energetic romp into the audience.  We are delightedly laughing and singing with him like children.  This energy bleeds into “Something New,” where Mikel carries his roving mic and daredevil skills to climb the scaffolding that flanks the stage, singing above our heads.  The rest of the band takes advantage of his absence onstage and each has a turn in the spotlight.  Steven demonstrates his impressive, precise talent.  Noah just seems to want to make the women swoon and the men jealous.  Anna enchants with her delicate, ethereal voice.  And Daren is ever faithfully keeping them all in time with the beat.

They change the pace with “Safe,” and I start to regain a kind of self-aware consciousness.

“It was early for a summer . . . “

The piano has us hooked, as if we’re watching a story unfold.  The strings paint the skies with their earnest beauty, and the drums beat in time with our hearts.

I can feel a return of awareness, of who I am and why I’m there.  There is no rhyme or reason for this.  It is simply the power of the music.

But it is this music that begins to transform the landscape in a way I had not anticipated.  The wilderness of these ruins begins to twinkle, as if the trees are blooming with stars.  The carved faces of the mountainside begin to glisten, and if I look closely, I can see the lyrics flashing like patterns of sparkles in granite.

I quickly glance over a few faces in the crowd.  No one seems to notice the magic taking place around them.  Their eyes are fixed onstage, as they should be.  But I am equally mesmerized with the surroundings as I am the music that is living in front of my eyes.

They begin to play “All For a Woman,” and I am temporarily distracted with memories that are not mine.  No matter how much time has passed, or how far away from that mystical place that is my imagination, this song will always remind me of writing my first book.  Seeing them perform it here, and watching as he sings the words that call to mind such yearning, causes tiny flashes of “Where AM I?” to occur.  Because surely this must be a dream of mine, just another product of my imagination.  Surely this isn’t real.

Then the yearning changes to that of another kind as violins sing the opening of “A Letter to Georgia.”  The piano pulls out sutures with every note, and Anna’s viola tugs at heartstrings, so that my heart is rendered completely open, fragile, and exposed.  I am powerless to stop the shameless weeping that occurs.

“Your face reflected in the glass

The lines on the pavement go past

Just like the lines around your eyes

That held the weight of all these sad goodbyes.”

This ride has suddenly descended into our deepest, darkest fears.  He is guiding us there with “Innocence,” and I am skeptically wondering if I am going to come out of this without completely losing it altogether.  But this song is gorgeously arrayed with the gems of the orchestra.  In a similar way, the lights in the trees around the stage are twinkling in time with the music, and a warm glow shines on the surface of the rock formations left when a tidal wave ripped through this land.

Something incredible is taking place here.

The song builds into an uphill climb once again.  We are clapping along with the beat, like warriors in a song of victory.  We are all fighting the same enemy, and we will all lose one day.  Yet still we go on fighting.

This ride takes a dark and passionate turn with “Welcome to Your Wedding Day.”  It is a wake-up call.  It is my wake-up call since those early days before I knew the name, when it was just an alarm on a cell phone every morning.  Now it is a living, breathing monster of a song that we taunt with chants and screams and then slay.

“Arm your fears like soldiers, and slay them.”

“All I Ever Wanted” trickles through the air like a soothing rain.  But we know this is a storm.  Flashes of light are conjured with strings, cast down from the clouds of words like “Your eyes all wet, your face so warm and inviting” and “Love is defying.”

We are breathless and taken.  I wonder if there is an end to this, or if they will just continue to play all through the night.  Maybe forever.  I could certainly live in this kind of euphoria for as long as there is a sun and a moon in the sky.

Then they introduce the belle of the ball.  The beautifully adorned, tragically lovely “Sometime Around Midnight.”

That familiar melancholy now sounds like a beautiful nightmare.

“Listen to him!” I had said two years ago.  “This is AWFUL!”

And now we are right there with him, watching this madness of a legend unfold.  The One That Got Away.  Such a familiar theme in art of many forms, but never more gloriously displayed than in this song.

I remember this song reaching past the broken and twisted barriers of a heart so broken it seemed unreachable.

I remember running to the music festival, this song in my ears and carrying my footsteps.

I remember running to this song when I finished my first 5k.

And I remember the lessons I learned from an artist’s amusing mistakes when he tried to play this song on New Year’s Eve.

But he remembers something else.

“You just have to see her

You know that she’ll break you in two.”

We have all been there, in one way or another.  Whether it’s a breakup at a bar or the death of our first child, we all are going mad from a kind of unrequited love.

I have fully regained consciousness now.  I am standing in the front row, no longer transparent.  I am fully present, fully aware of who I am and what I’ve lost.  I’m so distracted with my own tragedies that I fail to remember I share them with others.

The lights in the trees suddenly go out.  The charming lamp posts that line the perimeter of the crowd have mysteriously gone dark.

When the stage falls silent, I panic.

Have I cast a spell on this event with my own descent into darkness?

Have I ruined everything?

Then a pale light shines on Mikel as Steven and Noah lead us into “Timeless,” and I sigh with relief.

Timeless.

I remember you, too.

You were like a validation of everything.  You were a declaration, a protest, an acceptance, and a truth.  You were a secret I would cry over in the car, or collapse to in the middle of a run, or whisper in a moment of panic: “Everything we have, we have everything.”

Now, you are the climax to a story.

As the realization that this is truly the end nears, I am fully present.  All of my past images and memories have been carefully returned.  I am Colleen, the girl with the bird emblazoned on her face.  And just like the bird, I am wounded, too.  Now you know why.

I just had this broken heart, and they were just a band.

On the surface, I am nothing but a common fangirl.  Some might call me a fanatic.  I don’t try to dispute these labels anymore.  And when I turn around, I know why.

That you have come here shows your compassion and bravery, whether you are a fan of The Airborne Toxic Event or not.  These ruins are not easy to view.  Ruins never are, whether they are written in prose or in song.  They are ugly, distorted, twisted renderings of destroyed dreams and painful tragedies.

But your presence here makes them beautiful.  And whether you are here for me or The Airborne Toxic Event doesn’t matter, because we all share these tragedies.  You, me, and them – we are all fighting.  Some of us are barely surviving.  And some of us are trying to write them all down to make sense of them, so that maybe we won’t feel so alone anymore.

I remember a statement Mikel once made a long time ago.  Perhaps it was on Twitter in a question-and-answer session with fans, or something I read in an article.  In any case, I can’t remember the exact quote.  What I do remember is that he had expressed his wish that he could play these songs “on the moon” with an orchestra.  I remember this statement being amusing to me, and then thinking “I wish I could see that show.”

What he perhaps doesn’t realize is that he doesn’t have to play on the moon.  He plays in the hearts of people every day, and some of these hearts are just as desolate and barren as the moon itself – isolated and impossible to reach.  But somehow he still does, the power of music transcending all physical, mental, and emotional barriers.  If his goal was to connect with one person, I’m so glad it was me.

But not just me, as evidenced by the faces in the audience here tonight and elsewhere other nights.  We are all like wounded birds, desperate to fly.  He is not alone, and neither are we.  We have all been “tied in tethers” by the power of this music.

As the bridge of “Timeless” plays on, suddenly I remember the reason I am even here.

It has nothing to do with the band, but with the man who first introduced me to the band.  The man who has stood behind me this whole time in so many ways, and has lifted me up every time I would fall.

In his kind and loving eyes, I know the meaning of this song.

We are timeless.

Everything we have, we have everything.

You are the only thing that makes me feel like I could live forever with you.

Not even death could tear us apart.

In this beautiful and touching reminder comes a sudden change our surroundings.

The lights begin to twinkle again.  The landscape begins to glow.  These ruins truly become stunning, but it’s not my doing.  It’s the people in them that make them shine.  And it’s the unfinished journey that adorns them with hope.

At the swell of the song, the sky erupts with flashing lights and colors.  The booms and flashes of fireworks help finish the last song, and the band appears just as surprised as you.  But we are all enchanted and amazed.  This is the grand finale of a celebration of life and death and everything in between.

This is what sets this show apart from one on the moon, and from every other show there ever was.

Now it is over.  We must return to our regularly scheduled lives.  And they have other shows to play and other hearts to play in, no matter how much I wish they could stay.

One by one, the band disappears backstage as we cheer and cry and whistle and scream.

But Mikel jumps down from the stage, right in front of where I stand.

I don’t have time to think or move or breathe.  He wraps his arms around me and holds my head against his chest for a moment.  Then he kisses my hair.

“That’s for you,” he says.

When he lets me go, he has already started tying something around my wrist.

But I’m not watching.  I’m looking straight into his eyes, because I want to see.  I want to see what is behind them.  He is every bit a mystery to me as an artist should be, and yet it feels like I know him as well as a close friend.  And even though I am just a blip on his radar, I wonder if I’m not the only one who saw these ruins light up and the memories flash and play as they performed here tonight, for it feels as though he knows me, too.

What I see is what I’ve always thought all along, but perhaps had forgotten.  Beneath his rock star exterior, he is human.  Just like me, just like you, just like everyone else here.  And we all share the same struggles, heartbreaks, reflections, and triumphs.  We are all wounded birds.  And we are all timeless.

We were born without time

Nameless in the arms

Of a mother, a father, and God.

I blink once.  Twice.

By the third time, he is gone.

Everyone has left.

And I am standing in an empty venue as the sun begins with rise, leaving me to wonder if this has all been just a dream of mine.

Then I look down at my wrist, at the humble, black thick string tied around it – and I remember everything.

The music whispers in the early morning mist.  It echoes in the steep canyons.  It sings softly between the trees.

I take a deep breath and close my eyes.

I don’t know what will happen next.  This is hardly the end of my story.  It is merely a chapter, but it is one that I had the courage to write.  I decided to make it happen, no matter what stood in my way.  I am not ashamed of who I am anymore.  You, the band, the music – you all have left something beautiful for the person I am now and the person I have yet to become.  But no matter who I am –  fangirl, fanatic, bereaved mother, wounded bird – I am more the phoenix than the ashes, and if I am a phoenix, then I can fly.

And that is when I know what it feels like to be truly airborne.

 


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.

By Glen

With The Airborne Toxic Event having taken a well earned breather over the summer, the Such Hot Blood Tour is set to resume this week with 14 US dates, followed by the band’s long awaited return to Europe. So this seems a good time to look back on the first leg of the tour, to see what fans can expect at the shows to come.

We’ve run an analysis on the tour to date, uncovering some interesting trends in the process. Of course, the elephant in the room is the surprising dearth of Such Hot Blood tunes on the Such Hot Blood tour. But we’ll get to that soon enough. First, a few words on methodology.

The stats used in this analysis are drawn from the setlists included in This is Nowhere’s show database. If we don’t have a setlist there, it’s not included in this breakdown. In addition, we’ve limited the analysis to “typical” shows on the SHB tour – meaning, we’ve eliminated festival stops (Coachella, Big Ass Show, etc.), one-off symphony shows (Central Park, Visalia, Costa Mesa) and other special gigs (acoustic performances, etc.). These types of shows tend to have unique setlists that depart significantly from a regularly scheduled tour stop. For the purposes of this exercise, we want to see what the band’s been playing at a typical tour show. Based on this criteria, we had 25 shows with which to work – a more than sufficient sample size to draw some firm conclusions.

It should also be noted that, to the best of our knowledge, we’ve only counted songs that have actually been played. If a song was setlisted but skipped, we have not counted it as a performance. Of course there are likely some instances when this happened and we don’t know about it, so there may be a small degree of error.

The Big Picture

In all, the band has played 30 different songs from their catalog over the course of the tour. The graph below sorts those tracks by the percentage of shows in which each one has been played. (Click on the image to expand.)

Such Hot Blood Tour: Song Stats

The Airborne Toxic Event’s Such Hot Blood Tour: songs sorted by % of shows at which they’ve been played

What immediately jumps out is that there’s not much middle ground: either a song is played at virtually every show (over 70%), or it’s a relative rarity (under 30%). 18 songs have been played at 72% or more of the shows, including 9 songs that have been performed at every date, and another 6 that have been played 84-96% of the time.

The average set length on this tour has been 18.6 songs. This means that these 18 “warhorse” songs essentially comprise the standard set, with perhaps one or two more rare tracks thrown in. If one of the warhorses is skipped, it’s usually one of The Storm, The Book of Love, or The Graveyard Near the House.

Breakdown by Album

The pie chart below details the percentage of the setlist dedicated to each album. We’ve lumped This Losing and The Girls in Their Summer Dresses together as B-Sides. All I Ever Wanted includes those songs that have only ever been officially released on the live album – The Book of Love, A Letter to Georgia and Goodbye Horses.

Breakdown of The Airborne Toxic Event's Such Hot Blood Tour by album

Breakdown of The Airborne Toxic Event’s Such Hot Blood Tour by album

As you can see, most shows are heavily weighted towards the first two albums, with approximately 13 of the 18.6 tracks being drawn from the debut album and All At Once. Add in a tune from All I Ever Wanted and the occasional b-side, and we end up with only about 4 Such Hot Blood songs making an appearance on any given night.

Such Hot Blood, Where Art Thou?

This is definitely the most unexpected development of the tour to date. One would’ve thought that after 700+ shows of playing the same 20-25 songs, the band would jump at the chance to work some stellar new material into the playlist. Certainly, many fans had hoped to see more Such Hot Blood. We’ll come back to our theories as to why this has happened a little later, but first let’s delve a little deeper into the numbers.

Only 4 Such Hot Blood tracks crack the “warhorse” list. Safe has been played at every show, and Timeless has been skipped just once. True Love and The Storm have also been played at the vast majority of the shows, but are occasionally skipped.

Shifting our focus to the lesser played tunes, we have Elizabeth at 28% of the shows, Bride and Groom at 24%, The Secret at 16%, and The Fifth Day has been played just one time at a regular tour stop.

There is some hope that Elizabeth and Bride and Groom will appear more regularly in the future than past numbers might suggest. Both songs debuted on the same night: May 6 in Carrboro, NC. That was the 12th show on our list, taking place a week after the album release. If you just consider shows from that day forward, Elizabeth has been played at 50% of those gigs, while Bride and Groom comes in at 43%. Seeing as though those songs were completely unknown to the public until the album release, it is likely that the band held back on putting unfamiliar songs into the set before the album dropped. Once it came out, Elizabeth and Bride and Groom became semi-regulars. Indeed, Such Hot Blood’s overall rating of just 4.28 songs per show is somewhat deceiving. Using the Carrboro show as a dividing line, we see that SHB averaged 3.7 songs (21% of the set) prior to that date, and 5.5 songs (25% of the set) afterwards. So the emphasis did shift slightly after album release.

The biggest head-scratchers have got to be The Secret (16%) and What’s in a Name (0%). Both songs were regulars at the handful of pre- Such Hot Blood shows that TATE played through last fall and winter. There were 7 full-length shows in that stretch, with The Secret being played at 5 of them, and What’s in a Name receiving 4 airings. It seemed both tunes were well on their way to becoming tour staples, but it hasn’t happened. It’s particularly surprising that The Secret – the album opener and title track of the EP – seems to have fallen out of favor so quickly. As for What’s in a Name, the band did struggle with it a bit at times during the pre-tour, though that seemed to be due to technical difficulties as opposed to them having any trouble playing the song. But perhaps this provides some explanation for the fact that it has yet to appear on the tour.

That just leaves This is London and The Fifth Day – two of my favorites from the album. As much as I would love to hear This is London, it’s the one song I figured may get short shrift on the tour, mostly for topical reasons. It’s a must-play in the UK, though, so hopefully it will get some love soon. The Fifth Day is a song that I expected would be a centerpiece of the tour, especially after witnessing the powerful Red Rocks performance. Having not heard the only performance to date without an orchestra (May 10 in Boston), I can only speculate that maybe they don’t feel they can do it justice without a symphony behind them. That being said, it was also only played at one of this summer’s three orchestra shows, so perhaps there is more to it than that.

The Casualties

Whenever a new album is released, some of the standards from previous tours have to be dropped to make way for the new. As much as we’d all love to see epic 26-song sets like last September at The Troubador, where they played virtually every song in their catalog, we knew that wasn’t going to happen; something had to go. Those SHB tunes that have made it into the set have generally done so at the expense of four songs that were staples of previous tours: Papillon, The Kids Are Ready to Die, Welcome to Your Wedding Day and Innocence – the latter being a particularly crushing loss. I saw this one coming, as eliminating Innocence creates setlist space for two songs of a more standard length, but still… I need that song.

Missing in Action

Album cuts that have yet to be heard on the tour include This is Nowhere (ahem), Duet, All For a Woman, Strange Girl and the aforementioned What’s in a Name and This is London (though it should be noted that All For a Woman has been a regular at orchestra shows, and Strange Girl is rumored to have been played at the Red Bull Sound Select gig in Nashville). B-sides The Winning Side, Parson Redheads, Tokyo Radio and Haille have also not been played, nor have special releases like Neda, I Don’t Want to Be on TV, The Wishing Song or Boots of Spanish Leather.

Upcoming releases Dublin and The Way Home haven’t seen action on a regular tour stop; however, Dublin has been performed at three symphony shows, and The Way Home was soundchecked prior to a recent concert, so there is hope that both will enter the rotation as the tour resumes.

Openers and Closers

It’s always interesting to see which song the band will choose for the tone-setting opening and closing slots. As you can see below, three songs have opened the show, with Gasoline getting the nod the vast majority of the time. The main set typically closes with All At Once, the only exceptions being the four shows at which they opened with it instead. And as expected, Missy (complete with classic rock medley, bass and drum solos and other tomfoolery) sends the crowd home happy at virtually every show.

Such Hot Blood Tour Openers and Closers

Such Hot Blood Tour Openers and Closers

Encore

Another intriguing development on this tour has been the mellow encore. The All At Once tour encore never let up for a second, with most nights featuring the killer trifecta of Moving On/Papillon/Missy. This time around they’ve slowed things down considerably, often opening the curtain call with two, three or even four straight ballads (some combination of Timeless, The Book of Love, Graveyard and Elizabeth) before cranking up the rock quotient again for the Missy finale.

And Now Back to Such Hot Blood…

We close with some final thoughts on the general absence of Such Hot Blood on the Such Hot Blood tour. First, it’s important to note again that the issue has partially corrected itself as the tour has progressed. It was most noticeable prior to album release, when there were often just three new songs sprinkled throughout a set that could otherwise have been lifted straight from the All At Once tour. But now that TATE is regularly playing 5-6 SHB tunes, they’re only one or two off what we might have been expecting.

Any attempt at explanation is mere speculation. Early on, I think much of it was due to the delayed release of the album. When the first tour dates were booked, the album was supposed to drop closer to the start of the tour, if not before the first date. When they pushed the album back, it likely contributed to a decision to stick with the tried and true at the start of the tour. Too many unfamiliar songs can lead to an undesirable drop in energy amongst the crowd.

Now, we are seeing more SHB, but it’s still lagging behind the other albums. My pet theory has been that the band prefers a pedal-to-the-metal, high energy rock show. SHB is their most chill album overall, so perhaps it just doesn’t fit the vibe they’re aiming for with the live show as well as the first two albums do. This theory makes a lot of sense until you return to the curious cases of The Secret and What’s in a Name. Tempo-wise, these are the two songs on the new album that fit most closely with the first two albums, so they would be right at home in a rock-your-face-off TATE gig.

Furthermore, the band has embraced a slower-paced encore, so if tempo was the issue, the laid back SHB tunes could find a welcome home in that part of the set. It’s already happened to some extent, but it could happen more. Graveyard is a personal favorite of mine, as is The Book of Love for many fans, but it has been somewhat surprising to see them played at almost every show. Perhaps those two could be rotated on a show-by-show basis, with the extra slot going to an underplayed number from SHB.

At the end of the day, you can crunch all the numbers you want. You can come to the show with a wishlist, and perhaps leave disappointed that your favorite song didn’t make the cut that night. Or, you can let the band take you on the journey that they’ve laid out for you, and remember afresh that The Airborne Toxic Event could go on stage and play The Yellow Pages, and it would still go down as one of the most exhilarating experiences of your life. So here’s to another couple months of mind-numbing TATE shows. Enjoy!

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.