Posts Tagged ‘Graveyard’

Toxicity 93

Posted: February 12, 2016 in Toxicity
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Anna Bulbrook's Girlschool artist portrait, by Jen Rosenstein.

Anna Bulbrook’s Girlschool artist portrait, by Jen Rosenstein.

By Glen

It’s the dead of winter – literally and figuratively, as the tumbleweeds blow across The Airborne Toxic Event landscape. Even the ever-trusty Anna Bulbrook has gone quiet of late – though we do have a bit more Girlschool coverage to catch up on. But first, my 15-seconds of fame…

TIN Hits the Radio Waves

A couple weeks ago, my fellow British Columbian (represent!) Tim de Monkey gave me the heads up that CBC Radio was looking for stories about bands that are tragically underrated. One thing led to another and before I knew it, my letter was being read on air, as a lead-in to “Sometime Around Midnight.”

If nothing else, I think we converted Stephen Quinn, the program’s host, who tweeted: “The letter was brilliant. Thank you! I know them but will now dig deeper.” And on having to cut the song short: “So pissed we had to fade it under. My note for the early fade outcue was, ‘No! Don’t do it!'” Agreed, Stephen!

Anna Bulbrook’s Girlschool: Smashing Barriers, Smashing Success

Anna Bulbrook’s little festival grew into quite a big news event, generating an impressive amount of coverage – universally positive. There is clearly a thirst for what she is doing for the female music community.

As the festival opened, Dazed published an insightful interview with the founder. I had to laugh at her response to the question of whether it’s harder to collaborate with women than men; I assume she had her Airborne bandmates in mind when she said:

I think I semi-expected that to be true, because it’s a stereotype that exists. But I have found collaborating with women on writing music for the Bulls, or working with my crackerjack team at Girlschool, to actually be a far more free and direct process than some of my recent collaborations with men. Men have their own dynamics, egos, emotions, and politics as well. Everyone does! Making art is emotional, whatever gender you are, and bands are emotionally supercharged environments.

On the subject of the sadly still sexist music industry, Anna had some pointed comments, but also an inspiring vision.

Why aren’t there more women artists graduating from their local scenes to the next level? We supposedly “handled” this back in the 90s!

I think that music should be a safe space for everyone. Period. So I think standing up for what’s right – whether it’s standing up for yourself or someone else – is a good place to start. I also think creating intentionally positive pathways or environments for music, which is what we are trying to do with Girlschool, is another answer. And by the way, these pathways don’t have to be “female-themed” to be positive, either. There are myriad ways we can increase consciousness in our art form and the industry that surrounds it, and to make the world a more safe and free space for everyone.

I say: if the world doesn’t reach its arms out to you, then make your own, better one! And after a while, your new world will maybe grow to become the real one.

Anna also sat down with Take Part, with whom she shared a disheartening but unfortunately unsurprising truth about what she’s faced at times as a member of The Airborne Toxic Event:

“In the alternative rock world, there are very few female voices… There are also very few female side members in bands… People would think I was a girlfriend, or they would think I was the singer,” Bulbrook said, noting that as a classical  violinist who began playing at the age of four, she has the most professional music training of any of the members of the Airborne Toxic Event.

“I’ve been in the position where I was sort of asked to dress a little more provocatively to get a label executive to consider us more seriously,” Bulbrook added.

Like she said to Dazed, you would like to think we’d gotten past this kind of garbage, but clearly there is a long way to go – which makes her efforts all the more important.

“I call this the vitamin gummy approach to feminism,” Bulbrook said of creating an event stacked with a lineup of talented female musicians. “You make something that looks delicious, tastes delicious, but it also just happens to be really good for you.”

Live Nation TV combined their own interview with Anna with coverage from the first night of the festival. Asked about the future of the collective, Anna says there is definitely more to come.

We couldn’t plan this weekend without talking about all the other things we want to do. Unless lightening strikes, there will be a future for Girlschool. What that exactly entails, we’ll probably start planning it 24 hours after this weekend.

Finally, to tie a bow on our Girlschool coverage, here are a couple photo galleries worth checking out. LA Record provides a glimpse inside the event, while Jen Rosenstein took striking portraits of each Girlschool artist.

Toxic Gold

Missing Mikel? Us too. Remember that time he took the encore out to the street behind the venue?

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.


The Airborne Toxic Event, MissyBy Yules

How did it all begin?

It seems like I haven’t got much of a story to tell you all, really – I’m a relatively young fan. I’ve not lived enough of life to know that much about it. I only have a few, if any, truly profound experiences in my life up to now, but still, I’d like to share this with you.

My story is a story about imagination. And, well, music. Being that you’re reading this here.

Music, I found, was a way of pretty much losing myself, of celebrating little things in life and telling short stories in just a few minutes. Aged 12, I’d boldly claimed that I hated all music. Five years later, armed with an iPod, I was a changed woman.

Aged 17 – insert “Gasoline” jokes here – I discovered Airborne.

It began in a bizarre way; somewhere I’d glimpsed a strange name belonging to a strangely named band, and found myself on iTunes listening to the preview of Track 1. I liked Track 1 and bought that and loved it even more after listening in full – but the rest was untouched. It was only towards the end of that year that I returned for a few more tracks.

I turned 18 in early 2015, and within a week, I had bought my first two complete, physical albums. Ever. I’d never found a reason to before – digital albums on iTunes were in themselves a rarity for me – but this time, the whole thing was damn worth it. Something clicked and that was all I listened to for weeks.

It was insane.

What began with “Wishing Well” became a mad cascade. Mad, but absolutely beautiful.


How did that all begin?

The first cut was probably made some years ago; the first time I learned to hold a craft scalpel in school and felt that strange plastic handle press firm into my fingertips. I wondered how sharp the blade itself was, if only pressing on a bit of plastic was already causing such discomfort. My fingers were numbed quickly.

I wasn’t very good at this… paper-cutting lark. The first cuts were probably a mess, to the point where I’m glad I’ve forgotten them. But… it was all a sort of beginning, way back then. I wasn’t much good, but that was only the start.

But now, let’s fast forward. It’s 2015. Tour announcement.

The one thing I was sure of was that I had to go and see this damn band; the tickets came out and the ticket was bought within the hour.

I was already repeating tracks and albums and shamelessly humming and whistling sections of melodies. From the introduction of that very first song, to the extravagance of “All At Once” and “The Fifth Day” and the simple beauty of “Graveyard…” (Confession: I genuinely cried the first couple of times I listened to “The Graveyard Near The House.”) Even the new release hasn’t failed in my books; far from it, and Songs of God and Whiskey is also a delight.

The Airborne Toxic Event, The Graveyard Near the House

With everything, I loved whatever the band threw at me. Lyrics, vibes, string-section flourishes.

And that’s how the images came.

The Airborne Toxic Event, Strangers


How did this all begin?

Have you ever listened to a song and felt like there was a cinema in the back of your head?

That’s what it felt like to me. Airborne wasn’t the first band to play their ‘five minute feature’ to me, but they were definitely significant.

I imagined strange scenes, like animations. Silhouettes, black-and-white dances, rising and falling in and out of nowhere, flowers and storms and dreams and broken glass… Take “The Fifth Day” and imagine strangeness and darkness for hours and hours; then a pause, then move the curtain, and let everything be light. Take “All I Ever Wanted” and picture it: a steely firearm in your hands, and clutch your weapon tighter, and be brave, and oust your demons from existence.

It sounds cliché, but it’s all there.

I was bored in class one day, and began to draw, and realised what I was seeing on paper. I realised that the things I could not animate could come alive in another way.

I thought of the artists I’d Googled years ago, in search of art class inspiration. I thought of the simple images I needed to show and the words that came with them, soft and beautiful and sharp and twisting and fantastic.

I had a paper knife and a cutting mat.



I posted my first piece on Twitter in March. It was an impulsive image, one that had emerged in my head in the middle of that day. What had begun as a pair of birds doodled in a moment of boredom had grown and developed into a small piece of lyric art.

The Airborne Toxic Event's "Chains"

The song was “Chains.” Why? It just happened to be in my head at the time, I guess. It took a few hours to complete, from planning to rough sketch to execution. I was rusty, having not cut paper for a while, but I was proud of what I’d achieved.

That same evening, I logged on to read the next post about the songs of Dope Machines.

I did not realise how significant Mikel’s final paragraph about ‘Something You Lost’ was until I saw an isolated sentence again the following day.

It justhit me.

I dreamt. That evening, I realised that the quote needed to be cut out.

The following day, on Friday evening, work began. Work ended on Sunday, and after some conflict with the scanner – ‘dope machines’ indeed – it was ready. I posted on Sunday night.

The Airborne Toxic Event's "Something You Lost"

24 hours later, it had received what to me was significant attention. I’d been a nobody.

I was in shock.

This messy, imperfect thing had been seen. And there were compliments. Even the band had retweeted.

I couldn’t believe it.


I took up the knife again the day after. From the conception of the twin birds of “Chains” to the frustration behind cutting out the letter ‘S’ multiple times, the letters had all passed through my head. I had more images inside.

The Airborne Toxic Event, The Storm

I was in personal awe of the things I was doing. I was putting blade to paper to cutting mat, dreaming and for once, realising these strange, silhouetted visions. There was hope yet of me expressing the strange fantasies that circled around my head as I heard a song play.

I’d had the words and now I had the pictures. It was delightful. Perfect, imperfect, I was getting things out. Dreaming on paper. Realising those dreams. Being on fire inside; somehow enjoying the numb, calloused fingertips and harsh plastic in my hands.

There’s something about expressing yourself. It’s a feeling of happiness.

The Airborne Toxic Event, Time to be a Man

What began as something small grew into an intense but amusing project.

I decided to challenge myself; I thought I’d do as many papercuts as I could before I saw TATE for the first time in mid-April. Weeks of work later, and an ugly callus staining my finger, I settled for 10 images. There were far more mental images and far more songs to portray, but for now, it was all I could do.

The final image, unlike the others, lacked words and incorporated a shocking burst of colour. It was posted at the appropriate time of 12am, on the day of the show I was to attend.

The Airborne Toxic Event's "Sometime Around Midnight"


The show itself. I was nervous about it for weeks; nervous to the minute. Nervous about anything and everything. I went with it.

Hours later, after the end, I came away smiling like a fool (also sweaty as hell – but with two autographs and some conversations!) having learned three things:

  1. The band is fantastic live.
  2. Do not be afraid – everything is definitely worth it.
  3. The fans I met are proof that I am part of a family of sorts.

…and of course, I wasn’t an ‘Airborne virgin’ any more. The stupid, awkward fears I’d had before now lay slain behind me.

The Airborne Toxic Event, Timeless

Through showing my art and jumping into the full experience, I am definitely reassured. I am one of thousands of fans, many of whom attend shows, and a number of whom contribute to this blog. I seriously don’t know how I’d feel about showing my work to the online world without all of this wonderful company and the knowledge that there are other enthusiasts out there. Others mad and much, much madder.

And you know what? It’s great to be mad.

So thank you for giving me the courage to create and submit my work and to share it all with you. Thank you for the kind words and the encouragement. Thank you to the concertgoers and the blog writers and the reviewers and the photographers and all of the rest. Thank you all.

Is this true love? Well, I don’t know. It’s just my best guess.

What I do know is that the first show, just like the first cut and the first song, is only the beginning.

The Airborne Toxic Event, The Fall of Rome

The Airborne Toxic Event umbrellaBy Glen

For Christie

On the 23rd anniversary of our first date, you asked me if I would’ve asked you if I’d known what would follow.

You didn’t mean the good stuff: the romance and the adventure and the four wonderful kids and the triumphs and the building of a life together.

You meant the tough stuff: the first gut-wrenching stillbirth and the time you almost died and the second gut-wrenching stillbirth and the news that our beautiful baby girl had Down syndrome and the slow realization that our adopted son’s special needs were more challenging in real life than they read on paper.

So many things that we didn’t choose to write into our love story. Things we never imagined; not in our worst nightmares.

There are no rules when you fall in love
You just take what you get and you hope it’s enough

On the 2nd anniversary of our adoption of The Boy, you asked me if I would’ve done it if I’d known what would follow.

You didn’t mean the good stuff: the ear-splitting grins and the endless cuddles and the maturity it’s instilled in our girls and the sense of accomplishment and the hilarity of his latest escapade.

You meant the tough stuff: the extreme lack of sleep and the worries over his health and the overwhelming hyperactivity and the guilty suspicion that our other children are getting short-changed by the sheer amount of attention he requires.

But even more than that, you meant this latest wicked, cancerous curveball that life has thrown at us. This sick cosmic joke that has reduced us from living to merely surviving and redefined romance as the willingness to administer the late night dose of meds.

I said I don’t have much
You said I like what you’ve got

The truth is, I don’t know what 16-year old me would have done if he’d known what was coming. Maybe he would have bolted in the opposite direction as fast as his legs could carry him. Who could blame him?

And I don’t know what the me of three years ago would have done if he’d known what was coming. Actually, that’s a lie. I have a pretty good idea what he’d have done, and I’m not particularly proud of it.

But life isn’t lived with the benefit of foresight. There are no rules when you fall in love – or if there are, life doesn’t feel compelled to follow them. All we can do is offer up everything we’ve got, meager as it may be and shrinking by the day, and hope that it’s enough.

Maybe we’re asking the wrong questions. Maybe it doesn’t matter what the 16-year-old me or the me of three years ago would have done were they clairvoyant. Maybe the real question is this: from the vantage point of Today, would I choose to do it all again, knowing how perilous the journey would be?

Today, I say, ‘Yes.’

Because you are worth it. We are worth it.

Because it’s better to love whether you win or lose or die
It’s better to love whether you win or lose or die
It’s better to love, and I will love you till I die

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.

The Airborne Toxic Event, All At OnceBy Jamie

Ed. Note: Just 9 days from now, The Airborne Toxic Event will take to the stage of The Fillmore in San Francisco, CA, to play their self-titled debut album from front to back. They’ll do the same the following two nights with their next two albums, All At Once and Such Hot Blood. As part of our countdown to this momentous occasion, each of This Is Nowhere’s writing staff will share why one of these albums is their favorite TATE record. Last week, Glen made the case for the debut; today, Jamie  delves into the sophomore album; and on Sept. 16 Julie will tackle the band’s most recent release.

When Glen asked me to write a blog post about why I thought All At Once was The Airborne Toxic Event’s best album I accepted… and promptly panicked. Remember when I said I am NOT a writer? Well, that insecurity reared its ugly head once the full realization of what I had agreed to do hit me.

I needed to do the album justice. When taking This Is Nowhere’s fan survey, I surprised myself when, much like picking my favorite song, I chose All At Once as my top album without hesitation. According to the results of that survey, I wasn’t the only one. All At Once came in second for favorite album, and won the title of favorite album lyrically. During the last tour, the record was largely represented, having more songs in rotation than the album TATE was supporting, Such Hot Blood. Still, when it comes to singing praises, it feels like the album has gotten lost in the mix. It’s the middle child, often times being overlooked for the popular big brother or the newest member of the TATE family. It receives its fair share of criticisms, too. Even Mikel has recently admitted to preferring song demos to the versions that ended up on the album.

However, none of that can dull the glow that I can still feel from the first time I heard it, and so I’ll defend this album because even though the first record made me a fan, All At Once is why you’ll find me here month after month, sometimes pouring my heart out for a band I love.

It’s not hard for me to remember what it was like to be a fan back in 2011. Fairly new to TATE, I was experiencing my first new release. I was ravenous for new material, curious and even a bit apprehensive about what to expect. Their self-titled debut had set the bar high; could they even meet it, let alone top it? Recreating that magic seemed impossible, but I’ll admit to having high hopes.

What I heard, upon first listen, was wonderful. This was the record that crossed me over into super fan territory. These were the songs that left me breathless, crying in my room. In this album are 11 songs that inspired me to accept, love and enrich my life. It was the same TATE I had initially fallen in love with, a band that took profound words and brought them to life with music, filling the spaces in between the lyrics with something so impassioned, it can bring tears to my eyes.

Refusing to fit into any kind of genre, the band chose to represent a theme, instead. The opening title track, “All At Once,” feels, for lack of a better word, epic. An anthem worthy of stadiums, it also set the stage for what was to come; a song about life, beginning to end, and the changes that are inevitable, loss and death. Standing in a room of strangers, it is my favorite to sing along to, screaming at the top of my lungs and thrusting my fists in the air.

Everything that follows builds on the ideas presented in the opener. These songs contain some of Mikel’s best lyrics; songs such as the romantic, folky “All For A Woman,” and the politically charged “The Kids Are Ready To Die,” leave you reaching for the liner notes, reading and rereading the text like poetry. Every song offers some little gem that had me going back for a second and sometimes third listen before I could move on to the next.

It all culminates in a final, gentle conclusion in “The Graveyard Near the House.” Standing in stark contrast to the chaos that precedes it, the song offers a simple message: love is all that matters, all we can hope for, all that is worth anything in the end. It is the love song to end all love songs, the one I can sing to my children and my husband alike, the lyrics perfectly reflecting feelings so deep and intense, I would have sworn they could never be translated by mere words. There are no Mikelisms here; familiar words somehow create an extraordinary song, proving the songwriter’s gift more than any “big words” ever could. Equally fitting at a wedding or a funeral, this song is a perfect celebration and portrayal of life and love.

In this album, I found myself. My fears, doubts, frustrations, hopes, dreams and desires were all laid out before me, through the eyes of a stranger. Mikel had used his words to somehow tell my story even though this wasn’t my story it all. He showed me that we all have the same struggles and triumphs, and most importantly that none of us are alone. There it was again, that great comfort: I was not alone. This album changed me without really changing me at all. I armed my fears like soldiers and, well, you know the rest. I will be forever grateful.

Jamie: A Strange, Strange GirlJamie spends most of her days with her husband as they attempt to raise 4 future TATE fans and all around decent human beings. In her free time, when not obsessively listening to her favorite bands and going to concerts, she is also an aspiring seamstress. She writes about her handmade wardrobe on her blog Such a Strange Girl, and is a regular contributor to This Is Nowhere.

By Glen

When The Airborne Toxic Event takes the stage at the Commodore Ballroom in my home town of Vancouver on Oct. 24, it will be my fifth TATE gig in 84 days, and a return to the venue where I first saw them. But this one will be extra special – because of who’s coming with me.

Whether they genuinely want to see the band or they’re just trying to get me off their back after years of hounding them every time Airborne passes through town, I’ll be accompanied on this night by a cadre of TATE virgins – five, to be exact.

Not only have they never been to a TATE show, all five of them are largely unfamiliar with the band. As a matter of fact, most of them would be hard pressed to name a single Airborne song.

I feel like I’ve got a lot riding on this night. After years of evangelizing, of explaining what exactly I have tattooed on my shoulder and why I have so many shirts with birds on them and why I feel the need to follow a band up and down the west coast once a year and why I have five copies of the same album and why I spend all my free time writing about these semi-obscure musicians from LA and why they have such a weird name, it will be hard not to take it personally if they don’t come away uber-impressed.

But I have faith in my band, and their ability to win over my friends. Nevertheless, I want to do everything I can to water the soil, to prepare them for The Best Night of Their Lives. So, naturally, I made a mixtape. Or rather, the 21st Century equivalent: a Grooveshark playlist (because we don’t have Spotify here in the underprivileged True North Strong and Free).

And then came the real trick: deciding which songs, and which versions, to include on the playlist. My quest to convert my unwitting targets began here.

I could make a case for about 40 songs. But no, better to not overwhelm them. Less is more, I told myself. Just the best of the best.

And yet, I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t possibly leave this song off, could I?

In the end, I decided that live shows are always more fun when you recognize the music. So I gave them a 20-odd song playlist that includes all the live staples plus a few bonus tracks that I couldn’t bear not to include.

Overkill? Perhaps. But when there are this many great tunes, it’s so hard to know where to draw the line.

It did get me to thinking, though: what if I could only give them five songs? Which handful of tracks would I stake the reputation of myself my band on?

If it was aimed at a specific person, I could handpick it for my audience, according to their musical proclivities. “Papillon” and “Wedding Day” for the punk rocker. “A Letter to Georgia,” “Duet” and “All For a Woman” for the romantic balladeer. “Timeless,” “Hell and Back” and “Changing” for the one who likes her music radio friendly.

But for a diverse group such as this, I’d have no choice but to cast the net wide. I’m looking, quite simply, for the five songs that no one in their right mind could possibly resist. With apologies to “Safe,” “All I Ever Wanted” and “The Fifth Day,” which are all near the top of my personal list, here’s what I came up with.

5. Bride and Groom

Not your typical Airborne song, if there even is such a thing. But Mikel Jollett’s own favorite child features the finest poetry on Such Hot Blood, and who am I to argue with the fans who voted it far and away the most popular song on the album?

4. The Graveyard Near the House (Bombastic Version)

This delicate number has become an unexpected fan favorite, thanks to the consensus best lyrics in the TATE catalog. The Bombastic is essentially a duet between Mikel and Anna Bulbrook, with soft rain providing an unparalleled backdrop.

3. All At Once

The first time I laid eyes on the Bombastic video of “All At Once” may be the precise moment I transitioned from fan to superfan – and the studio version is even stronger. More than any other song, I am incapable of tiring of this one, no matter how many times I hit REPEAT.

2. Innocence (All I Ever Wanted Version)

If I was to choose one song that defines The Airborne Toxic Event, it would be this one. The perfect storm of arresting lyrics, live energy, punk rock, raw emotion and orchestral flourish. There’s simply nothing like it.

1. Sometime Around Midnight

Sometimes we longtime fans can begin to take for granted the power of the standard, having heard it more times than we can count. But there’s a reason it became a standard. The 2008 iTunes Alternative Song of the Year remains as potent as ever. It’s the song that made most of us fans in the first place, and it continues to do the same for virtually everyone who hears it.

So there it is. An impossible task with no satisfying answer. What would be your picks?

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

Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event. Photo by Debbie.

Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event. Photo by Debbie.

By Debbie

Seventeen years ago I met a man who changed my life. He had lived in nursing homes since he broke his neck at age 17; he was 40. He had walled himself in his dark place, weary of the life that had disappointed and hurt him so deeply.

I had lost first my mother, then my father; stunned with grief at 37.

We connected, opened up, bonded. Slowly. Each unsure of the other; each hiding budding feelings. Afraid of more pain. Slowly, sweetly, realization. Affirmation. He was paralyzed from the neck down. He needed total care. No one stayed for the long haul. I told him I would. He was wary. But we were soulmates. I stayed.

Ten years ago, circumstances changed. A long hospitalization; the nursing home gave away his room. Suddenly, he had no home. Things happened quickly. All at once. He moved in with me. I was his legs, his hands. I did all for him. I loved it. He believed. We laughed, we cried, we fought, we made up. We loved… deeply. We never stopped. We were happy. No more dark places or walls of pain.

Two months ago, a hospital visit. Things changed quickly. All at once. Two days later, home on hospice, for only a few short hours. He didn’t seem to be in pain; he died peacefully, at home, surrounded by people he loved. He did not die alone in a hospital, as he had always feared.

Debbie and Michael

Debbie and Michael

I was stunned; shattered. Wounded. The weight of the sun in my heart.

The Airborne connection? The next day, I read an interview Mikel did, talking about “All At Once.” The sudden life changes. Once again, Mikel gave voice to my feelings. But, after years of loving TATE, I couldn’t listen to them. I feared the tragic lyrics.

A month went by; I missed my band. I started listening again. The lyrics had new meaning, more clarity. I lost my soulmate; indeed, I am now only half of something else. It hurt to listen, but it also healed. I still feel like the wounded raven, my heart pierced. Most nights I can’t see the ceiling tiles through all the tears. But the music is more beautiful than before. I feel a little less alone.

And I have a name to carve out of the sky.

Debbie lives in NW Indiana. With Michael’s encouragement, she went back to school and got her RN in 2001. She reads obsessively, loves genealogy, and takes volunteer photos for FindAGrave. For her birthday last year, Michael arranged for her to go see “that Toxic Airborne band you like so much;” when she came home bouncing like a 14-yr-old, he had the biggest smile on his face! Everyone says she was his angel; they have it backwards.

By Colleen

Note: This post is reprinted with permission from Colleen’s personal blog, These Stunning Ruins.

Oh, the injustice.

There she was, standing next to him.  She was smiling, he was laughing at something she said.  She was inches away from where he stood, and I was miles.

I zoomed in on the picture on my phone, if only to torture myself.

So he was real.  So I didn’t just imagine him.  She had met him.  She was the proof.  Though I hadn’t seen her in months – wait . . . years – she hadn’t changed at all.  Still the tattoos.  Still the same signature ‘come hither’ smirk she was now using on him.

I tried being reasonable.

I hate her, I thought to myself.  I hate her stupid face.  I hate everything about this day!

I blinked back tears and looked up from my phone.  The scene was more than I could bear.  I was nothing short of trapped at an airport, waiting to get on a plane that never came, while my favorite band was about to take the stage just miles away.  And an old acquaintance of mine had just met the lead singer.

There was more than jealousy going on here.  This was some kind of twisted metaphor.  This was the story of hopeless defeat and crushing disappointment.

I was supposed to be on a plane, comforting myself with the knowledge that I was going on vacation and they probably weren’t that good anyway and the likelihood I would have been as lucky as the woman in the picture was next to nothing, and they were only just a band.

But the plane was delayed.  Then the flight was canceled.  Then the crushing disappointment finally got to me.  I officially lost all common sense.  The rest is history.  It is Madness.

There is a loneliness to being in love with a band that no one has even heard of.  It is not the same for people who love The Beatles or The Killers or The Rolling Stones.  If you put ten people in a room, there is a one-hundred percent chance they have heard of those bands, and the odds are just as great that two out of ten of those people will like the same band.  A kinship is then born.  What’s your favorite song?  Favorite album?  Who’s your favorite band member?  How many times have you seen them perform?  Why does that particular band speak to you?

You get my drift.

Instead, when I’m in a group of two or ten or even a hundred people, there is a ninety-nine percent chance I’m going to hear “The Airborne Toxic Event? Who is that?”

So for months, it was just me, by myself, alone.

Then my best friend ran into an old acquaintance at a music festival.  She was glowing and excited, having met Mikel Jollett only minutes earlier.  She had the pictures to prove it.  My best friend sent me her pictures while I was feeling sorry for myself at the airport, with the disclaimer (or warning) that “she’s just as obsessed with the same weird band as you are.”

It’s like being an only child and then finding out you have a twin somewhere.

Once I got over my petty jealousy – and met the man himself at a show two days later – I decided we were long overdue to get back in touch.  After all, she was in her mid-twenties and I was just a stupid teenager the last time we hung out.  Back then, we didn’t have very much in common.  Now she had a family and I was a bereaved mother.  Things had definitely changed.  But somehow, for some reason, we liked the same obscure band.  I wanted to find out why.  I wanted to know her favorite song, her favorite album, her favorite band member.  How many times had she seen them perform?  Why does this particular band speak to her?

Later, through the magic of social media, I went from having a twin to an entire family – a whole group of people who shared the same kind of obsessive love for the same band, for reasons not unlike my own.  We are a kind, empathetic lot.  Most of us have experienced the uglier side of life.  But at a show, all of us remind me of happy children, laughing and singing and smiling in spite of our circumstances.  We have more in common than we even realize.  And we are sharing a moment.  We are making memories.  These concerts are snapshots of our lives, and we’re all in the front row, smiling like we have never felt pain.  But more than likely, we smile and sing and dance like this because we have.

The acquaintance in the photograph is now a friend again.  We are each other’s devil’s advocate, plotting ways to get ourselves to Airborne shows, be they a hundred miles away or a thousand, perhaps to the chagrin of our long-suffering husbands.  It could be said I am grateful to her, for without her I never would have gone to California once or Chicago twice, and we never would have hung out backstage with the band That One Time.

But at the end of the day, I was right the first time.  They are just a band.  She and I, however – we are friends.  And I am grateful to the band, because I know so much more than her favorite song.  Without them, I might never have known what a kind, selfless, passionate, funny, and fascinating person she truly is.

I might never have stood in the pit of the Chicago venue with her, several feet away from Mikel Jollett.  We were not in the front row.  We didn’t have the chance.  My obsessive-compulsive need to be in the front row would just have to get over it.

Oh, the injustice.

But there we were, standing next to each other.  She was smiling, I was weeping during “The Graveyard Near the House.”  She was inches away from where I stood.  Then she closed the distance between us – all those years we were out of touch, all the space and time we could have been friends but weren’t – and she put her arms around me and held me as my shoulders shook and the tears poured down The Airborne Bird on my cheek.

I love her, I think to myself.  I love that she is here, and that I am not alone.

So many of us are waiting for friends like her.  The next time you go to a concert to see your favorite band, take a look at the people around you as you share a moment and make memories.  You have more in common than you realize.  Such friends are closer than you think.

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.