Posts Tagged ‘Innocence’

The Airborne Toxic Event takes a final bow as the Whiskey Machine Tour comes to an end. Source: Anna Bulbrook's Facebook.

The Airborne Toxic Event takes a final bow as the Whiskey Machine Tour comes to an end. Source: Anna Bulbrook’s Facebook.

By Glen

This week we close the books on the Whiskey Machine Tour, and brace ourselves for life without The Airborne Toxic Event… for a little while.

What Now?

On a personal note, I’d like to thank you all so much for making my songs part of your life. It sometimes feels like I’m living in a dream and I don’t know where the dream ends and the world begins. But the bridge between us is this music and it makes me feel less alone. It’s a tremendous honor. Going dark for a bit now to hovel and rest and write. Please be well and go make some babies yo. – Mikel Jollett on Instagram

The final notes of the final show of The Airborne Toxic Event’s Whiskey Machine Tour hadn’t yet faded away before the fan hand wringing began.

If I had a dollar for every message I’ve received in the past week asking me if I think this is The End, I could quit my day job and do This Is Nowhere full time. Which, come to think of it, sounds pretty sweet, so maybe you can all toss me a loonie next time you write?

I kid. But it’s no exaggeration to say that questions about the band’s future are front and center in the minds of many fans as the musicians embark upon a break of unspecified duration.

The factors that have some worried are numerous. For whatever reason, Dope Machines and Songs of God and Whiskey – and, for that matter, Such Hot Blood – sadly fell short of the sales and radio impact of the earlier albums. The decrease in touring over the past few years is well documented (“decrease” being relative to the absolutely insane touring schedule the band kept up in the early years). The fact that each of the band members (particularly Anna Bulbrook) have other things on the go is no secret. And some followers have interpreted the social media posts of the past week as having an unsettling air of finality to them – though it’s worth noting that the same could have been said of posts from the end of the Such Hot Blood Tour, so let’s not fret about that too much.

Many fans had the opportunity to speak to band and crew as they’ve toured these last two months, and there’s a lot of “I heard this” and “I heard that” floating around. And yes, I too had some off the record conversations at shows I attended this fall.

The net result is this: I have no idea what the future holds, beyond what they’ve announced publicly. Mikel is going to take some time for some much needed R&R, and to do what he does best: write. Anna, who seemingly has an inhuman immunity to the need for recuperation, is already back in the studio with The Bulls, working on their debut full-length release. We’re less certain about what Daren, Adrian and Steven will be getting themselves up to, but they’ve all got their fingers in other pies too.

What will result from Mikel’s writing, only time will tell. More music, hopefully; his long lost book, possibly. We’ll just have to wait and see. But whatever it is, I know this much: it will be worth waiting for.

As for me, I don’t believe The End is nigh by any means. But I do sense that change (and change and change and change) is in the air, and change is good. So let’s all just hang tight and see where this adventure takes us next, shall we?

On a more personal note, a quiet period for the band inevitably means less content for This Is Nowhere. We’ll continue to report on anything that there is to report on, which I suspect will lead to lots of focus on The Bulls until Mikel emerges from his cave. Toxicity will be published on an as needed basis, and we’ll keep plugging away on the Toxic History series. As always, we’re more than happy to publish submissions from any Airborne fan, so fire away!

And finally, to Mikel: Thank you for pouring your heart out to us night after night after night after night. You will never know how you’ve changed us; how your words help carry us through the most difficult of times. Your music has formed the soundtrack to our morning jogs and our workday commutes, our hopes and our fears, our weddings and our divorces, our births and our losses. Your relentless schedule over the past nine years has left you little time to mourn your own losses, of which there have been way too many, and to process the countless changes in your own life. If ever a break has been well earned, it is this one. Take all the time you need… we’ll be here when you get back.

This ‘n’ That

Not much in the way of TATE coverage over the past couple of weeks, save from LA Music Blog’s sweet collection of photos from The Wiltern. However, in Airborne-adjacent news, our friend Colleen wrote eloquently in praise of nerdom, and TATE nerdom in particular, on her blog:

We all have something we completely “nerd out” about. Being a nerd is just loving something to the umpteenth degree.

The problem is, of course, there are always haters. There are always people who like to rain on someone else’s parade. And no matter how much we tell ourselves “the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate,” sometimes it’s hard to shake it off and go on experiencing our joy.

No one should tell you to tone down your joy. You have every right to be as happy as you can be, whether you are broadcasting your happy relationship on Facebook, sharing a hundred baby pictures on Instagram, going to your twentieth Airborne show, or watching those darn turtles in Finding Nemo.

Toxic Gold

Since it appears there will be no more live TATE for awhile (save for a lone shortened set in Denver in December), here are a few videos to tide you over – all from The Wiltern. “Poor Isaac” and “Innocence” come courtesy of YouTuber nesslurpee; “Cocaine and Abel” and “Change and Change and Change and Change” were filmed by TATE fan.

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.

Advertisements
Mikel Jollett's head may have felt like moonshine and cheap-ass wine, but that didn't stop he and The Airborne Toxic Event from killing it in NYC. Photo by Julie.

Mikel Jollett’s head may have felt like moonshine and cheap-ass wine, but that didn’t stop he and The Airborne Toxic Event from killing it in NYC. Photo by Julie.

By Julie

It isn’t always easy, this passage of time. The biggest mistake you can make is to try to hold on to the past, sadly nostalgic for what once was, hoping to recapture the early days of your youthful innocence, simpler times, past relationships, the early days of your favorite band. In clinging to what has faded into distant memory, you’re likely to miss exciting new possibilities and the awe-inspiring mystery of a future not yet unfurled. Though having said all that, there is still great comfort to be had in the company of old friends and the renewing of emotional bonds.

The Airborne Toxic Event has a long history of brilliant East Coast shows, and particularly when it comes to New York City. From their early days playing the CMJ music marathon and tiny clubs like Pianos and the Mercury Lounge, up to big important gigs like Terminal 5 and Central Park’s SummerStage, New York has always been a big deal for this band. Their audience has grown up with them, so it was a nice surprise to see them play the more intimate Irving Plaza. It’s gotten to the point where we all recognize each other, whether it’s from Webster Hall shows, Terminal 5, the Origins tour, the Bowery Ballroom or wherever. Heartwarming greetings from those you haven’t seen for a while, since the last show. It’s like a homecoming. And it means everything.

I’ll be honest. I’ve felt some uncertainty this year at what the future holds for Airborne. Those two wonderful new albums didn’t get anywhere near the attention I felt they deserved. There were fewer shows than expected after their release, with no additional shows (except for a single holiday gig) on the horizon. I suspect now that the original plan was to release Dope Machines late last year, which would have perfectly coincided with last autumn’s big tour. Rather than continuing an exhausting string of never-ending tours, the band is understandably weary so they’re planning shows more strategically now.

However, this dearth of live appearances made this handful of East Coast performances even more special, like rare glittering jewels. Maybe that isn’t such a terrible thing after all.

Anna Bulbrook of The Airborne Toxic Event: World's classiest bad-ass rock star. Photo by Julie.

Anna Bulbrook of The Airborne Toxic Event: World’s classiest bad-ass rock star. Photo by Julie.

It feels as though there are changes on the horizon, but Airborne’s fan community is as strong and vital as ever. Perhaps even more so. There have been times over the years when I’ve felt disconnected from what I saw developing around them. Those legions of “radio fans” who came to hear the hits and knew nothing more would be restless and chatting to their friends or playing with their phones during quieter songs. I’m not saying that doesn’t still happen, but there’s less of that now. We seem to be getting back to their loyal following, not huge but completely committed. And I can certainly live with that.

Random NYC thoughts – No Popepocalypse problems whatsoever, oddly enough (my travel woes would be in Boston). Irving Plaza, first time I’d been there; a nice smallish venue with good sound. A special show, with amazing band/audience symbiosis, and wow what a setlist! The band was so, so tight, and Adrian has really come into his own, infusing his mellow vibe into the band, balancing out the edginess. Ever more astonishing drum solos from Daren and ever more sophisticated guitar finesse and stage acrobatics from Steven. Anna has become the band’s rock star; incredible presence and self-confidence. Mikel is ever the enigma, full of smiles and angst in equal measure. When he’s really enjoying a show, his joy warms the heart; his beautiful smile fills the entire room and raises everyone in there up with him; everything feeds off his mood. He had incredible energy this evening, especially considering his recent car accident. I am always amazed by him, but never more so than this night.

You know what the problem with modern music is? There's not enough drum solos. (Unless you're at an Airborne Toxic Event gig, in which case Daren Taylor will take care of you.) Photo by Julie.

You know what the problem with modern music is? There’s not enough drum solos. (Unless you’re at an Airborne Toxic Event gig, in which case Daren Taylor has got you covered.) Photo by Julie.

The show began with the one-two Songs of God and Whiskey punch of “Poor Isaac” and “Cocaine and Abel,” which was so powerful and exhilarating that it left me breathless as if I’d had the air knocked out of my lungs. In a good way, of course. You could feel from the immediate surge of energy from the crowd that everyone was anxiously awaiting those Songs of God and Whiskey. Fans tried to keep up with Mikel’s considerable lyrical prowess in order to sing along. I’m so glad they’ve now introduced at least a small taste of that brilliant and obviously well-loved album into their live set. Hopefully these songs will continue to pop up every now and then in future shows.

Following on the heels of those first two were two older high-octane hits, “Gasoline” and “Changing.” Upon reviewing the set list, I can see very clearly something that I’ve always loved about Airborne’s live shows that many bands don’t have a good handle on — pacing. They’ve always carefully crafted their performance to be an intoxicating journey over varied terrain. A few fast and furious, then drop it down for a couple of slower, more emotional ones. In the case of NYC that night, that would be “Change and Change and Change and Change” and “Half of Something Else.” It’s a sign of true pros, to take the audience on an emotional roller coaster ride, alternately rocking out and drawing inward for shared introspection and intimacy. This up and down movement continued throughout the show, ending the main set with the breathtaking and intense triple-play of “Pursuit of Happiness,” “All I Ever Wanted” and “Midnight.” Epic.

“What’s In A Name,” admittedly not one of my favorites on Such Hot Blood, has taken on a new life for me when performed live. This feels like a real West Coast song to me, something quite personal and introspective from Mikel, about his upbringing, and I found it especially poignant when back to back with “California.” That was definitely a nice pairing, and another example of these little vignettes that are created with 2-3 song groupings. “Wishing Well,” another deeply personal moment, was the perfect song to round it out.

“Pursuit of Happiness” is turning out to be one of my favorite Airborne songs, except that it’s not an Airborne song. This angst-driven/sad confessional rap is so perfectly within Mikel’s emotional wheelhouse, it’s easy to forget that he didn’t actually write it. Suffice it to say they’ve really made this amazing song their own, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a recorded version someday.

For the encore, if anyone was at all disappointed by the absence of “Fall of Rome,” that immediately disappeared as soon as the “Heaven Is A Map” introduction to “Innocence” began. This deeply loved song typically doesn’t make it into the set list anymore, so when it does appear, you know it’s a good night — as in a really good night. Indeed, it was a 5-song encore that included another big audience favorite (that I’m guessing Mikel never would have guessed when he wrote it), “Elizabeth.” “Folsom Prison Blues” found its way into Missy, a very happy “side effect” to the looming Shazam show and the need to rehearse some of their lesser played songs. This would also happen the next evening in Boston.

Though they played in Brooklyn earlier this year and at the cavernous Terminal 5 last year, somehow this intimate appearance at the 1025-capacity Irving Plaza felt emotionally like a close sibling to those two mind-blowing gigs at Webster Hall back in 2013. It was definitely one of those evenings. The audience knew it, and Mikel knew it as well. As he said to me later, after meeting and greeting every single person in the 50+ crowd who patiently waited after the show for a moment of his time as the crew packed up their equipment, “that was a special one, wasn’t it?” Ohhhh yes.

Photo Gallery

Setlist

JulieAlong with writing regularly for This Is Nowhere, Julie publishes musingsfromboston.com, a music blog with the bipolar personality of wannabe philosopher and charlatan music critic, where she is just as likely to review the audience as she is the band. Her first Airborne show was at a lingerie party hosted by WFNX at an Irish-Mexican bar in Boston’s financial district. She does her best to live by the motto “only one who attempts the absurd can achieve the impossible.”


Lady in Pink: Anna Bulbrook of The Airborne Toxic Event unveils her latest look.

Lady in Pink: Anna Bulbrook of The Airborne Toxic Event unveils her latest look.

By Glen

And just like that, we’re a mere weekend away from the end of The Airborne Toxic Event’s European tour. With just a handful of scattered gigs on the calendar after that, it could be that we’re headed for some quiet times in TATEland. On the other hand, a fall tour sounds like a certainty, and last year’s fall tour was announced on May 12 – so perhaps the Next Big News is just around the corner…

A Circus of Music

With The Airborne Toxic Event set to hit South Africa for the first time on their way home from Europe, that country’s music scene has taken a keen interest in the band. Mikel Jollett has spoken with a number of South African media outlets of late, the most recent being So Much Music. The band is was looking forward to the experience. (Ed. Note: after this article was written, word came down that Freedom Festival has been postponed.)

We’ve heard that the crowds go completely nuts in South Africa and we’re so glad that we get to come there and play for you guys. The response we get… it’s special when you feel something when a band plays and it’s something you can’t control. Lots of people from South Africa have been wanting us to play there for a long time and well, we’ll see how it turns out.

Along with the obligatory retelling of the origins of the band and the source of their name, Mikel shared some thoughts on the value of vinyl:

It’s a story, and vinyl invites you to be part of that world for the entirety of the album. You are asked to spend an hour or however long with these people who have written these stories.

One wonders if the band’s recent interest in presenting full albums in sequence on stage stems from the same desire for their work to be absorbed in its intended context.

Meanwhile, the singer also chatted with X96 ahead of TATE’s May 8th appearance at the X96 Big Ass Show. Calling from Europe, he spoke about the oddity of being embraced in Europe before they broke through in their own nation. He also told a story from back in the days when drummer Daren Taylor used to play a car hood on stage.

One of the things we had was Daren, in addition to playing the drums, he used to play a car hood on stage. And every time we played a show, we had this truck and he had to load this big car hood. We got it at a junkyard one day, we went out to a junkyard and we found a car hood – I want to say it was from an RX-7 or some junky-ass car – and we loaded it up, and he had to unload it at every show. And he used to come to me all the time, like, “Listen man, I get the whole art thing, I get that we’re not a traditional rock band or whatever, but can I just play some damn cymbals or something?

The radio hosts offered to bring a hood to the Big Ass Show, so who knows – if you’re attending that party, you might get to experience a throwback with Daren bashing away on it.

Philly Block Party Tickets

For those hoping the catch Airborne at Philly’s 104.5 Block Party next month, it sounds as though securing tickets is easier said than done. However, a few area establishments will be giving away tickets towards the end of the month. In addition, we’re told that Ticketmaster will be offering a ticket download at an unknown date and time. Keep an eye on this link; apparently at the appointed time, it will have what you’re looking for.

“Come Unwound” Remixed

While we await more music from Anna Bulbrook’s new band The Bulls, their first single, “Come Unwound,” has received the remix treatment from Anna’s friend White Sea (Morgan Kibby). Says Anna:

I’ve known Morgan from when we were babies, before the M83 days. She’s one of the first people I ever wrote music with, and she has always encouraged me to keep going. When I heard her remix of this song, with her inimitable orchestration and especially the part where she added her voice to mine, I might have cried a little bit. Her take on it is so beautiful; I only wish I’d thought of it.

The remix is an eclectic mix of strings and synths; sort of a symphony-meets-Dope-Machines piece. Have a listen:

Road Coverage

Not much coverage coming out of Europe this week, but if you happen to be able to read German, here’s a review of the Köln gig. And Getty Images captured TATE’s return to Koko, London.

Toxic Gold:

TATE fan Kenny uploaded a number of videos from the sweatfest that was Manchester. Here’s “Innocence.”

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

Anna Bulbrook, Mikel Jollett and The Airborne Toxic Event explore new sonic territory on Dope Machines. Photo by Creative Copper Images, Oct. 23, 2014, Vancouver, BC.

Anna Bulbrook, Mikel Jollett and The Airborne Toxic Event explore new sonic territory on Dope Machines. Photo by Creative Copper Images, Oct. 23, 2014, Vancouver, BC.

By Glen

Last fall when The Airborne Toxic Event released “Wrong,” the first single from the upcoming album Dope Machines, it proved that Mikel Jollett wasn’t kidding around when he promised that the band would be exploring a very different sound on the next LP. His advance warnings did little to prevent some major eyebrow-raising on the part of many listeners, however, including but not limited to a number of Facebook fans who’ve taken to obnoxiously loudly registering their objection to the new direction every time the band posts anything pertaining to the release.

Not that the group is likely losing any sleep over it. If anything, it’s a case of mission accomplished. As Mikel said back in the spring, “If people aren’t mad about this next record, I’ll feel like I failed.”

The hubbub surrounding the new sound has obscured something else Mikel pointed out: namely, that this doesn’t represent a 180-degree shift. Rather, the musical terrain explored in Dope Machines has roots that can be traced in Airborne’s previous work.

I think our core fans that are really familiar with the breadth of things that we’ve done won’t be terribly surprised. They’ll be like, “Oh yeah, it’s just a little bit more on this front, and a little bit more on this front.” But, I think, to have a whole record that really goes there.

Which leads us to ponder: which TATE songs of the past can we look to for clues to the future? Some are more obvious than others, but here are five songs from The Airborne Toxic Event that may foreshadow where they are headed with Dope Machines.

5. Welcome to Your Wedding Day

Before morphing into the hardest rocking song on any of The Airborne Toxic Event’s first three studio albums, “Welcome to Your Wedding Day” opens with 30-seconds of bleeps, bloops, fuzzy guitars and synths, the likes of which were heretofore unheard on any TATE recording to date. Is it a coincidence that the band chose to open many of the shows on their fall 2014 tour with an extended version of this intro? Perhaps it was a subtle reminder that the new sounds being experimented with these days aren’t entirely new after all.

4. Innocence

Given its status as the pinnacle of Airborne’s trademark orchestral rock, “Innocence” would seem on its face to be diametrically opposed to the electronica of Dope Machines. But listen carefully to the version found on TATE’s debut album. It opens with a synthesized hum that recurs throughout the near-seven-minute masterpiece. Beginning at about the 5:14 mark, the steady buzz reappears and maintains a consistent presence through the final 90-seconds of the song, laying an electronic foundation for the exquisite instrumentation played over top of it.

3. Hell and Back

In the fall of 2013, The Airborne Toxic Event threw a self-described curve ball in the form of “Hell and Back,” a song featured on the Dallas Buyers Club soundtrack that became an unexpected hit single for the band – bringing them arguably their greatest radio success outside of “Sometime Around Midnight.”

Though it wasn’t necessarily a radical departure from that which preceded it (the stomping, sing-along chorus is reminiscent of “Changing,” to cite one connection), there were certainly elements that made us sit up and take notice – a trip-hop beat on an electric kit from Daren Taylor, an arresting synth solo from Anna Bulbrook – bringing a new flare to a familiar sound. It hinted at more to come, and its success may have emboldened the band to really go for it this time around.

2. You’re So American

In the spring of 2012, Mikel became infatuated (as did many other television viewers) with the new HBO program Girls. He took to Huffington Post to explain why he was drawn to the show, and to introduce a song that was inspired by it.

So I wrote this song after watching a 6-episode marathon of the show. It’s not an homage and it’s not a theme song or something. It’s just how I felt after spending time with those characters. Which is all that means. Maybe that makes it more subjective but I guess that’s the point.

The song, “You’re So American,” is a solo effort by Mikel featuring a screechy riff, distorted vocals and electric drums. Very un-TATE-like – up until now, that is.

1. Numb (Demo)

A couple years ago, Mikel released a demo version of the All At Once hit “Numb” through Soundcloud, stating that he actually preferred this recording to the one that ended up on the album. He reiterated his opinion last fall, saying, “I still prefer the demo of this song to the recording. Dave (Sardy) and I had a series of spirited debates about this song which ended with a compromise and a switchblade being pulled (as a joke, I think).”

The demo version is more fit for a dance club than a rock stage, with its electronic drum beat, spacey, layered vocals, muted guitars and synth flourishes. From what we know about Dope Machines, we suspect that this take on “Numb” would be right at home on it.

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.

The Airborne Toxic EventBy Glen

Ed. Note: Just 16 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. Today, Glen makes the case for the debut; on Sept. 9, Jamie will delve into the sophomore album; and on Sept. 16 Julie will tackle the band’s most recent release.

One need only flip to the second page of the CD booklet of The Airborne Toxic Event’s eponymous 2009 release to confirm that you’ve got something special in your hands.

At a glance, the lyrics to “Wishing Well” look more like the first chapter of a novel than the opening song of a rock ‘n’ roll album. Which is fitting because, in a way, that’s exactly what they are.

As per TATE’s founding mythology, Mikel Jollett started out writing a book, and ended up writing an album. The truth of the legend is plainly evident in the utter lack of concern the writer exhibits for anything resembling traditional song structure throughout the ten-song collection. The music of The Airborne Toxic Event has been described as story set to music and poetry you can dance to, and it is in this first album that this well-deserved reputation was forged.

In the years between then and now, Mikel has grown immeasurably in his craft as a songwriter. He has become ever more adept at spinning his tales concisely; more proficient at weaving his yarns around the choruses and hooks that large audiences seem to require. This is undeniably a positive development.

AND YET…

The imperfect perfection of this naive and lovely first effort is equally undeniable. Here, a thousand words are worth far more than a picture. Here, a beating heart carved from a writer’s chest and placed on a shelf for all to gawk at captivates more powerfully than a mere chorus ever could. Here, we are drawn into a world we may never have lived in, and may never choose to inhabit, but which inexplicably feels like home nonetheless.

I could talk about the songs: how the mournful wail of the viola that opens “Sometime Around Midnight” never fails to send a chill ripping straight down my spine; how screaming out the final desperate lines to “Missy” in noisy, rowdy unison with 1,000 other voices in a crowd, all of them failing after two hours of singing along to every verse, provides unmatched catharsis; how “Innocence” moves my soul more deeply with its instrumentation alone than virtually any other song can do with words.

Or I could talk about the vocabulary: how words like mescaline and coquette and accoutrements and courtesan just don’t belong in rock songs, until you hear them here and realize that of course they do.

Or I could talk about the live shows, and how recent setlists suggest that the band members themselves seem to privilege their earlier work, whether because of their own personal preference for it or a nagging suspicion (right or wrong) that this is what the audience will respond to most enthusiastically.

But it all comes back to story. The stories told here are not my stories, but they have become mine. No, not mine – ours. Mikel’s stories have become the band’s stories have become the fans’ stories, and that’s what we’ll all gather together to celebrate those three sacred nights at The Fillmore.

If you ask me tomorrow to name my favorite album by The Airborne Toxic Event, I might give you a different answer. I might tell you that “The Graveyard Near the House” has the most profound lyrics I have ever heard put to music, and therefore I must choose All At Once. I might try to explain how the musical expedition that is “Safe,” with its peaks and its valleys and its whispers and its screams and its back and forth between Mikel and Anna and viola and guitar and Everything, leaves me exhilarated every time, compelling me to pick Such Hot Blood.

But without this tortured maiden voyage into the wounded depths of the writer’s psyche, there is no All At Once or Such Hot Blood. It is here that the stories are first told; here that the world which would later be fleshed out in bright and shiny color is first sketched in pencil.

Not everyone sees what we see in this picture. Some just cannot overlook the rough edges and the lack of polish and that damn, bloody bird. To them, it all just looks like such a mess.

But what a beautiful mess it is.

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.

Daren Taylor of The Airborne Toxic Event: Ready to bring the power to The Fillmore. Photo by TATE fan Elva.

Daren Taylor of The Airborne Toxic Event: Ready to bring the power to The Fillmore. Photo by TATE fan Elva.

By Glen

Ed. Note: Over the next five Tuesdays, we’ll be gearing up for The Airborne Toxic Event’s upcoming residency at San Francisco’s Fillmore (Sept. 18-20) with a series of posts to whet our collective appetite. Today’s is the first installment.

I’ve seen a lot of Airborne Toxic Event gigs. Well, I suppose “a lot” depends on the context. Compared to some fans who have seen them 40, 50 times or more, I’m just a rookie. But by normal person standards, I’ve attended plenty of shows.

Despite that, there are a surprising number of TATE songs that I’ve never seen performed live. And that’s a big part of what makes the impending San Francisco residency a must-attend event: with the band performing a different one of their three studio albums in full each night, it’s a golden and perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any fan to cross a bunch of songs off their live TATE bucket list.

Below are ten songs that are guaranteed to be played, that I can’t wait to see. If you’re going to be there, what’s on your list?

10. It Doesn’t Mean a Thing

The first of six songs on this list that I have yet to experience in the flesh, “It Doesn’t Mean a Thing” promises to be a rollicking good time with its Gasoline-esque rhythm and relentless energy.

9. Strange Girl

One unknown heading into the residency is whether the band will feel compelled to stick close to the album arrangements, or whether they’ll pull out some alternate versions. For example, will “The Kids Are Ready to Die” be played in the punk-style that we’ve come to expect in concert, or will we witness a live rendition of the powerfully stark album version? In a similar vein, the rarely-played “Strange Girl” has at times been presented as a slowed down, bare bones vocal tour de force by Mikel Jollett. Is this what they have in store for us? Either way, it will be the first time for me.

8. Dope Machines/California

After witnessing these new songs at Boonstock, I’m champing at the bit to see them again. It’s always interesting to see new material evolve as the band gets comfortable with it in a live setting. Some have noted that Mikel’s falsetto in “Dope Machines” wasn’t entirely successful in its first couple of performances. Will he perhaps take it down an octave or three going forward?

7. What’s in Name?

Though “What’s in a Name” has never been played since its release on Such Hot Blood, I was lucky enough to see it at the pre-release Red Rocks show – another occasion in which a falsetto chorus didn’t quite do it for me. Subsequently, the high notes were shelved in favor of a full-throated attack that worked a lot better, and I’ve been waiting ever since to experience it again.

6. This is London

Another seldom-played Such Hot Blood track, “This is London” boasts some of the very best lyrics in the TATE catalog, in my opinion. I’m looking forward to hearing them sung in person.

5. All for a Woman

Of the three All At Once songs that I’ve yet to see, “All for a Woman” has been at the top of my list. It will be even more interesting to see how the band arranges it in light of Noah Harmon’s recent replacement by Adrian Rodriguez. Traditionally, Noah and Steven Chen have swapped instruments for this song. Will it be the same this time out?

4. Elizabeth

One of my favorites from Such Hot Blood, and the final song I haven’t witnessed from that album. “Elizabeth” is beautiful in its simplicity.

3. Innocence

“Innocence” is my all-time favorite song, bar none, and with it having become a rarity after years as a setlist standard, it would normally be atop my list. It slips down a couple spots only because I have seen it a few times previously. This time promises to be different, though, as Noah’s departure will surely necessitate some degree of reimagination of the arrangement. I have no doubt this will be one of the highlights for everyone in attendance.

2. The Fifth Day

The first time I heard “The Fifth Day,” from the fourth row at Red Rocks, I was stunned into silence. Seriously – it was drop-dead gorgeous, and I was certain that it would be a showstopper on the subsequent tour. Whether it’s because the band didn’t feel they could do it justice without an orchestra or for some other reason, it didn’t happen. I expect that the version we hear on Sept. 20 will be significantly different, with only Anna Bulbrook and her viola to bring the symphonic element, and I’m counting the days till I get to see what they do with it.

1. This is Nowhere

It’s funny. Had I written this list a year and a half ago, “This is Nowhere” would have been on it, but much farther down. But once I decided to name the website after it, it became my great white whale of TATE songs – the one I have to see in person, but feared I never would. And yet, here it comes.

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.

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.