Posts Tagged ‘Riot Fest’

Anna Bulbrook gets high as Mikel Jollett looks on during The Airborne Toxic Event's set at Riot Fest Toronto. Photo by Trish Cassling.

Anna Bulbrook gets high as Mikel Jollett looks on during The Airborne Toxic Event’s set at Riot Fest Toronto. Photo by Trish Cassling.

By Glen

We’re smack dab in the middle of the most action-packed week The Airborne Toxic Event has had in months. After playing four sets in three cities in just over 48 hours last weekend and hitting Buffalo Tuesday night, the band finishes off the first portion of the Whiskey Machine Tour with another four set, three city, 48 hour whirlwind: New York City (last night), Anna Bulbrook’s hometown Boston tonight, and Philadelphia tomorrow. That final stop will include a private set for the winners of the band’s Shazam contest, to be held a couple hours before the main event.

A Close Call

The band’s frenzied performance schedule this week is made all the more remarkable by the fact that Mikel Jollett has been doing it hopped up on painkillers after a recent car crash that could’ve been much worse. He shared the scary details in an interview with CBS Philly:

I hydroplaned on the 10 freeway and spun off and totaled the car. I almost died; like, it was crazy. Went down an embankment, got pinned by a boulder. I just spun off the freeway at a high speed. It was insane. My back’s all messed up… nothing major, just some muscle stuff.

As to playing the shows on meds, he says, “It’s been interesting. We played a show the other night and I forgot the lyrics to a song, then we play another show in Toronto at Riot Fest and I forgot the lyrics to another song, and I put it in the wrong key, because I’m on all these muscle relaxers and pain killers. The show’s been loopy, but fun. I’ve never been that into drugs, more than you’re average wayward rock and roll person in the big city I guess, but man, it’s been a whole nother experience.”

I’m sure I speak for the entire Airborne fan community when I say, thank God it wasn’t worse. Take care of yourself, Mikel, and thanks for keeping the show on the road.

Speaking of God, elsewhere in the interview, Mikel waxes theological as he considers the Pope’s visit to Philly coinciding with the band’s show on Saturday. He also looks back at the reaction to Dope Machines, concluding that he had fretted unnecessarily.

I think I was hand-ringing over nothing. When you make something, you spend so much time on it, you feel like a lot of nervous energy about how it’s going to be received. Early on there were people, like on Facebook that were so mad that we made an electronic record and I wasn’t sure if they were expressing some larger will, and it turns out they weren’t.

A Not So Silent Night

The Airborne Toxic Event has been a regular at holiday shows over the years, and the first announcement in that regard came down recently. The band will return to Denver with Bastille, Cold War Kids and others on Dec. 5, for Channel 93.3’s Not So Silent Night.

Reading Between the Lines

From the department of “I May Be Reading Too Much into This” comes this tweet:

It’s just four little letters that could ultimately mean nothing, but that “hmmm” has me quite optimistic that we will get some kind of official recording of Airborne’s very popular cover of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” before too long. May it be so!

Road Recaps

Assorted coverage of The Airborne Toxic Event’s most recent road escapades:

Anti Music tagged the band as one of the MVP’s of Riot Fest Chicago.

Music Felon published a photo gallery from TATE’s electrifying gig in Austin.

AXS Entertainment captured the fun at Riot Fest Toronto. So did Riff You. And so did The Reviews Are In.

Buffalo News published a huge collection from Airborne’s visit earlier this week; if you were there, you’ll probably find yourself in their extensive fan shots.

Mulling Over Midnight

As part of their ongoing “What’s THAT Supposed to Mean?” series, Popdose recently covered The Airborne Toxic Event’s best loved song, “Sometime Around Midnight.” The writer, Beau Dure, muses about why he feels so connected to a song that describes experiences he’s never personally had – a sensation that I am very familiar with myself.

The question I’ve wrestled with is this, and the reason I’m writing about this song in this series: What do I get from this song? Why does it resonate with me?

I’ve never been in this situation. I was never a serious drinker — never “lost in the haze of the wine” or stumbling down a street oblivious to everyone’s stares. I haven’t had a breakup I regretted since I started college.

The closest I can come to that feeling would be in college, watching situations in which I didn’t even have a chance to be the ex. I haven’t checked with Duke, but I may still hold the university record for unrequited crushes. I can’t think of a specific situation in which I saw someone I admired from afar walking off with another guy, but if you add up all the times I realized someone was out of my league or just walking in different circles (like frat parties, which I never had the slightest interest in attending), I could probably come up with a pretty good amalgam.

Indie History

Noisy published a compelling retrospective off failed Los Angeles radio station Indie 103.1. With the station’s heyday having coincided with the rise of The Airborne Toxic Event, the band gets an extended spotlight in the story. Mikel recalls what the station’s support meant to his upstart operation:

We had been a band for about a year and I think Mark Sovel had us in to the studio to do a live performance of a song. It was really cool because we were just a local band playing Spaceland and El Cid and places like that.

I had this little clock radio and it was on Indie 103.1 and I heard our song, “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?” and was like, “Woah, this is so cool!” It was like that moment in La Bamba.

It’s one thing when you hear something through your speakers or monitor speaks in the studio or something, but hearing something that you’re a part of on your tiny, little fuckin’ digital talk radio—that’s a trip. I think it also followed the song “Push” by the Cure, which is one of my all-time favorite songs. I kind of welled up a bit.

In January of 2008, we played this [Indie-hosted] residency at Spaceland and in the fourth week of the residency—again, we’re still a local band, no manager, no record deal, nothing—and Indie 103.1 added us to their rotation, started playing our song all the time, which was a huge deal for us…We never figured that the radio would play us and then they did. It was this really weird moment because it was embarrassing how exciting it was.

KROQ [added The Airborne Toxic Event] that same week and it was crazy. The audience totally changed. It was bigger. I think 1200 people showed up to that show for our residency and Spaceland has a capacity of 300. There’s a little documentary online about that night. That was kind of weird. The week before, there was 200.

The other thing that changed was the audience. Before that, it was our friends and people in the scene and music fans from the Eastside or wherever. Then suddenly people drove from the Valley or people drove from the South Bay or the Westside to come see a show at Spaceland. It was just a much bigger crowd and it was a different kind of crowd.

Radio is very competitive and there are all kinds of charts that show you the research of how this song is performing…There is detailed research and it’s all tied to ad revenue, right? But, Indie 103.1 didn’t seem to care. They just liked playing what they liked and they had some cool people working there—Sovel being one of them—that just had good taste and liked good music and just sort of believed that if they did that then the rest of it would fall into place.

Toxic Gold

Yep… I’m a little obsessed with “Pursuit of Happiness” at the moment. Here’s the performance from Riot Fest Toronto, courtesy of danielscissorhands.

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.

Anna Bulbrook of The Airborne Toxic Event was her usual showstopping self at Riot Fest Chicago. Photo by Alberto.

Anna Bulbrook of The Airborne Toxic Event was her usual showstopping self at Riot Fest Chicago. Photo by Alberto.

By Alberto

Heading into Riot Fest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Yes, I knew the songs The Airborne Toxic Event usually plays during festivals. I knew there would be lots of energy and possibly some climbing from Mikel. I knew that Anna might dive into the crowd, tambourine held aloft. Except a show of this magnitude was something I was only familiar with from second-hand accounts; it would be the first time I would see it with my own eyes.

The last time I saw The Airborne Toxic Event live was on their very special Dope Machines Tour. Of course, the two shows would be different from each other. I was going to Riot Fest alone, while at the DM tour I went to the show with my girlfriend, Sarah. That day had been a cold one, but waiting in line for five hours proved worth it. We secured front row spots up against the stage, Steven gave Sarah a set of autographed guitar strings, Mikel and Anna played right in front of us, and we met everyone after the show. We had an incredible time that day. It was, for us, the best show ever. With my last experience being that, dare I say, perfect, I naturally had trepidations about their next visit to Chicago.

Douglas Park had become a mud-covered field due to Friday and Saturday’s rainy weather and the heavy foot traffic brought on by Riot Fest. Sunday was spared from any more rain, but the previous days’ conditions had left more mud than grass on what was once a very green park. Luckily, being at the stage early, I was able to avoid the muddy parts and pick an excellent viewing area. The only challenge would be standing there for seven hours in what was the warmest and sunniest day of the weekend. My spot was front row, between what would eventually be Anna’s set up and the middle of the stage.

There were some great performances by Kevin Devine and The Goddamn Band, Andrew McMahon and The Wilderness, and Manchester Orchestra prior to The Airborne Toxic Event taking the stage. Their sets were what carried me through the eight hours of waiting for TATE. Daren was the first of the band to show up, playing his drums and even Adrian’s bass for soundcheck. After a while, Steven arrived to set up his guitar and various pedals. Adrian was next, followed by Anna. Mikel was last to arrive. The stage crew then set up two fog machines by each side of the stage. All that was left was waiting for the scheduled time.

The band approached their instruments to a flurry of applause and excitement. Wasting no time at all, the band began with “All At Once.” The crowd loved it; a powerful opener to let the crowd know this isn’t just any rock show.

The Airborne Toxic Event in full flight. Photo by Alberto.

The Airborne Toxic Event in full flight. Photo by Alberto.

The next song was introduced by Mikel as being about “one of those nights” where he would stay up listening to Modest Mouse’s Third Planet. He mentioned how he looked forward to seeing them perform later tonight. He proceeded to play the opening to “Wishing Well on the keyboard.” Mikel’s vocals throughout the show were clear and strong; perfect for people to truly hear the lyrics and feel the weight of every word.

Next came “Changing” and its clap-along, which was brief, but effective, and primed the crowd for the energy of the next song, “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?” The song began with an Airborne drum collaboration between Daren, Mikel, and Adrian. It was something I expected, but loved to see nevertheless. The crowd was more than willing to join the fun, as Mikel instructed them to jump “like a bunch of fucking monkeys.”

Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event: Acting like a fucking monkey at Riot Fest Chicago. Photo by Alberto.

Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event: Acting like a fucking monkey at Riot Fest Chicago. Photo by Alberto.

It was during “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?” that Mikel’s festival antics showed up once again, and he found a great place for climbing right next to one of the fog machines. Finally seeing this in person, I was quite impressed by the altitude he reached. No video or picture can capture just how high Mikel gets when he’s climbing. While clinging to the structure, he commented how he doesn’t like weed, but that he’d like to get high with Snoop Dogg, who would perform on the adjacent stage an hour or so later. This was greeted by laughs and agreement from the crowd. Mikel finished the song up there and began climbing down only when the sounds of “Hell And Back” and the audience clapping filled the air.

One of the most fun parts of Airborne’s shows is the singalong to “Hell And Back,” and this time was no exception. Everyone in attendance enthusiastically tried their best to repeat the “gibberish” Mikel was singing. This was probably the best audience interaction of the whole day.

Next, I expected “One Time Thing,” since I had seen the setlist ahead of time. However, at some point, the decision was made to play “Happiness Is Overrated” instead. The intro will forever be one of my favorites, and Mikel made it even better this time around by holding the “always” note for what seemed like an eternity. The song got the audience very excited, to the point where one Riot Fest attendee tried to crowd surf, but was promptly escorted out by security.

Airborne’s next song was “All I Ever Wanted,” a song the crowd loved and I’ve always adored live. Amid the sound of Anna’s violin strings and Mikel’s voice, I found myself immersed in the lyrics and the power of the music. It was a moment where that song became even more meaningful to me, because it made me think of the one person in the entire world I wanted to share this moment with. I was moved by the heart with which it was played by every member of the band.

After the emotional rendition of “All I Ever Wanted,” a cover of “Pursuit of Happiness” by Kid Cudi followed. The song was enthusiastically received by the Riot Fest crowd, and the majority were familiar with the lyrics. Steven’s guitar during the cover was incredible.

Anna’s playing shone brightest when she played those first notes of “Sometime Around Midnight.” The massive crowd cheered when it began. Again, I found myself feeling more emotional over this song than I expected. Mikel’s delivery of, “You just have to see her, you just have to see her, you just have to see her” resonated very strongly with me.

Once the final notes faded away, the band broke into the beginning of “Missy.” It’s always been a great song with which to close the night. The instrumental break was accompanied by Anna’s stage diving. And with those last hard strums, strikes of the cymbals, and audience cheering, The Airborne Toxic Event’s set was done. Although my last encounter with The Airborne Toxic Event had been special in a multitude of ways that no other show could match, Sunday’s set not only managed to thrill me, along with the enormous Riot Fest crowd, but also affected me in a way I did not expect.

Heartbreak has always been a prominent aspect of Airborne’s music. Until now, I could not entirely relate to that concept. On this night, however, when the band played “All I Ever Wanted,” and again during “Sometime Around Midnight,” the words and the sounds and my longing for Sarah’s company left me feeling something that can only be described as heartbreak. Not the same heartbreak of love lost, but that of one whose love is visible and tangible, yet out of reach. I was singing the words of those songs for her. And I wasn’t the only one affected by the performance’s emotional content; people from the crowd had been brought to tears by Airborne’s tales of failed romances.

This is perhaps what The Airborne Toxic Event does best. The band evokes so much feeling, and poetry, and life in their music that it brings forth those emotions that are bubbling under the surface within an individual. It can be rage against that one ex that tore your heart into a million pieces, or the fear of not becoming who you want to be, or that family member that you still mourn losing, or that feeling when you can’t be with the one you love despite how badly you both want it. In the midst of enjoying a rock show, The Airborne Toxic Event brings you moments of pure human connection, moments in which both the band and the listener are at their most vulnerable. Despite the large setting of a festival, The Airborne Toxic Event managed to capture the same intimacy of those small venues and brought it to Riot Fest. That intimacy and vulnerability are what makes their performances indelible. While the Dope Machines show remains my favorite apart from the rest, this Riot Fest show proved to be just as special and moving and exhilarating as all the other times I’ve seen this extraordinary band perform.


Alberto waits patiently for The Airborne Toxic Event to take the stage.

Alberto waits patiently for The Airborne Toxic Event to take the stage.