Posts Tagged ‘Songs of God and Whiskey’

Randy with Steven Chen and Adrian Rodriguez of The Airborne Toxic Event in Reno, NV

Randy with Steven Chen and Adrian Rodriguez of The Airborne Toxic Event in Reno, NV

Los Toxicos is a monthly feature where we get to know a fan of The Airborne Toxic Event. To nominate a fan (or yourself) for a future month, e-mail us.

Name: Randy Ramsey (@randymanramsey)

Where are you from?

Williston, ND (via Metaline Falls, WA)

Tell us about yourself (who you are, what you do for a living, hobbies, etc.).

I’m Randy Ramsey, 40 years old. Married 14 years with 3 kids, son Jaydis (10) daughters Maleah (8) and Tyleigh (6).

I’m a field engineer for an oil and gas service company in the North Dakota oil fields. My family takes priority over everything in life, but when time allows music and sports are my passions. My wife and I are big UFC fans and have attended 5 fights in Vegas. We love to travel and if we can squeeze in a concert, even better.

It was great meeting some amazing people in Reno (Glen, Thomas and Katie, Kenny, Brooke, Amanda) and forging friendships with others who love the band as much as I do. I regret not going to the Sacramento show. Almost everyone I had met offered me a ride there.

How did you become a fan of The Airborne Toxic Event?

I’m a latecomer to The Airborne Toxic Event party. I’m sure it was in 2012… my introduction, like most, was “Sometime Around Midnight.” I’d heard it on AltNation one night out on a drilling rig. The only line I could remember the next morning was, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” I googled the lyric and the rest is history. Instantly hooked. I purchased all the music I could find.

Do any of your family or friends like The Airborne Toxic Event? Did you convert them, or did they convert you?

My daughters Tyleigh (6) and Maleah aka Missy (8) love Airborne Toxic. My son Jaydis (10) likes all music including Airborne. I wouldn’t say he’s on the same level as the girls. My wife Dolly, not so much. Her and I have totally different taste in music. I can guarantee that if I like it, she won’t. She’s into country and hip hop. And I’m into GOOD music.

What does your Airborne Toxic Event collection include?

A couple of shirts, a signed setlist, ticket stub and wristband from the Reno show, and pictures from hanging out after the show.

What’s your favorite TATE song, and why?

Too hard to choose. Right now my favorite is Songs of God and Whiskey. Favorite song has got to be “Missy” (live) because I love hearing my daughters sing along to it.

I think part of the appeal to Airborne Toxic is the lyrics. It really is poetry. The detail in the songwriting, the emotion. I pay attention to lyrics in songs, and hands down the music is brilliant.

Randy with Daren Taylor of The Airborne Toxic Event in Reno, NV

Randy with Daren Taylor of The Airborne Toxic Event in Reno, NV

Have you ever had a special experience at a TATE concert? Tell us about it.

As soon as the Reno show ended, Daren was collecting the setlists. I saw what he was doing and yelled his name. He looked at me, held his hand up and gestured, “Give me a sec…” After collecting all the setlists he reach over the stage and gave me one. I asked if I could get them signed and he told me to come around the back.

He was a man of his word. Also got Steven and Adrian and Anna to sign. This was the night Mikel was sick and went AWOL right after the concert.

When Steven and Adrian signed it, I asked them if they were going to the afterparty at the club across the street. They said they were and to come say hi.

Myself and a couple other fans were waiting for Anna and Mikel to come out (not knowing that he was gone for night). Anna come out, talked and took pictures with fans. As she signed my setlist she asked if I had seen where Steven, Daren, and Adrian had gone. I told her they had said they were going to the club for the afterparty. I walked across the street with her (and a couple other fans). Entered the party. Chatted with the guys from Sir Sly for a few minutes. Bought Steven and Adrian and Daren a couple rounds. Steven kept thanking me for the drinks and stated he didn’t have any cash on him because he didn’t go back to his room after the show. I told him it was no problem, it was my honor to buy them drinks.

Randy and Steven at the afterparty.

Randy and Steven at the afterparty.

It was very loud in the club and we all left. When we got outside a couple other guys recognized Adrian and Steven. One was a band member from Zella Day, the other was from Cold War Kids (both bands were playing the next night at Cargo). We walked around downtown Reno for a bit. We lost Daren. Hit a liquor store. Walked around more. Found Daren. It was surreal. We finally made our way back to Cargo. Hung out some more.

Steven told me a couple stories that night. I won’t share them but if you get a chance to meet him and hang out ask him about the keyboard that they built into the junked piano. And how everyone hated it (except Mikel). And ask him about their night in Vancouver, BC, the bar and police.

What’s on your Airborne Toxic Event bucket list?

To get them to play a show in North Dakota.

Are there any other bands you would recommend that Airborne fans check out?

Augustines (formerly called We Are Augustines). They are probably the second most played on my iPod. Here’s a little sample…

I’m also a huge Killers fan, and they’re a great live show if you ever get the chance to see them.

A shot from Reno:

Mikel Jollett, Steven Chen and The Airborne Toxic Event under the neon lights of Reno. Photo by Randy.

Mikel Jollett, Steven Chen and The Airborne Toxic Event under the neon lights of Reno. Photo by Randy.


This Is Nowhere: The Airborne Toxic Event Fan Blog

By Glen

We’re well into our third year of covering The Airborne Toxic Event here at This Is Nowhere, but 2015 marked the first TATE album release since we began – and we got two for the price of one!

The result was our busiest year yet. This little hobby threatened to turn into a full-time job in late February, thanks to an unprecedented 4,000 page visits in two days when Dope Machines and Songs of God and Whiskey dropped. In all, we’ve had over 125,000 page views this year.

Meanwhile, I tested the limits of my ever-patient wife (not to mention our credit cards) by traveling to Seattle, San Francisco, Reno and Sacramento at various points this year to catch the band on the road. What a pleasure it has been to make so many new Airborne friends and share some memorable gigs with many of you.

Things have quieted down since the band began their break a couple months ago, but we’re still hammering away on Toxic History, our would-be book that we’re aiming to finish by next summer. Hopefully by then we’ll have a better idea of what may be next for The Airborne Toxic Event.

In the meantime, here’s a look back at some highlights from 2015.

Top 5 Posts

The following posts were the most widely read of the year.

5. The Airborne Toxic Event Fan Survey: 2015 Edition – Almost 400 fans took our massive survey on all things TATE. Only a few of you cursed me for making the questions too hard, so I consider that a win.

4. Down Thunder Road: Mikel Jollett Discusses Springsteen’s Influence on The Airborne Toxic Event – Thanks to our friend Steven Fein, we had the wonderful opportunity to publish an original interview with Mikel Jollett from a few years back, on the topic of Bruce Springsteen and his influence on Mikel’s songwriting.

3. There Are No Rules When You Fall in Love – A cheesy little piece that I wrote for my wife on Valentine’s Day, with a little help from Mikel.

2. Review: Dope Machines – Fun fact: I started writing this review almost six months before the album’s release, forming my thoughts on The Airborne Toxic Event’s changing musical direction, adding my impressions of individual songs as I heard them live and tweaking it as tracks were released in the weeks leading up to release day.

1. Review: Songs of God and Whiskey – Fun fact: I wrote this review in a matter of two hours after only one careful listen to the album. A snap album deserves snap coverage, right? This article has been read by almost four times as many readers as the Dope Machines review. Interesting.

5 Personal Picks

In case you missed them, here are five of my personal favorites from the past year:

Toxic History Series: This three year labor of love has now grown to 28 chapters, with a (planned) 14 more to come in 2016. We’re on the cusp of Such Hot Blood. Catch up and join us for the rest of the journey!

I’ll Follow You Even If It Was ‘Wrong’ – It’s always a privilege to publish Colleen Cline’s thoughtful work. In the run up to Dope Machines, when many fans were fretting about synths, Colleen wrote about why she implicitly trusts the artistic instincts of the band.

As I Navigate Through the Dope Machines and Revel in Songs of God and Whiskey – An alternate take on the two new albums from Julie Stoller. Thank you, Julie, for all you have contributed over the past couple of years, both publicly and behind the scenes.

A Fans’ Eye View of The Airborne Toxic Event’s Private Show – When Bill Barrish won the right to choose the setlist for a private Airborne show, he generously shared the opportunity with other fans who would be in attendance. Before the show, each of them shared their picks with us, and why they chose them. Following the gig, several of them collaborated on a joint review of the memorable evening, opening up about what it meant to hear their chosen songs.

Enough is Enough: My Song of God and Whiskey – My Airborne-inspired, very personal reflection on my recent journey, warts and all (mostly warts, actually). Written during a dark time, but it still rings true to me today.

Thank you very much to each and every one of you who have read, written, photographed, filmed, commented and bounced alongside me this year, and especially to all who have encouraged my family and I as our daughter continues her cancer battle. (She’s kicking its ass, BTW, though we still have 14 months of treatment to endure.) I hope to see you on the road sooner than later!

Glen 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.

By Glen

For fans of The Airborne Toxic Event, 2015 was anything but dull. With two albums released, four videos and three tours, the TATE news machine rarely stopped churning – that is, until late in the year, when the band entered an extended break that has fans wondering what the future holds. Here are the highlights of The Airborne Toxic Event’s 2015.

Jan. 13: The Airborne Toxic Event announces the track listing to their fourth studio album, Dope Machines, with pre-orders to start the following Tuesday

Jan. 16: The band invites fans to uncover the album artwork for Dope Machines by Shazamming their current single, “Wrong”

Jan. 19: The closing track of Dope Machines, “Chains,” premieres on

Jan. 20: Dope Machines pre-orders begin; digital pre-orders include immediate download of “Wrong” and “Chains”

Jan. 30: The Airborne Toxic Event performs a benefit show at the Troubadour in Los Angeles for the Songs for Kids Foundation; the show includes the live premieres of “Chains” and “One Time Thing”

Feb. 3: “One Time Thing” is made available for download with Dope Machines pre-orders

Feb. 18: The Airborne Toxic Event announces a 10-date European tour for April

Feb. 20: The Airborne Toxic Event’s fourth studio album, Dope Machines, is released in Mainland Europe

The Airborne Toxic Event, Dope Machines

Feb. 22: The newly redesigned band website is launched

Feb. 23: The Airborne Toxic Event announces a surprise second album, Songs of God and Whiskey, to be released at midnight; the all-acoustic album is only available digitally, paired with Dope Machines, through the band’s website

Feb. 24:
Dope Machines is released in North America

Feb. 24: The Airborne Toxic Event’s fifth studio album, Songs of God and Whiskey, is released through the band’s website

The Airborne Toxic Event, Songs of God and Whiskey

Feb. 25: The Airborne Toxic Event celebrates their double release with a free show and album signing at LA’s Amoeba Music

Feb. 25: The Airborne Toxic Event announces a 10-date North American tour for March, with Dope Machines to be played in full each night, accompanied by a special video presentation

Mar. 11: The Dope Machines Tour begins in Brooklyn, NY, featuring the live premieres of “Time to Be a Man,” “My Childish Bride,” “The Thing About Dreams” and “Something You Lost”

Mar. 13: The Airborne Toxic Event appears on VH1’s Big Morning Buzz, performing “One Time Thing”

Mar. 13: The Airborne Toxic Event appears on The David Letterman Show, performing “Wrong”

Mar. 14: The band’s show in Boston, MA features the live premiere of SOGAW track “Change and Change and Change and Change”

Mar. 19: The Airborne Toxic Event is the subject of a full-length feature on WHYY-TV’s On Tour

Mar. 23: The Airborne Toxic Event tapes a segment for Revolt TV, which airs Mar. 24

Mar. 24: The North American Dope Machines Tour ends in San Diego

Mar. 30-31: The Airborne Toxic Event shoots acoustic Bombastic videos for various Dope Machines and Songs of God and Whiskey tunes, in and around Los Angeles

Apr. 6: Dope Machines is released in the U.K.

Apr. 7: The Airborne Toxic Event’s European tour begins at Muffathalle, Munchen, Germany

Apr. 19: The European tour ends at Academy, Dublin, Ireland

Apr. 24: Songs of God and Whiskey is released on iTunes and other digital outlets in Europe

Apr. 28: Songs of God and Whiskey is released on iTunes and other digital outlets in North America

Apr. 28: The Airborne Toxic Event releases the Bombastic video for “California”

May 4: The Airborne Toxic Event releases the Bombastic video for “The Fall of Rome”

May 11: The Airborne Toxic Event releases the official music video for “California”

May 31: The Airborne Toxic Event plays Songs of God and Whiskey in full for the first and only time, at a special show in Santa Ana, CA – a show that features the live premieres of “Cocaine and Abel,” “A Certain Type of Girl,” “Strangers” and “Why Why Why”

June 22: The Airborne Toxic Event releases the Bombastic video for “One Time Thing”

June 22: The Airborne Toxic Event announces the fall Whiskey Machine Tour of North America

July 20: Anna Bulbrook’s band, The Bulls, announces their Small Problems EP release for Aug. 28, and debuts the title track on Soundcloud


July 24: As part of a short acoustic set in Atlantic City, NJ, The Airborne Toxic Event debuts a cover of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness,” which would be a staple of their live performances through the rest of the year

July 24: The Bulls officially release the single “Small Problems”

July 25: The Whiskey Machine Tour begins at the Kerfuffle in Buffalo, NY

Aug. 28: The Bulls release their debut EP, Small Problems

Small Problems, the debut EP from Anna Bulbrook and Marc Sallis' group The Bulls, drops Aug. 28, with the title track available now.

Early Sept.: Mikel Jollett gets in a serious car crash, luckily avoiding major injury

Sept. 8: The Airborne Toxic Event announces a “One Time Thing” Shazam contest, with the winner earning the opportunity to choose the setlist for a private gig in Philadelphia

Sept. 26: The private Shazam show for 20 contest winners and their guests includes seldom played songs “The Secret” (long version), “Tokyo Radio,” “Strangers,” “A Letter to Georgia,” “The Thing About Dreams,” “The Fifth Day” and more

Oct. 7: The Bulls debut the music video for their latest single, “Rumors”

Oct. 22: The Whiskey Machine Tour comes to an end at the Wiltern in Los Angeles

Oct. 24: Mikel Jollett announces that the band will be taking a break of undetermined length: “Going dark for a bit now to hovel and rest and write”

Dec. 5: The Airborne Toxic Event ends their year with a short, controversial set at Denver’s Not So Silent Night

What was your personal TATE highlight of 2015? Was it one of the events listed here, or something else entirely? What do you think 2016 has in store? Comment below!

For a complete listing of 2015 tour dates, including setlists for every show, visit our TATE setlist archive.

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 album collage

By Glen

Confession: I am a compulsive list maker and favorites ranker.

On my long commute to work each day, I often find myself mentally compiling lists. Favorite movies, favorite books, favorite hockey players, favorite children (justkiddingiwouldneverdothat), favorite bands, albums and songs – they’ve all been rehearsed and rehashed.

On the one hand, I recognize that it’s a pretty lame exercise. Mikel Jollett would probably tell me that analyzing and comparing pieces of art as if they were specimens under a microscope is missing the point at best, a complete and utter bastardization at worst. And he’d be 100% correct.

But I do it anyway. Blame it on the brain.

Sometimes when I just can’t decide which album I like better, I compare them track by track to see how they stack up. Which record has the better opener? Closer? Track #5?

Again, I get that it’s crass. Great albums are way more than the sum of their parts, which is why Greatest Hits albums are never as good as the original LP’s that spawned the hits. Ripping individual songs from their context and judging them in a vacuum devalues them to some extent. But then, that’s all part and parcel with living in the iTunes era, right? Sadly, many music purchasers don’t even bother with albums anymore, preferring instead to build patchwork playlists with a little from Arist A, a smidgeon of Artist B, on and on ad nauseum.

With these disclaimers on the table and full recognition of the limitations inherent in what I’m about to do, once you get past the idiocy of the basic premise, it can actually be a pretty fun exercise. And so, what follows is something of a battle royale: groupings of Airborne songs, organized by track number, squaring off to craft my ultimate TATE album.

All opinions are strictly my own, of course. But, as a preview of our upcoming Airborne Toxic Event fan survey, I invite you to place your vote for your favorite track in each showdown, and in a week or two I’ll post the “Fans’ Choice Ultimate Airborne Album.” Feel free to share your selections in the comments below.

Track 1: Wishing Well vs. All At Once vs. The Secret vs. Wrong vs. Poor Isaac

The Airborne Toxic Event starts every album with a bang, so it’s no surprise that Track 1 is stacked with strong contenders. Under normal circumstances, I would be perfectly satisfied with any of “Wishing Well,” “Wrong” or “Poor Isaac,” all of which are top tier songs. But up against “All At Once” it’s a pretty easy call for me. The opener from Airborne’s sophomore album is amongst my top three songs of all time, and was pretty much guaranteed to beat out any competitor it might face. With lyrics that are instantly relatable to any listener and an irresistible, anthemic quality despite (or perhaps because of) its unconventional arrangement, it’s a song that works equally well as a concert opener or closer, and would do the same on the ultimate TATE album.

Verdict: All At Once

Track 2: Papillon vs. Numb vs. Timeless vs. One Time Thing vs. Cocaine and Abel

Track 2 features one of the most eclectic showdowns, pitting punk rock versus ballad, electronica and brass-tinged barroom hoedown. While the unhinged energy of “Papillon” and the wit of “Cocaine” are hard to ignore, this battle comes down to “Numb” and “One Time Thing” – one of TATE’s purest rockers versus the catchiest song in their catalogue (and my current ringtone). I’ve mentally flip-flopped on this one a dozen times and will probably do so again before I hit ‘publish’ on this, but for now I’ll give the nod to the one whose lyrics have resonated more closely with my life of late.

Verdict: Numb

Track 3: Gasoline vs. Changing vs. What’s in a Name vs. Dope Machines vs. A Certain Type of Girl

With its distinctive bass line, high school lyrics and the Anna vs. Steven face-off that is a highlight of every live performance, “Gasoline” gets strong consideration here. “What’s in a Name” feels like a sequel to “Gasoline,” or perhaps a prequel, and its recent return to the live setlist has been more than welcome. But ever since I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to catch its live world premiere, I’ve been hopelessly hooked on “Dope Machines.” It’s noisy, but such a glorious noise, marrying classic, driving guitar to Mikel’s more recent infatuation with electronic music. If I can’t quite squeak “One Time Thing” onto this list, give me the song that Mikel calls its second chapter.

Verdict: Dope Machines

Track 4: Happiness is Overrated vs. All for a Woman vs. The Storm vs. California vs. Change and Change and Change and Change

Another solid grouping from top to bottom. If I was basing this on live performance, I’d have to go with “Happiness,” which, despite its dour outlook, is just a hell of a lot of fun in concert. “All for a Woman” is the first ballad to appear on a TATE studio album, and remains one of their best with its exquisite lyricism and soaring delivery. “The Storm” is the first number from Such Hot Blood to merit serious consideration for me (don’t worry, things will pick up in that regard very soon). But “Change and Change” is my winner here. My favorite song from Songs of God and Whiskey tells a story that is just so Mikel, delivered at a frenetic pace that you just can’t help but sing along to (if you can keep up).

Verdict: Change and Change and Change and Change

Track 5: Does This Mean You’re Moving On vs. It Doesn’t Mean a Thing vs. Safe vs. Time to be a Man vs. April is the Cruelest Month

Though “It Doesn’t Mean a Thing” has recaptured my affection of late, this is really a two horse race between two of my faves: “Moving On” vs. “Safe.” The former was one of the songs that sold me on the band in the first place, a hooky rocker with interesting lyrics (coquette, anyone?), and a must-play at every Airborne show. But “Safe” is what first sold me on Such Hot Blood. When they dropped that bomb on me under a starry sky at Red Rocks, backed by a 50-piece orchestra, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that my band had done it again. It kills me to cut “Moving On,” but…

Verdict: Safe

Track 6: This is Nowhere vs. The Kids Are Ready to Die vs. Bride and Groom vs. Hell and Back vs. The Lines of the Cars

Okay, I’ll try to be objective about this. When I originally selected “This is Nowhere” as the name of this website, it wasn’t because it was one of my favorite Airborne songs. Really, I just liked the way it sounded, and how it conveyed the sense of a place that isn’t really a place, which seemed fitting for a virtual hangout like this. Of course, since then it’s become a sentimental favorite, and being in the front row to see it performed at The Fillmore is my all-time live TATE highlight. Digging into the history of the band and understanding its connection to Mikel’s short story “The Crack” has also served to deepen my love for the song.

On the other hand, “Hell and Back” thrilled me from the moment I heard a sub par recording of its world premiere radio broadcast on Philly Radio 104.5, and listening to it within the context of Dope Machines has only improved it. And then there’s “Bride and Groom.” When Such Hot Blood became available as a live stream the week before its release, I immediately jumped to this song, the only one on the album that I hadn’t yet heard at least a live recording of. I couldn’t wait to taste the tune that Mikel had referred to as the best he’d ever written. It wasn’t at all what I expected… it was better.

Verdict: Bride and Groom

Track 7: Sometime Around Midnight vs. Welcome to Your Wedding Day vs. True Love vs. My Childish Bride vs. Strangers

Much like Track 1, this one isn’t really a fair fight. “Sometime Around Midnight” is The Airborne Toxic Event’s signature song for a reason, and it’s not likely to fall from that perch anytime soon. The other tracks in this battle are an interesting collection, as each of them have unique elements that set them apart from what TATE is usually known for. “My Childish Bride” would be my runner up here, but there’s no conquering the king.

Verdict: Sometime Around Midnight

Track 8: Something New vs. Half of Something Else vs. This is London vs. The Thing About Dreams vs. Why Why Why

Here we have a showdown of some Airborne classics against some of the band’s most underrated songs. “Half of Something Else” will undoubtedly make many fans’ lists; I will leave it off mine for the reason that I prefer the heartbreaking dirge of the Going the Distance version of the song to the more upbeat All At Once arrangement. “This is London” has some of the very best lyrics Mikel has ever penned, in my opinion, and a moving viola solo from Anna. It’s a sadly overlooked gem that is deserving of more than the small handful of live playings it has received. “Why Why Why” is likewise worthy of more attention; the line, “Like a guilty man who knows he’s gonna fry” gets me every time. But my choice is “The Thing About Dreams.” My first exposure to it came in the form of a 90-second German iTunes preview clip, and when that falsetto kicked in, I was flabbergasted. My first impression was that this may not be the song for me. That lasted only until the end of my first full listen to the song, by which point I was sold. I love everything about this song, from its dreamy atmospherics to its lyrics that fit me like a glove, and, yes, the falsetto – though I pity anyone who has the misfortune of hearing me attempt to sing along.

Verdict: The Thing About Dreams

Track 9: Missy vs. Strange Girl vs. The Fifth Day vs. Something You Lost vs. California (acoustic)

After 9 years as The Airborne Toxic Event’s go-to show closer, some fans have grown weary of “Missy.” I am not one of them. But with all due respect to my daughter’s favorite Airborne song, it plays third fiddle to a pair of heavyweights. “The Fifth Day” enraptured me at Red Rocks. Never before and never since have I felt chills rip down my spine like I did during that performance; I still get shivers just thinking about it. “Something You Lost,” on the other hand, has that effect every single time I listen to it. “Please don’t ever leave” – it’s a moment that never fails to make my hair stand up. The choice between these two exquisite tunes, both of which are comfortably within my personal Top 10, is easily the most excruciating of this exercise. I have gone back and forth more times than I can count. Had the closing wails of “Fifth Day” been left raw and untreated like they are on stage, I would’ve given it the edge, but as it is, I’m going with…

Verdict: Something You Lost The Fifth Day Something You Lost The Fifth Day Something You Lost

Track 10: Innocence vs. All I Ever Wanted vs. Elizabeth vs. Chains vs. The Fall of Rome

From top to bottom, the 10th track is the most stacked, with strong contenders across the board. Each of The Airborne Toxic Event’s albums closes with a gorgeous, memorable song, and in any other match-up, any of these tunes could have earned a spot on my final list. But like “All At Once” and “Midnight” before it, “Innocence” is in a category all its own. Showcasing a band at the height of its powers, it is simply perfection, making this a much shorter conversation than it should be given the depth of the competition here. My top choice in the non-Innocence division is “All I Ever Wanted,” but it’s no slam dunk.

Verdict: Innocence

Track 11: The Graveyard Near the House

All At Once is the only Airborne album to include an 11th track, so technically “The Graveyard Near the House” qualifies by default. But that is no slight. “Graveyard” is a favorite of virtually every TATE fan, myself included, featuring the consensus best lyrics Mikel has ever penned. It is very well deserving of a spot on the ultimate Airborne playlist.

Verdict: The Graveyard Near the House

B-Sides: The Winning Side vs. This Losing vs. The Girls in Their Summer Dresses vs. Tokyo Radio vs. Haile vs. Parson Redheads vs. Dublin vs. The Way Home

Three of The Airborne Toxic Event’s five studio albums have had b-sides attached to them; the fact that their most recent two records were released simultaneously is likely the only thing that precluded b-sides in those cases. Because I couldn’t stand to limit myself to 11 songs, I’m allowing myself two b-sides. TATE’s collection of bonus songs is remarkable, with a good number of them certainly being album worthy. I’ve always loved the hard rocking bombast of “The Winning Side,” and “Dublin” is just a gorgeous flower of a song, but my top two b-sides are “This Losing” and “The Way Home.” The former showcases everything I love about this band: a symphony wrapped in a rock song. “The Way Home,” meanwhile, stands as the single most personally meaningful song in my life. Quite simply, Mikel wrote my story.

Verdict: This Losing and The Way Home

The Airborne Toxic Event: My Ultimate Album

  1. All At Once
  2. Numb
  3. Dope Machines
  4. Change and Change and Change and Change
  5. Safe
  6. Bride and Groom
  7. Sometime Around Midnight
  8. The Thing About Dreams
  9. Something You Lost
  10. Innocence
  11. The Graveyard Near the House
  12. This Losing (b-side)
  13. The Way Home (b-side)

Number of  Tracks By Album (including b-sides)

The Airborne Toxic Event – 3
All At Once – 2
Such Hot Blood – 3
Dope Machines – 3
Songs of God and Whiskey – 1

Overall, the even distribution seems about right. I was very surprised that it took until Track 7 to work a song from the debut album into the mix. It just goes to show the limitation of this approach, as it remains my favorite album as a whole.

How about you? What does your ultimate Airborne album look like? Share your picks in the comments!

Glen-TINGlen 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.

Enough is Enough: My Song of God and Whiskey

By Glen

It was Oct. 28, the night before the major work event that had brought me to Calgary, and two nights before I was scheduled to take in The Airborne Toxic Event’s hotly anticipated homecoming show at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.

I was at my favorite restaurant, enjoying my annual dinner with my mother and grandmother – something we do every October when business brings me back to my home town.

Appetizers had just arrived when I took The Call from home.

And the phrase that fell from her lips left a rip from the top of your shoulders to the point of your hip…[i]

A decade earlier when our third daughter was born, the spectre of Leukemia had rudely elbowed its way into our consciousness. She came into the world with a condition that is unique to babies with Down syndrome, called Transitory Leukemia. Though it looks like Leukemia, it is not actually cancerous, and it self-resolves within the first couple weeks of life with no harm done.

Nevertheless, children born with TL face a higher risk of getting the real deal within the first five years of life. Children with Down syndrome carry a higher Leukemia risk as it is (about 1/125), but until she hit that magical fifth birthday, Becca’s chance was 1/4.

Every six months we held our breath as we awaited test results, exhaling in relief each time they came back clean. As we passed the milestone and her risk level dropped to longshot levels, the fear began to recede. Within a few years, it was nothing more than a hazy hypothetical we rarely ever thought about.

And so when the phrase, “She has Leukemia” fell from my wife’s lips on that evening last fall, it ripped through me like a rapier.

I fingered my appetizer as I stuttered a stunned explanation to mom and grandma, straining to make sense of what I’d just heard, and to figure out what exactly I was supposed to do now.

The next seven hours are a blur. Apparently I made arrangements for the work event to proceed without me, changed my flight, packed my bags, flew to Vancouver and drove an hour from airport to home – though I hardly remember any of that.

I do remember posting something on Facebook, though. Too early to tell the world what was happening, all I could think to do was to quote one of my favorite Airborne songs, the sting of which pierced me like never before.

And it comes like a punch
In the gut, in the back, in the face

I stepped through the door, mind swimming. The house was asleep, save for my wife. Becca was sleeping in our bed. As I peered at her in the dim light, she looked exactly as she had when I left a few days earlier, but somehow completely different. Nothing had changed, and yet everything had changed.

As I took her body into my arms and carried her to her own room, I could almost sense the tangible presence of the vicious intruder in her bloodstream. I gazed at her face, innocent and blissfully unaware of the battle raging inside her. A hard lump took root in my chest, rising quickly to the back of my throat.

Please don’t ever leave. Please don’t ever go.[iii]

That knot in my stomach would become achingly familiar in the ensuing months, even to this day. It returns when she asks me for the umpteenth time where her hair went; when she crawls up the stairs because her legs are too shaky to walk; every time we force her to submit to a scary medical procedure that she doesn’t understand the need for; and especially on those occasions when she’s just too spent to protest.

They warned us that, while Down syndrome may actually improve the Leukemia prognosis, it could also make her more susceptible to other complications.

Ha. If only they knew.

The protocol for a typical child calls for a week in the hospital to begin treatment. For kids with Down syndrome, they stretch it to a month. In our case, one month became two; the fall from hell bookended by Halloween and Christmas, hospital style.

If there’s a potential side effect, Becca has suffered through it. Five bouts of c-diff, featuring the most wicked cases of diarrhea you can imagine, causing crippling diaper rash. Irritation at the site of her spinal tap that had the infectious disease team casting wary glances. Temporary diabetes brought on by steroids – something that we can look forward to a week per month for the next year and a half. Kidney function dropping, then recovering. Horrific mouth sores that rendered her lips giant scabs and prevented her from speaking, much less eating. On and on and on it goes, to the tune of 120+ nights spent in hospital out of the past 240.

Every person you meet can tell you’re a ship taking water in a storm and you’re starting to sink.[iv]

For the first couple months, our other three kids coped admirably as mom and dad rotated hospital duty every other day. But they are entitled to their own crises, and life has seen fit to pile on, rendering these last eight months a cruel joke that never gets to the punch line.

In one darkly comical episode, our young son inhaled a cookie. As I sat with Becca at Children’s Hospital, my wife rushed The Boy to a hospital closer to home. While she argued with the intake nurse about the severity of the situation, he passed out in her arms. That ended the argument really quickly. They were whisked into the ER, where 14 hands belonging to seven doctors and nurses immediately descended upon him. From somewhere within the chaos, a voice called out for the pediatric crash cart, while my wife stood by in numb terror.

I learned about all this by text after the crisis had subsided. They revived him, and when it became apparent that he would be in hospital for a few days, we arranged to have him transferred by ambulance to Children’s, so the four of us could at least be under the same roof.

That’s how we ended up with matching rooms on the same floor of BC Children’s Hospital for two nights, where my wife and I swapped places every few hours, meeting for “dates” as we passed in the hallways.

The thing about love: it’s never enough. Circumstance changes and life’s always calling your bluff. Enough is enough.[v]

Each time we think we’ve maxed out what could go wrong, life laughs.

Minivan kicks the bucket on one of our trips to the hospital.

Enough is enough.

Teenager begins to struggle with panic attacks and depression.

Enough is enough.

12-year-old needs braces.

Enough is enough.

The Boy starts waking up four times every night, forcing me out of bed for good at 4:30 am. Every. Single. Day.

Enough is enough.

The Boy faints at school for no obvious reason, ending up back at Children’s Hospital to figure out why.

Enough is enough.

For the piece de resistance, how about an international legal incident? A sleezy Turkish website stole a photo of Becca and offered it for free download alongside other stolen images of children with Down syndrome. An equally sleezy multinational biomedical company based in Switzerland promptly got their hands on it and plastered our beautiful daughter’s face on a building-sized banner promoting – wait for it – their new prenatal testing product that helps families avoid having a child like ours, thus placing us dead center in what has become a worldwide media story and legal situation. As we slogged our way through the most intense phase of chemo, we were fielding calls from reporters on the one hand and lawyers on the other, the point of complete and utter emotional exhaustion having been passed long ago.

When life calls your bluff, she doesn’t fuck around.

And the feeling that you get is if God exists he’s really unkind.[vi]

Ah yes… God. As he’s known to do, he’s been hovering in and around this whole situation.

He’s there in the hundreds of Facebook messages from people promising to pray for us – some of them even crying out on our behalf, “Enough is enough.”

He’s there in the “Praise the Lord for small mercies” comments that come each time there is the smallest hint of an improvement in our lot.

He’s there in the gifts abundantly poured out on our children, in rides given and babysitting offered up and meals lovingly cooked and money freely donated, much of it expressly given as an outworking of our friends’ steadfast faith in God.

There’s just one problem.

I’m not really sure I believe in God anymore.

And what’s more… I’m not really sure I even want to anymore.

Which is not to say that I’m not grateful to the core for the prayers, well wishes, positive energies, healing thoughts, and acts of extreme generosity that have been sent our way by believers (and unbelievers, it should be noted) of all stripes – because I am. We would not have survived without our legion of faithful supporters, and whatever their motivation, I am endlessly thankful. It’s just that, to me, the value of these acts is found in their significant real world encouragement rather than anything that may or may not be accomplished in the heavens.

It would be easy to write off my shift from believer to agnostic as a knee-jerk, bitter and perhaps temporary reaction to our overwhelmingly difficult circumstances. Except that’s not at all how it happened.

As is typical of my all or nothing approach to the things I care about, when I decided to follow God at the age of 16, I was all in. My new beliefs reshaped my entire life, leading all the way to a decade-plus spent in full time Christian ministry.

As someone who tends to live in his head, my faith was built on a foundation of books. Really thick ones, with no pictures – scholarly theological tomes that for most would be a cure for insomnia, but for me were an endless source of fascination and stimulation. Over 15 years, I read more than 300 books and completed a dozen university level religion courses, some at a secular school and others at seminary. I argued with liberal professors and left convinced that I was right. I was as certain as anyone could be about what I believed.

But then, it’s easy to be certain when you only ever engage with thinkers inside your own camp. Every book I read only served to confirm and buttress beliefs that I already held – never to question them, much less refute them. If the other side was ever presented, it was only as a straw man, set up in just such a way as to allow it to be spectacularly knocked down.

If you smash your life up against the wall, you want to break it like a bottle and just let go,
But I don’t know if there’s a God at all, I just know I can’t live like this no more,
I just know I can’t live like this no more.

My first gentle nudges in a different direction came not from suspects outside the camp, but from those who were still inside and yet bold enough to explore its edges: those who poked at sacred cows just hard enough for me to see that there may actually be other ways of seeing things.

For eight years I asked questions and sought answers, and the more I did so, the less satisfying I found the ones to which I had once clung; finally arriving at the point where I just had to admit it: I no longer believed what I used to believe.

But I still wanted to. All our friends and most of our family were believers. Our kids were brought up in the church. My wife’s faith has gone through tremendous changes, but remains strong at its core. It would have just been so much more convenient if I could have somehow willed myself back on board.

This is the intellectual and emotional backdrop to my experiences over the past eight months.

Oh and God just go and leave me all alone I’m not your son, I’m not your son, everybody dies alone. In your world, was it not quite hard enough for you? I guess like anyone, you’ve got your own scores to settle too.

And I’m so pissed tonight, I feel just like the last remaining Canaanite, and I’m not sure if I want you to save me. And I’d be less uptight if I knew the sight of blood is just a weakness, right, and not the reason that you made me. Sometimes I think it is.[viii]

Driven as I am by the brain rather than the heart (no doubt to my great detriment at times), I’ve never had much time for emotional objections to faith. Questions like, “If God exists, why did he let this happen?” carried very little weight with me, even when the ‘victim’ of the perceived injustice was me. And while our recent trials and tribulations are not responsible for my step away from faith, they have certainly changed my perspective on the relevance of feelings to the God conversation.

When well-meaning friends promise to pray, or exhort us to have faith in God’s good plan, I can’t help but wonder…

If God exists, what reason do I have to believe that he’s on our side in this? If he is who you think he is, could he not have prevented some or all of this from happening in the first place? Could he not have answered the thousands of prayers that have already gone up on our behalf by at least refraining from adding to our burden, rather than allowing one disaster to pile upon another? If God is in control, then he chose to allow this mess; why then should I look to him to deliver us from it? And if he gets credit for the rare and fleeting piece of good news that we receive, should he not also bear the blame for the mountains of bad news that tower all around us?

Some may point to my lack of faith and posit that perhaps all this is happening so that God might get my attention. In fact, some have come right out and suggested as much.

Truthfully, I can’t dismiss the possibility that this is how God works – except to say that inflicting an innocent little girl with a horrific disease that she can’t even comprehend is a pretty ass-backwards way of convincing her parents that you love them. Whatever may be the consequences of unbelief, a God that either consciously causes or passively permits this type of tragedy in order to draw people back to himself is not particularly attractive. Worthy of fear? Perhaps. Worthy of worship? Questionable.

Further, my previous experiences as a devout believer tell me otherwise. As I look back on thousands of hours spent in sincere prayer over nearly two decades, five requests stand out as the items for which I prayed most frequently and fervently: our five pregnancies. Never in my life have I prayed for anything with more hope, more faith and more urgency.

Five pregnancies. Two stillbirths. Two healthy children. And one precious daughter, loved to the moon and back exactly as she is, born with a disability that will shape her life forever and that has led directly to the disease that is currently wracking her body, while some faceless company questions whether she even has a life worth living.

The numbers don’t add up in favor of a loving God who answers prayers offered in faith. And yeah, I’ve considered every possible justification – theological, philosophical, emotional and otherwise – for why he may have allowed this or that. I’ve written A+ papers arguing that the problem of pain is not, in fact, a deal-breaking problem for faith. I’ve tried hard to talk myself into believing it.

But I can’t. The most I can affirm at this point in my life is that if God exists, he’s really unkind – and thus, I’m not sure if I want him to save me.

I’d love to tie a pretty bow on this and finish off by sounding a hopeful note.

But Songs of God and Whiskey don’t always have a happy ending.

[i] The Airborne Toxic Event, “My Childish Bride.”

[ii] The Airborne Toxic Event, “All At Once.”

[iii] The Airborne Toxic Event, “Something You Lost.”

[iv] The Airborne Toxic Event, “Why Why Why.”

[v] The Airborne Toxic Event, “The Thing About Dreams.”

[vi] The Airborne Toxic Event, “My Childish Bride.”

[vii] The Airborne Toxic Event, “The Way Home.”

[viii] The Airborne Toxic Event, “Poor Isaac” (original demo lyrics).

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

Mikel Jollett, Steven Chen and Adrian Rodriguez bring The Airborne Toxic Event's Songs of God and Whiskey to Orange County. Photo by Vanessa (@nesslurpee), Instagrammed by Chen (@fabricoh).

Mikel Jollett, Steven Chen and Adrian Rodriguez bring The Airborne Toxic Event’s Songs of God and Whiskey to Orange County. Photo by Vanessa (@nesslurpee), Instagrammed by Chen (@fabricoh).

By Glen

June has arrived without word of a fall tour for The Airborne Toxic Event. But fear not: all signs continue to point to the band hitting the road in the latter part of the year. While you wait for the announcement, here’s the latest in TATE news.

The Gig of God and Whiskey

The big happening this past week was undoubtedly the much ballyhooed “one time only” live performance of Songs of God and Whiskey last weekend in Santa Ana, CA. Judging by the superlative-laden accounts of ecstatic fans, the show was off the hook, with some who have seen the band dozens of times ranking it in their top handful of gigs. Perhaps the positive response will convince the band to rethink that “one time only” thing. One can hope…

This Is Nowhere reader Malia Kuss reviewed the show for us, while friend of the blog Cornel Bonca provided a write-up for OC Weekly.

Played live, it (SOGAW) also loosened the band up–viola/violinist Anna Bulbrook’s typically pristine classical lines got funkier and more fiddle-like, and Steven Chen, usually content to provide expert rhythm guitar and record-sanctioned solo fills, stretched out in a little improvisation. Certainly Jollett felt liberated by the new stuff: the opener, “Poor Isaac,” a fist-shaking address to The Almighty, unleashed an almost frightening anger in him, just as “Strangers” and “Why Why Why” revealed a tender acceptance of suffering that came this close to sublime.

Among the many factors that made this concert unique was the occasional inclusion of two additional musicians onstage with the band. John K. Morrical, whose fingerprints are all over the two new albums (he contributed to both Songs of God and Whiskey and Dope Machines in production, mixing and instrumental capacities) sat in on keys for a few songs, while Mark Bush of Voodoo Glow Skulls added his trumpet to the proceedings.

TATE fan Vanessa did us all a huge favor by capturing many of the new songs on video. Here for your viewing pleasure are “Cocaine and Abel,” “April is the Cruelest Month” and “Strangers.”

If The Airborne Toxic Event is to be out of the public eye for the next few months, they certainly went out with a bang.

What a Riot

Though we’re still awaiting the big announcement, the past couple weeks haven’t been entirely bereft of tour news. Riot Fest recently released the lineups for Denver (Aug. 28-30), Chicago (Sept. 11-13) and Toronto (Sept. 19-20), and Airborne is playing all three. No word yet on the exact dates they’ll hit each city, but we’ll keep you posted when we get word.

The Airborne Toxic Event at Riot Fest

Poor Isaac Gains Traction

Though Songs of God and Whiskey has not yet been supported by a single release, opening track “Poor Isaac” is starting to make a dent in the wider music scene. First, Audio Bonsai ranked the song number one out of 120 recently released “Fresh Cuts.” Jump to the 1:19 mark to hear their copious praise:

Then on Wednesday came word that KRFC 88.9 in Fort Collins, CO has added “Poor Isaac” to their playlist. Hopefully other stations will soon follow suit.

Toxic Gold

We’ll sign off with one more world premiere from Santa Ana. Courtesy of Lara, here is “Why Why Why.”

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

Mikel Jollett and The Airborne Toxic Event put on a show to remember when they played their new album, Songs of God and Whiskey, straight through at The Observatory in Orange County. Photo by Stephanie Webb.

Mikel Jollett and The Airborne Toxic Event put on a show to remember when they played their new album, Songs of God and Whiskey, straight through at The Observatory in Orange County. Photo by Stephanie Webb.

By Malia

Let me start by saying – I have a complete and total love affair with this band. Over the last four years I’ve gone to every Airborne show I could. I’ve been lucky enough to see them play all four studio albums in full, the first three during the Fillmore Residency and more recently Dope Machines performed at House of Blues in San Diego. I’ve watched them play at their dream venue – The Greek, and have seen them play small intimate venues like The Troubadour. In 2013 I saw what I have to admit was my favorite show of all time – Airborne performing with the Pacific Symphony in Costa Mesa. I’m not bragging, I’m just trying to establish a baseline. Okay… I’m bragging just a little.

When Songs of God and Whiskey was released I listened to it straight through 4 times before turning it off. Then I went to bed, got up the next morning, and listened to it all day. It is the one album I keep on my iPhone for plane trips, car rides, and everything in between. To me SOGAW is Airborne at their best. Raw, lyrical, real, and playful. When they announced they’d be playing the album in its entirety, I set an alarm for the moment tickets went on sale.

With that little bit of history, it should go without saying that I had high hopes for this show going in. To say they delivered would be the understatement of the century. It’s hard to describe the experience of hearing all of SOGAW played live. It was clear from the first notes of “Poor Isaac” that this album meant as much to the band as it did to the audience. The band’s signature raw emotion, compelling lyrics, and general badassness (is that a word?) took center stage – and made me fall in love with them all over again. “April is the Cruelest Month” and “Fall of Rome” gave me shivers, and the highly anticipated premieres of “Why Why Why,” “Cocaine and Abel,” and “Strangers” were amazing and will definitely be added to my brag list. I can only hope that at least one of these songs starts to make a regular appearance alongside “Change and Change and Change and Change,” which has quickly become a crowd favorite.

As for the remainder of the set, honestly I would have been content just to have heard SOGAW live and hadn’t thought much about it beforehand. OH WOW. When the band dove straight into “Bride and Groom” I literally jumped up and down, spun around and said to my husband “do you hear this?!?!”, and then proceeded to bounce around like a small child throughout the entire song. The remainder of the set was almost as exciting, and lighter on songs from Dope Machines than expected, finishing up with classic favorites “All I Ever Wanted” and “Midnight.” Just when I thought there was no way the evening could get better, the encore gave us “Graveyard” (based on the crowd’s reaction I’m not the only one who would give anything to hear them play this song at every show), closely followed by “Elizabeth,” “All at Once,” and “Missy.”

Having been a little disappointed with the crowd at the last two Airborne shows we attended, I was apprehensive going into this one. I certainly didn’t need to be. This was the crowd you want to see Airborne play with. Pre-set murmurings were filled with stories exchanged about previous shows, and at least one friendly argument was had with nearby neighbors as to which of us has a bigger crush on Anna (I still think I win.) Maybe we were just lucky, but unlike recent times we have seen Airborne perform, from our side of the stage it seemed everyone was there for the music. And while all 5’3” of me gets frustrated trying to see around people recording every song on their iPhone, at least I felt like these were the fans who might actually go home and watch their videos, possibly on mute, since all the audio likely recorded was me (and my fellow mega-fans) singing and hollering at the band. As my ever-patient husband reminded me halfway through the show, people enjoy things in their own way. The good thing about this show is there was no way to leave without having enjoyed it.

Most notably, it wasn’t just the crowd having fun. The band was completely engaged and seemed like they were genuinely having a great time – smiling, joking, and teasing each other in a way we hadn’t seen since the Fillmore. Mikel seemed happy, and even mentioned during the encore that this night had been the highlight of a “really shitty month.” He spent the entire show interacting with the audience, cracking jokes, and playing around with the rest of the band – calling Adrian out on a last minute wardrobe change and joyously introducing each member of the band, including the unusual (and fantastic!) addition of guest musical support on piano (John Morrical) and trumpet (Mark Bush). Due to a last minute change to the show’s start time we were a little further back than I would have liked, however the Observatory’s tiered viewing area compensated for a slightly less than ideal vantage point. The setup also gave Mikel plenty to climb on – something he took heavy advantage of, coming out into the crowd a number of times over the course of the night.

At the end of the night I walked out voiceless, happy, and completely satisfied. TATE delivered everything I could have hoped for during this show (with the exception of “Duet” being crossed out on the setlist… Why Mikel, why, why, why?!?). And while I really don’t know how they will continue to top previous experiences, I have no doubt that they will. Once again, I am now impatiently waiting for the next show, while reminiscing about the last. Hopefully they won’t make us wait long.