A Fans’ Eye View of The Airborne Toxic Event’s Private Show in Philly

Mikel Jollett, Steven Chen and The Airborne Toxic Event thrilled an intimate audience of 80 at the Keswick Theater before hitting the same stage again for a full house a few hours later. Photo by Ryan Macchione.
Mikel Jollett, Steven Chen and The Airborne Toxic Event thrilled an intimate audience of 80 at the Keswick Theater before hitting the same stage again for a full house a few hours later. Photo by Ryan Macchione.

On Saturday, The Airborne Toxic Event hosted an invitation-only pre-show gig for fans who won the band’s Philadelphia Shazam contest. Grand prize winner Bill Barrish was given the chance to choose the setlist, an opportunity he generously shared with the other fans who won their way into the party. Below are some post-show reflections from Bill and others who partook in the fun.

Bill:

I think I speak for everyone who was involved in the private Philly Shazam concert when I say, WOW! This was truly a unique, amazing experience for the fans. An opportunity like this is so far beyond what any fan of a band could expect. I am not going to attempt to write a full review of the show, partly because that is something I’ve never done before, and also because those who are more experienced and eloquent than I will be posting a review shortly.

What I would like to do is pass along some special moments and observations from the night and the entire experience, both for myself as well as some of the other winners. We all spent a great deal of time and effort with the Shazam contest, and it definitely paid off in the end. Many of the other winners helped me pick the setlist, and it was definitely different than a normal TATE show. We knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we also knew that a full TATE concert, with many of the often played favorites, was coming later that night. So we certainly challenged the band with some of our choices, and Mikel made sure to point out that fact early in the show, saying, “I’m not even going to pretend we didn’t have to practice these songs.”

The wishlist of songs was put together rather quickly. Mikel wanted some rehearsal time (probably anticipating a few zingers), so we needed to submit our choices within a few hours of learning the details of the private show. The band’s manager, a very personable and obliging man named Pete, told me that when he first suggested to Mikel the notion that the top Shazamer would pick the set list for the private show, Mikel’s response was, “Really? Maybe they would prefer a signed poster or something.”

Saturday evening at the Keswick Theater – there was very little time from when they opened the doors for the private show and when the band came onstage. All of the winners and our guests were seated in the first four rows of the theater. So, 80 people in all – with the band, the stage, and full equipment ready to perform.

The start was very odd and different than any other TATE show I’ve been to before. The first words out of Mikel’s mouth before even starting the first song were, “Well this is pretty fucking weird.” Indeed it was pretty weird at the beginning. Everyone was seated politely, probably not wanting to block the view of those behind them. I was seated in the fourth row (back) with my wife, sister and brother-in-law (all new TATE fans). The band started to play “The Secret” – one of my add-on choices. I didn’t want to be the one weird guy dancing. About a minute into the song, my wife suggested we go ahead and stand up anyway. And almost in sync, row three, then row two, and then row one stood up, and normalcy was restored to a TATE concert. At one point Mikel said this is “the smallest big rock and roll set we’ve ever played.”

So, the wishlist we submitted had my top choice, nine choices from other winners, and five other songs that I added in as the deadline rapidly approached. I didn’t want the band to think we only wanted to hear 9 or 10 songs! They ended up playing 12 of the 15 songs, including the “Missy” medley that I requested – which was of course 3 songs in one.

Mikel was more talkative than usual, probably because of the intimacy of the setting, and the fact that we all won a contest to be at the private show. At one point in the show, Mikel compared me to Dr. Evil, suggesting that I was standing in the back, stroking a cat, and saying – “One miiiillion songs you don’t know!” A few songs (“Tokyo Radio,” “Strangers”) ended with Mikel letting out a sigh of relief, or mockingly brushing dust from his shoulders, thankful they made it through the song successfully. He lamented, “Thanks Bill. Couldn’t have done like… fucking ‘Midnight’ or ‘All I Ever Wanted?’”

I felt obliged to let him know that we all had a role in picking the set list. This was in part to give other people credit, but also to share the blame for forcing the band brush up on songs they rarely play! Mikel said that he thought that was an “awfully democratic” thing to do. He then said that he was proud to be in a band that has fans that would share. Other than the songs themselves, that was probably my highlight of the show.

So, since this is a concert review, I guess I should mention some of the songs. Firstly, I gained a new appreciation for some of the songs submitted by the other winners. Great choices! Asking devoted TATE fans to try to choose their one top song – that is a tall order. So obviously the songs submitted have a great deal of meaning, and I was grateful that the band was able to accommodate so many of the requests.

Of the songs that I personally submitted, my highlights came at the end of the show – “The Fifth Day,” “Timeless,” and the “Missy” medley. I’ve loved “Fifth Day” ever since I first heard it on Such Hot Blood. I have never seen it performed live before. I’ll have to say I was totally blown away. We really need to hear this more at future shows! Next up, after Mikel asked the tour manager how they were doing on time, ironically they went right into a great performance of “Timeless.”

At the end of “Timeless,” Mikel asked, “Y’all havin’ fun?” We, of cours,e responded enthusiastically. He joked, “That’d be funny if everyone was like – nah, it’s alright, ok I guess.” He then thanked us, the fans, for “supporting the band in so many different ways, and we love you for it.” And then he said, “Ok, this is the whole thing, the whole thing Bill.” So I knew what was coming…

“Missy” was a great end to the show. Some of the songs that we picked were more on the mellow side – in fact, at one point Mikel commented to the audience, “You’re all such nice people listening to such sad music.” So a full, high energy rendition of Missy/Folsom Prison Blues/Born in the USA/Missy was a perfect way to wrap things up.

I’m not sure how the band and tour manager pulled it off. A private show, followed by a full concert in Philly after being in New York City and Boston the two previous nights. And throw in some rehearsal time for the challenging song list we gave them. Hopefully this wasn’t too big of a burden for everyone in the band. From Mikel’s comments during the show, I think they all accepted the challenge graciously, and delivered flawlessly.

So in the end I did not get the signed poster that Mikel originally suggested. What I and all of the other fans got was so much more. A private show performed by an extraordinary band with a very unique set list. Many of us had a chance to meet members of the band, and get autographs and photos. The band made sure to give me a signed copy of the setlist. I was fortunate to be in the front row for the full concert that followed later that evening, and Mikel came over at the end to hand me a setlist for that show as well, and shake my hand one more time. I can’t thank Mikel, Anna, Steven, Daren, Adrian and everyone else involved enough for all their efforts making this happen for us. I wish every TATE fan could have this type of experience at least once.

Lalena:

I am so glad people enjoyed “A Letter to Georgia!” It’s always been my favorite song, but is often overlooked. In fact, in 16 shows I had never heard it played live. To see it TWO TIMES in one night was more than I could have ever dreamed.

In fact, that song making the request list is what inspired me to Periscope the show. The only other time I’d seen the song played live was on the San Francisco Fillmore broadcast last year, and it moved me to tears. I wanted to share that with some of the fans who couldn’t be there, but were with all of us in spirit.

I originally planned to just broadcast snippets of the show, maybe one or two songs. After so many people joined in, and were so enthusiastic in commenting, we just couldn’t leave them hanging. But I wanted to dance! So my 12-year-old Sam took over the camera and kept checking in with how positive everyone was in commenting.

But that’s what I’ve come to learn about TATE fans: we’re a friendly group. In fact, my favorite part of the night was getting to know some really cool people and hear stories about shows they’ve been to or how far they traveled to get there. Everyone was incredibly nice to my family; encouraging Ben to get his hat signed by the entire band and helping him walk away with 5 guitar picks. I’ve never managed to get hold of one!

And of course the band couldn’t have been nicer. Daren is always so much fun, and Steven even took time to chat with our exchange student about China. Mikel, Anna and Adrian you can tell are just cool people all around – and incredibly gracious. I know they must have all been tired, but you’d never know it.

I hope you all know the joy of introducing TATE to someone and having them appreciate the band as much as you. This weekend I got to share this happiness with my family; I don’t know how we can ever top this!

Sarah M.:

Of course, hearing the more rarely-played songs was amazing, but what really moved me was the actual, raw emotion I could see on Mikel’s face as he sang. I’ve been front row at their shows before, but I’ve never seen so much of this as I did on Saturday. I could see him close his eyes as words poured out of him that clearly have lots of heavy meaning, just as they do to all of us hearing them. Perhaps this was also due to how emotionally moved I was by the performance as well, but there was definitely something in his demeanor that I hadn’t seen before. I even caught an eyeroll as he sang the words “desperately wondering” in “Something New!” At the end of the night I briefly spoke to Mikel about the private show, which he admitted he had initially been dreading because of the extra effort and pressure of having to play less-played songs in front of such die-hard fans. He said he ended up having a ton of fun though, and I know I sure as hell did. It was an incredible, beautiful experience and I thank Bill so much for being so generous with his prize. I hope [he] had as much fun as I did!

Sarah K.:

The one thing I can take away from [this experience] that made every Shazam worth it, was the chance to be at a show that felt like we were in someone’s living room and they were just jamming away for fun. I finally got the chance to speak to a few of the band members and they were just as down to earth, chill and most appreciative as one would expect. They exude a family vibe amongst each other on stage and it pours over into their interactions with fans. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Sean:

My wife Veronica and I planned a trip to celebrate our 15 year wedding anniversary to fly in from California for the shows starting in Buffalo. When they announced the contest, I decided to go for it. I’ve been dying to hear “Tokyo” for years. The entire time I was Shazaming “One Time Thing,” I was dreaming of “Tokyo Radio.” The private show was the icing on the cake to a very memorable week!

Setlist

About thisisnowhere 409 Articles
Glen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere and author of Toxic History: The Story of The Airborne Toxic Event. 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.

3 Comments on A Fans’ Eye View of The Airborne Toxic Event’s Private Show in Philly

  1. Beyond amazing! Thanks so much for sharing the experience with those of us who couldn’t be there. I will still wait for the day I hear Tokyo Radio live. It may never happen, but I can dream. Bill, it was so kind of you to share the grand prize! Airborne fans are half the joy of following this band so passionately.

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