This week we present a special Costa Mesa edition of Toxicity. As the band prepared to hit the stage with the Pacific Symphony on Aug. 23, a number of articles and interviews were released, shedding light on the complex process of transforming rock songs into symphonic masterpieces.
After dispensing with the humor typical of any conversation with The Airborne Toxic Event (Noah: “I think our fans imagine that we’re sort of like The Partridge Family, that we all tuck into one little bed at night.” Mikel: “Good night, John-Boy.” Noah: “Nah. That’s The Waltons.”), this article from OC Weekly notes that “it’s not easy for a touring rock band to join an orchestra onstage in a single-show format” – but Airborne makes it look easy, having required only one rehearsal with the 88-piece orchestra prior to the big performance.
Of course, the process may have been made easier by the fact that the Pacific Symphony’s conductor, Bruce Kiesling, has worked with TATE once already this summer, having directed the Tulare County Symphony as they collaborated with the the band at the Visalia show back in June. It’s not often that we hear the symphony’s side of the story with regards to these musical hook-ups, but this time The Wheelhouse has provided an informative interview with the musical director. Kiesling shares how he landed this weekend’s gig:
Back in the beginning of the summer, it was our pleasure with the TCSO to work with The Airborne Toxic Event at the Fox Theater. We had such a great experience in Visalia working with the band, the orchestra and lots of positive vibes all around. They’re one of my very favorite indie bands, so I enjoyed getting the chance to work with them. Since I’m based in LA most of the time, and I knew they had a concert coming up with the Pacific Symphony at the end of the summer, I asked if they had someone lined up to conduct this concert, which at the time, they didn’t. So a couple of phone calls and emails later, everything was all set up.
Meanwhile, Mikel and Steven sat down with Alt 98.7 to share their thoughts not just on the upcoming show, but also on their increasingly rabid fanbase. “We’ve been steadily getting more and more pastries that have to do with our band,” notes Steven wryly. More relevantly, Mikel explains the steps involved in scoring the band’s songs in preparation for playing with an orchestra.
I was lucky enough to see the band perform with the Colorado Symphony last September at Red Rocks. One thing I noticed was that they seemed a little more subdued than usual, rarely straying far from their assigned places on the stage. Anna explained afterwards that when they play with an orchestra, they have to focus more on just playing, because they’re playing different parts than usual, having assigned pieces of the melody to different sections of the orchestra. So there’s a different energy about these shows, but the musical experience is unmatched.
For those who are lucky enough to be on their way to Costa Mesa (and for those who just wish they were), here’s The Airborne Toxic Event performing All At Once with the Colorado Symphony at Red Rocks.
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.