Last week, that no-fun spoil sport called Real Life reared her ugly head, and as a result there was no Toxicity post, leaving us in a good news/bad news situation this week. The good news: we’ve got enough content stored up for the next three weeks of Toxicities. The bad news: much of this week’s news seems like old news now. Nevertheless, we press on, in the hopes that something we present here will still be news to you, dedicated reader. And if it’s not, well, The Airborne Toxic Event never really gets old, do they?
In a continuing test of our abilities to come up with unique headlines using the word “hell,” we were recently treated to not one, but two new “Hell and Back” videos. First came the release of the official lyric video, produced not by the band but by the creators of the Dallas Buyers Club film. Hang on – it’s a wild ride.
Speaking of Dallas Buyers Club, the movie is now out, and TATE fans who’ve seen it were disappointed to find that the track does not actually appear anywhere in the film. Nevertheless, the single is still getting a good deal of airplay on radio stations across the US, and has quickly become a live fan favorite. While in Germany last month, the band filmed another rollicking acoustic take for The Cardinal Sessions:
That wasn’t the only live Airborne video to hit the interwebs of late, as the band proved their first ever single still has the power to thrill with a chill-inducing rendition of “Sometime Around Midnight,” shot by JBTV. The video is unlisted on YouTube and is only available by direct link, so you’ll have to click here to see it. This was part of a 5-song set filmed in Chicago in September, so let’s cross our fingers that we’ll soon be able to enjoy the rest of the performance.
Such Hot Blood Tour: The Encore
As fans continued to speculate about what the new year might hold for The Airborne Toxic Event, the band confirmed that they’ll continue their tradition of circumnavigating the globe at least twice per album cycle, with a new set of tour dates on tap for early 2014. The revelation came at the tail end of a lengthy interview of Mikel and Anna for Melle’s Mixtape on Germany’s Delta Radio, as Mikel discussed their plans for the immediate future:
This is the end of this round of touring… we’ve been on tour for about eight months off and on, so we’re off for a little bit, then doing some recording in LA, and then we’ll probably do another tour early next year, around – probably another lap of the world.
While we wait for the dates to be announced, we can only guess what shape the recording will take. Some lucky fans may have got a sneak preview last weekend in El Paso, where a brand new song was reportedly soundchecked. Details are sparse, but word is it’s a rocker.
The original Melle’s Mixtape broadcast was close to an hour long, with a large chunk of that devoted to music, along with a German translation of every question and answer. It also provided a rare opportunity to hear Anna talk at length, reminiscing about the band’s earliest shows:
My friends who came to the first show were, I think, just curious to see it.. I said, “I’m in a band, come watch us play.” And they were like, “Okay, we’ll come this first time just ’cause we’re friends.” And then after the first show they were like, “Oh, hey, that was good. I would come back. I’m actually proud, and not embarrassed…” You know when you read your friend’s novel for the first time and you just hope it’s good so you keep being friends; I feel like my friends had a feeling of relief after the first show, and then they started bringing friends. I think all of our friends experienced that, where it wasn’t like, “Oh man, we have to do this chore of seeing our friend’s band play,” and to me that was the ultimate compliment.
Here’s the full interview, with music omitted:
Of McDonalds, Coke and Donuts
The Euro tour yielded another fun interview with Mikel, this one by The Courier Online. Mikel was quick to ingratiate himself to his British inquisitor:
UK culture is fantastic. Everyone’s got an opinion on everything over here. The British are so obsessed with fashion, aesthetics and music. I can’t think of another country as passionate about aesthetics, but that’s what makes it fun! I think America exports its dumbest ideas like McDonalds and Coca Cola. That’s the version of America you guys see. The version we live in is not at all like that... I like cockney rhyming slang. Really funny! We make up our own rhyming slang all the time, like ‘Bangers and Mash, Hydric Ash.’ I love the UK, all the great rock bands are from here. It’s like coming to Mecca.
Later, a question about unusual gifts that the band has received from fans generated a response that brought back some fond memories for me personally:
There have been so many things through the years. The bras on stage are always funny. We were in Portland once, and there was this place called ‘Voodoo Donuts’, and they had these donuts made in the shape of each of the band members. Eating a donut shaped like you – eating yourself – is surprisingly satisfying!
As it so happens, the Voodoo Donuts incident coincided with one of the best 15-minute segments of my life, as I was lucky enough to be in the band’s dressing room when said donuts arrived on the scene, conducting Official Business for the charity that employs me (it was all business, of course). I didn’t get a taste, sadly, but I did get a photo:
Lost… and Found
Julie Stoller is a longtime fan of The Airborne Toxic Event, and for most of that time she’s been pumping out thoughtful, informative reflections on the band as opportunity warrants. In fact, we’ll be featuring some of Julie’s previous work on This Is Nowhere in the near future.
Recently, as part of her epic Lost and Found series, Julie published a review of TATE’s late summer Costa Mesa show with the Pacific Symphony. As much as she found the band to be in top form (as always), Julie came away disillusioned by the fan experience towards the back of the venue.
On one side of me were a few young guys who were holding an ongoing conversation and playing with their cell phones during all the songs they didn’t know (which turned out to be everything except for “Changing,” “Numb” and “Sometime Around Midnight”). On my other side was a delirious (and deliriously drunk) woman who kept yelling out “I LOVE YOU MIKEL!!!” during the entire show, at approximately 30 second intervals, while he was singing. Her explosions did not seem to be connected to anything going on at that particular moment onstage…
I’m not sure which was worse — selective indifference or blind devotion. In both cases, I had to repeatedly ask my neighbors if they would be so kind as to SHUT THE FUCK UP…
I don’t doubt that there were many fans there who were attentive, respectful and cheering at appropriate times. If I focused my attention away from my immediate surroundings, I did hear people earnestly singing along, well aware of what was going on up on the stage. But for me anyway, the experience didn’t come close to the band/audience Vulcan mind meld of the New York City Webster Hall shows back in January. Nor did it come close to the soggy but ethereal orchestral experience at Summerstage in June. Again, it had nothing whatsoever to do with the band, who — as usual — poured their hearts out to create a beautiful evening for us. It may well have been the “mixed” audience of devoted fans, casual local rock concert attendees and people with an annual subscription to the symphony (and I sincerely hope that latter group weren’t put off from checking out the band further). Mostly I just felt bad for Airborne. A group of people so hard-working, talented and sincere deserve undivided attention. For the sake of all the true fans in attendance, I hope my experience was “unique.”
Julie isn’t the only one to experience this phenomenon at Airborne shows of late; nor is it limited to American audiences. Blogger Peter Johnstone published an angry piece, Open letter to the pricks who messed with my Monday night (or) Why must people talk though concerts? Though his rant could apply to any number of gigs by any number of bands, at the end of the article the author reveals that it was indeed the crowd at TATE’s Shepherds Bush (London) show that raised his ire.
In these times of five quid venue beers and ticket prices being pushed upwards as record sales drop, it is increasingly important for gigging bands to provide a unique and engaging experience for fans.
Many rise to the challenge, be that by micro managing concerts or balls-out rocking to a roster of crowd requests. However, the fans have to play their part, and some just don’t seem to get it. Instead they appear to believe that, like them, everyone else has paid a sum total of 40-50 pounds for a night in which the band is just background noise. They’re there to party, and to have fun, not to watch a performance, or even pay attention, and God forbid anyone else should get in their way…
If this is really all you want from your night, why shell out the cost of a ticket and earmark a specific date. Why not just go down the pub on a Saturday night and neck a few Stellas with the local covers combo. At this venue, at this time, people have chosen to watch this specific band. Sure, they may jump around, and shout, and punch, and sing along in an off-key way, but generally these moments are generated through a kind of unspoken consensus that permeates the large majority of what normal gig-goers would recognise as fans.
Julie astutely connects this evolution (devolution?) to “Airborne’s metamorphosis from barroom indie band to wider success.” Inevitably, the bigger a band becomes, the more their shows become an Event, attracting increasing numbers of curious, uninitiated onlookers – those who spend all night shouting, “Play Midnight!” but who can’t tell “A Letter to Georgia” from “The Book of Love” – alongside the diehards. It’s a necessary part of any act’s growth, but it’s not without its downside.
At the same time, Julie rightly laments the rise of “competitive fandom,” in which fans measure their credentials as a devotee by how many shows they’ve attended/how many band shirts they own/how far they flew for the gig/how big their bird tattoo is/how many blog posts they’ve written. (Okay, I threw in that last one.) It’s a ridiculous notion that fandom can be quantified, or that it even matters, but it’s a powerful temptation for those of us who become frustrated by the casual observers invading our intimate times with the band we love.
Where am I going with all this? Well, it’s late, and I’m tired, and I’m not entirely sure. I do know that I understand exactly where both of these writers are coming from. When obnoxious people inhibit our enjoyment of a night we’ve anticipated for months, and fail to give a deserving artist like TATE the respect they are due, it’s incredibly frustrating. But somehow, amidst our justifiable annoyance with those who detract from our sacred experience, we’ve got to make space for new people to discover that which we’ve come to love, while realizing that they may not experience it in exactly the same way as us. After all, how many times have we scratched our head in bafflement that more people don’t recognize the genius of The Airborne Toxic Event? To some extent, this may be the cost of rectifying that. Like the future in-laws meeting their daughter’s rough-around-the-edges fiance for the first time, let’s do our best to welcome them into our home, accept that we’re going to have to co-exist, remember that we’re not entitled, promote mutual respect, and show them the ways of the family… and hope they don’t fuck up the place too badly. (Oh, and try to stick to the front couple of rows whenever possible, where we should be immune from distraction!)
In a recent trivia question, TATE challenged fans to identify the cover song that they’ve only performed once. Though the official answer was “Kiss Off” by the Violent Femmes, they also accepted this one-off performance of Nirvana’s “All Apologies” – filmed, coincidentally, by one Julie Stoller.
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.