The Airborne Toxic Event is back, baby!
Well… at least for the next week. After that, we’re right back into waiting mode – albeit with a very bright light at the end of the tunnel.
The El Rey
We covered the first show of the El Rey residency extensively, so we won’t rehash the details here (see our review and the setlist if you missed them). Suffice it to say, it was all that fans had been hoping. Eight stunning new songs, complemented by ten beloved oldies, including several unexpected but most welcome rarities.
The band was energized and loose, and clearly happy to be back on stage before a rambunctious crowd of diehard supporters. The new songs were well-rehearsed, with the only noticeable slip-ups actually coming in the older numbers – not that anyone cared. We were all just happy to be there, together, for a night of good old-fashioned sweaty rock ‘n’ roll.
The band’s request for no photos and videos was respected and well-received, with many fans having noted that this contributed to the special feeling in the air. While I would’ve loved to have captured one good photo to post with the review, it certainly was easier to stay in the moment without worrying about the phone in my pocket. And as excruciating as it will be to not be able to hear the new songs on YouTube while we anticipate an album, it will only make it all the sweeter when it finally lands.
And about that album: though the band announced on social media that the residency is not the start of an album cycle, we certainly seem to be headed in that direction. Mikel himself referred to “this record” a number of times as he shared the stories behind several of the songs. It may not be till late this year, or sometime in 2018, but the guts of a fantastic album are there. To that end, we’ve launched an Album 6 News page. Keep it bookmarked, as we’ll be updating it through the album’s release as more information comes to light.
A final note on the first show: an informal social media poll revealed huge enthusiasm on the part of the fans for the new material. Asked which new song was their favorite, we got a ton of responses, and almost every song got some love. The early fan favorite is “The Common Touch,” with “Carry Me” and “Come On Out” getting a lot of votes as well. For the record, my favorites were “Brother How Was the War” and “1963,” but I’m certainly not going to argue with the consensus. All were incredible.
Of course, there are three more shows still to come between now and the end of next week. As I write this, the line is forming in front of the El Rey for tonight’s second show.
I’m actually off to Disney World on Saturday for my daughter’s post-cancer wish trip, which is going to make it pretty tough to cover the rest of the gigs. But, if you’re at one of the shows, I would really appreciate it if you could hit me up with the setlist so I can get that posted (perhaps as I float through It’s a Small World). As for any other news that may emerge during these performances, we’ll catch up on that when I get back.
All I Ever Wanted: Steven, Anna and Adrian Crash the Party
If you follow This Is Nowhere on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you’ve no doubt been witness to the excitement that arose when three unexpected guests crashed our All I Ever Wanted party last Friday in L.A..
About 125 TATE fans gathered to watch the band’s film (preceded by a selection of bombastic videos) in a cute old theater in Airborne’s neighborhood. As the final credits rolled and we prepared to give away some prizes, the door opened and Steven Chen, Anna Bulbrook and Adrian Rodriguez made their way to the stage, to the delighted gasps of those in attendance.
Many have asked me if I knew they were coming. Though I had first sent an invitation to the band several months ago, it wasn’t until a couple hours before showtime that Steven confirmed that he would drop by after the movie. So I had that under my hat as the film played. But I had no idea he was bringing friends. That surprised me as much as anyone!
The band addressed the audience from the front of the very dark theater (apparently there are no house lights). They conveyed their deep appreciation for the Airborne fan community:
Anna: It’s been an incredible 11 years. 10? 11 years? I mean I know I’ve seen a lot of you – I mean yesterday I was like ‘man, I’ve known some of these people for 10 years.’
Steven: Who here flew in from somewhere else?
–hands go up—
Steven: Who flew in from another country?
–hands go up—
Steven: Thank you guys
Anna: We’re so honored to have you as our community and…uhh…it means everything. It’s really cool.
Steven: Yeah, when we played yesterday it had been a long time and I think we were like ‘oh my god, there’s a lot of support from a lot of our fans. And Glen was like “you should come on out and say hi!” and I was like “ok here I come.”
After the event wound up, our special guests were gracious enough to stay and take photos with each and every party guest. After setting themselves up in the hallway and causing a major fire hazard, the cinema staff politely kicked us out to the curb, where a long line spontaneously formed in front of the theater as everyone waited their turn (causing many passersby to wonder just what the hell was going on).
The band members were even kind enough to sign a few copies of Toxic History. Watch for your chance to bid on these in our annual charity auction, coming up later in April.
I must have told them four times on Friday: “I can’t believe you came.” And I still can’t believe it. But it just goes to show what quality people they are. If Steven, Anna and Adrian are reading this: thank you for giving us a wonderful memory that will last a lifetime.
A Rejuvenated Fan
And now for some personal reflections…
I have to admit: I came to the El Rey in a weird frame of mind. As much as I was looking forward to seeing the band again (not to mention many friends), and hearing new songs, and hosting the party, I was burnt out.
Maybe it’s only natural after the long process of writing a book, or an outworking of the group’s long hiatus. Or perhaps it’s less about Airborne and more just the weight of the past few years of personal turmoil finally catching up with me, and wanting to put everything associated with that time of my life behind me. But for whatever reason, my usual enthusiasm for all things TATE had dimmed ever-so-slightly. To be perfectly honest, I was wondering if it was time to turn the page.
Not on the band, of course; they are stuck with me as a fan for life, like it or not. But did I have it in me to continue to put in the energy that This Is Nowhere requires? I wasn’t sure.
Consider that concern laid to rest.
I had forgotten the joy that an Airborne show brings me – a high that nothing else in my life can match. I had forgotten how people tease me about my perma-grin when I’m in the band’s presence: me, well known for my stoic visage in pretty much all other circumstances. I had forgotten how Mikel’s poetry falls on fresh ears, unsullied by hour upon hour of over-analysis. I had forgotten how kind they are as people. And I had forgotten that when I’m in the right frame of mind, writing is a pleasure, not a burden.
The new songs have me very excited. I always say that ranking Airborne albums is like choosing between my kids: an impossible task. And after just one listen, it’s hard to make any meaningful evaluation. But in this moment, I have to say: I think this next record has the makings of something extremely special. It could be – dare I say it? – one of their best.
Toxic History is still being written… and I intend to witness it from the front row.
As much as I appreciate and support the no video policy, oh how I would love to be able to share one of the new songs with you in this space. But alas, we’ll have to settle for an oldie. Here’s one of the more unexpected setlist selections from Thursday night’s show, “The Winning Side.” This performance comes courtesy of Rick, circa 2014.
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.