The Airborne Toxic Event
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By Crystal Larsen
The sounds of classical violins, a viola, a cello, and rock and roll collided at the Ford Amphitheatre in Los Angeles on Sept. 22 as the Airborne Toxic Event took the stage before a sold-out crowd with special guests the Calder Quartet for the last stop on their North American tour. The band is touring in support of their recent concert DVD release, All I Ever Wanted: Live From Disney Hall, filmed during their Walt Disney Concert Hall performance in Los Angeles last December.
As the house lights turned off and the entire stage went dark, the Calder Quartet — Andrew Bulbrook, Eric Byers, Benjamin Jacobson, and Jonathan Moerschel — took their seats onstage at 9 p.m. for a short performance of "String Quartet: II Assez Vif. Très Rythmé" before the East Los Angeles-based five piece, dressed in their signature black-and-white attire, walked on stage, waving to a crowd of cheering fans, and launched immediately into "Wishing Well," the first track off their self-titled debut album. Taking the stage were violinist Anna Bulbrook, guitarist/keyboardist Steven Chen, bassist Noah Harmon (who also played the upright bass during several songs throughout the evening), frontman Mikel Jollett, and drummer Daren Taylor.
In an evening that was separated into two parts by a brief 10-minute intermission, the first half was met with a few tracks off the band's forthcoming album (a release date has yet to be announced, much to every fan's dismay), including "All For A Woman," "Half Of Something Else" and "A Letter To Georgia." Known for his articulate song descriptions and onstage banter, Jollett, a former writer for Filter magazine, described how he drew inspiration for writing the latter track from advice given to him by his grandmother: "Make sure for every melody you write…someone can hum." And so came "A Letter To Georgia," which the audience rightfully hummed along to.
The first half of the show also brought a few choice cover songs, including the Monotones' "Book Of Love," which Jollett tearfully dedicated to his recently deceased grandparents. The inclusion of this track was a family effort as Jollett's mother originally suggested he and the band perform it live because it reminded her of grandma and grandpa Jollett. Speaking to the 72-year bond between his late grandmother and grandfather, Jollett remembers his grandmother saying, "We've been married for so long but we never had a marriage, we had a love affair," to which the audience gave a collective "awww."
And that ended the "grandma section of the show." The final song of the concert's first half was introduced as a song about "what it means to live and be born in Los Angeles," as the band launched into "Missy," a track that has typically been played as an encore at past performances. This version of the song, also off their self-titled debut, was turned into a medley as the band went into Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire" and a rockabilly spin on Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" before finishing off "Missy."
Following a 10-minute intermission, the band came back to play several fan-favorite selections off their first album, including "Gasoline," the ever-popular "Sometime Around Midnight" and "Papillon."
"This is the rock and roll portion of the show," said Jollett. That must have been the go-ahead for the crowd and the band to let loose as fans rushed the stage, welcoming the drops of champagne that the band poured on the audience. Airborne took it down a few notches next to perform the string-laden "Innocence," a song that Jollett recalls as one of the first tracks that made him want to start a band. "I wanted to stand in front of the entire world and play this song," said Jollett. "It meant a lot to me."
After a performance of "All I Ever Wanted," another new track, the band came back for an encore of the title track of their forthcoming release — "All At Once." The band, truly appreciative of the support of their fans, remained onstage after the last song was played, signing autographs, giving hugs and shaking hands.
"Music is always a celebration of something," said Jollett. "We celebrate that we're all still here. Thank you for supporting us."
"String Quartet: II Assez Vif. Très Rythmé"
"All For A Woman"
"Book Of Love"
"A Letter To Georgia"
"Half Of Something Else"
"Missy"/ "I'm On Fire"/ "Folsom Prison Blues"
"Sometime Around Midnight"
"All I Ever Wanted"
"All At Once"
To catch the Airborne Toxic Event in a city near you, click here for tour dates.
(Photo information: The Airborne Toxic Event's Anna Bulbrook and Mikel Jollett perform with the Calder Quartet on Sept. 22 / Photo: The Recording Academy)