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Published on May 4th, 2009 | by Sinéad


The Airborne Toxic Event

Gasoline and Sometime Around Midnight have gotten quite a bit of airtime on Phantom over the last few months, so I had a slight familiarity with the Airborne Toxic Event when I read they were playing a gig here, and based on this I decided to get tickets. Following that I picked up their self titled debut album, and the two singles mentioned are fairly representative of the themes at play within their album.

Overall the album is quite emotive, with soulful lyrics and a sweet combination of indie rock, synth and orchestra. I really enjoy this combination of sounds but I wasn’t immediately blown away by this band, at least based on the album itself. From the outset I felt like there was something missing from this album, it’s a little too safe –  the songs are short and heavily constructed, the rawness and passion of the lyrics/vocals and violin gets eaten up a little by that.

However, last night gave me an insight into what was missing – these guys are just meant to be heard live. The violist/keyboardist Anna Bulbrook and the bassist Noah Harmon are both classically trained musicians – this combined with Mikel Jollett’s husky voice was incredibly raw on stage, it brought each of the album tracks alive. This was especially true when they played Sometime Around Midnight (I took some rough Qik video footage), the crowd went absolutely bananas – which was interesting for a song that isn’t actually that heavy, at least on the album or played acoustic.

Airborne Toxic Event

The live show was incredible. Codes had been the support and in comparison they were wooden scarecrows beside their instruments. The energy from the Airborne Toxic Event was infectious.  They clearly enjoy being on stage, smiling their faces off and dancing with each other – I especially enjoyed watching the flirty interactions between the bassist and the violinist. Though they’ve only been together about 3 years, on stage it looks like they’re all best friends, there’s an obvious chemistry and the crowd definitely fed off of this.

Airborne Toxic Event

The crowd also really enjoyed Jollett and Bulbrook playing from the pit, jumping into the audience and letting them sing into the microphone and even play their instruments. This band certainly knows how to interact with its fans, and it was a sweet gesture at the end of the gig when Jollett and the lead guitarist Steven Chen came out to sign autographs and pose for pictures.

Overall I think this band have incredible potential, I would hope that their second album is more acoustic, they don’t need to be as heavily produced or as radio friendly as they currently are. There is a raw energy to their live show that really highlights how talented these musicians are. You can get a feel for this from the recently recorded series of acoustic versions of some of the songs from the album – my favourites of which are This is Nowhere, Something New, and of course Sometime Around Midnight (see below)– each of these songs are incredible played acoustically, let’s hope an acoustic album follows.

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7 Responses to The Airborne Toxic Event

  1. Anthony McG says:

    Damn I meant to go to this. Sounds awesome. Love the album.

  2. Enda says:

    I’ve only heard a couple of their tunes but they kinda struck me as a slightly blander version of the National. That tune Sometime around midnight has a great build up though, can see how it would be good live, still not sold on yer mans voice but… hmmmm, perhaps ill give em another look…

  3. Sinéad says:

    The National are the bland ones, especially in comparison to their live performances. Definitely check out their acoustic and live sessions.

  4. This gig was the best I’ve seen in a while. Loved when the bassist starting playing his bass like a violin! It was something I’ve never seen before. Really impressed.

  5. Rick says:

    The number of bands I’ve come across over he years who are better live than ever on disc. Will definitely check them out. Particularly if you loan me their CD 🙂

  6. Sinéad says:

    @Jen That was pretty impressive – slappin da bass!

    @Rick Will do.

    Have added some photos to do this post, and linkage to more on my flickrstream.

  7. Holemaster says:

    Went to see them in the Olympia last night. Lively stuff but I couldn’t help thinking there was backing track somewhere and the violin was making noise when it wasn’t being played. Hmmm.

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