After The Airborne Toxic Event took the stage at DC9 here in Washington, DC recently, we were supposed to sit down and follow up on our long interview from a few months back. But with their driving to Boston the next day (a hellaciously long trip), very Pemberton-weary faces all 'round, and the knowledge that we were seeing each other again twice in next two months anyway, I suggested we reschedule. (Lead singer/songwriter/rhythm guitarist Mikel Jollet, back fresh from a long jog down to the Capitol and back, and I did squeeze in a few minutes about Airborne's acoustic video series and the general state of Airborne these days which you can watch here.)
Not planning to interview the band AND review the show, I left the notebook at home. But I did bring a camera, thinking some snaps might pair nicely with the interview....
(click on any photo to enlarge)
...as well as a friend who'd never seen or heard Airborne before, who was going merely on my mentions of how energetic Airborne is live. He has a predilection for old-school hard NY/Boston punk, and while Airborne is punkish in Daren Taylor's strong backbeat and Steven Chen's piercing guitar chords, theirs is a punk more like The Smiths than punk like Minor Threat. I wasn't sure he'd like it at all.
Guess what? Airborne's live show struck again. He loved it. And I loved his comments on it so I included them below:
The music rocked my socks off. I really dug a lot of the songs. Another thing I noticed is that when I catch a show by a band I don't know is that I will often like them better after a couple of hearings; its like my brain has to hear a song a couple of times before it clicks. The Airborne setlist, on the other hand, grabbed me immediately. Not sure what the reason for the difference is.
You know how sometimes there are summer nights that feel different -- wide open, like something unusual and wonderful could happen? Kind of a sense of mystery and possibility in the air? The night of the show was the opposite of one of those nights, and you could feel it in the audience before Airborne took the stage. The whole atmosphere was leaden and exhausted (not that I was surprised, this is DC after all. DC is Hollywood for ugly people after all...). I thought that it was interesting that once they started playing, Airborne gradually pulled the audience out of its funk, until by the end of the show the crowd had real energy. Even another talented band might have succumbed to the initial lethargy of the crowd, but Airborne didn't seem fazed by it.
And I was surprised at how laid back and accessible the band members were before & after the show. A band with a nice start on a body of work like theirs could get very arrogant and full of themselves, but the members were all very cool.
Oh, I forgot, one other thing...did you ever watch Deadwood on HBO? There is a character named Seth Bullock played by Timothy Olyphant.
In the series Seth Bullock is the sheriff of the town, and not someone you want to mess with. He had a volcanic temperament and was lethal with a sidearm. So Daren the drummer has a similar facial hair thing going as the Seth Bullock character, which I noticed when I met him. Then later, after you got up to chat with Noah, Daren is walking by the bar, when this big doofy meathead looking guy inexplicably sticks his foot out behind him and Darren trips over it. There's no way meathead meant to do it I think -- he was looking the opposite way. Daren stumbles for a split second then catches himself, and looks up. And for a brief moment, Daren looks homicidal. I am really thinking he is about to break a chair over doofus' head, and Airborne is going to need another drummer tonight while Daren cools his heels in the pokey. Then he snaps out of it, takes a sip of beer, and heads off where he was going. Which was a relief, because its better to look like Seth Bullock than act like him -- too many corpses.
Like Keith Richards once said of Charlie Watts, "Never fuck with a drummer, man."