Having three Airborne Toxic Event shows behind me, I had a vague idea what to expect at their March 11 show at the Bowery Ballroom, but this was my first sold out ATE experience, and by far the largest venue, so I was eager to see what would change from their cramped gig at Pianos a year ago.
As both the venue and crowd were considerably larger, the band seems to have grown comfortably into their new surroundings. Though always a commanding front man, lead singer Mikel Jollett has shed the lovable geek he used to morph into between songs at previous NYC gigs. Gone is the adorable Garth-like “thank you very much” at every applause. The result is a more consistent stage presence, but this writer was a little sad to see that humble dimension of Jollett fall victim to the screaming fans.
Musically, the band was ever dependable, drawing mostly from their self-titled album out in 2008. Perhaps greater commercial success means audiences already know the songs and want to sing along. Or maybe relentless touring limits the time ATE can dedicate to new material. Whatever the reason, all but a couple of songs are already available on iTunes, which is unlike my previous ATE shows that featured several unknown tunes. While the lack of new songs was somewhat disappointing, the set was solid and energetic, with appearances by the Calder Quartet in a makeshift string section and an overwhelming number of tambourines.
After nearly an hour on stage, the band took their leave to recoup for the always predictable encore. This girl has already voiced her irritation at the requisite two song follow up, but drummer Daren Taylor did his best to bring back the tradition of earning your encore, leading the crowd, clapping the rest of the band onstage. Apparently the effort was more than sufficient, because about 20 people poured out to play some more. And throw tambourines.
Pulling out some rare new material, Jollett kept the audience on pause before the band, quartet, and various others exploded into “Innocence” and a small dance party. Physically, the band simply could not have given more to these last two songs, and seemed to love every sweaty minute of it. Some of the audience got to know violinist Anna Bulbrook a little better during her short-lived stage dive, while the rest of us learned why you don’t see much crowd surfing at ATE shows. Taking off the rockstar cool veil, the members of ATE looked like kids on Christmas morning, closing the night with “Missy.”
By the time it was through, the band’s enthusiasm had fully infected the audience, with this girl practically skipping out of the Bowery. No doubt The Airborne Toxic Event will be playing sold out shows in NYC for the foreseeable future and with good reason.
By: Jesy, who is more than a little upset that she did not catch one of the neon tambourines being hurled at the audience.
Jollett, hard working front man.
Steven Chen as contemplative guitarist... in red.
Bassist Noah Harmon nails the prep school drop out look.
Bulbrook caps the night with some brief but popular audience interaction.