When going to see a band that produces lyrics as pensive and contemplative as those found in “Sometime Around Midnight” or “All I Ever Wanted” one could expect to sit around for two hours listening to mid tempo songs about sadness and depression. Then at the shows’ conclusion all could leave the venue, ready to wallow in their own self pity for the remainder of the weekend. I mean, The Airborne Toxic Event’s name in itself evokes dismay and doom (its origins being from the Dom DeLillo’s novel White Noise only further reiterates this tone).
Luckily though, The Airborne Toxic Event’s first time in Kansas City managed to prove that while they create thoughtful songs, they aren’t downtrodden about life and certainly not about their show. Friday night at the Beaumont was everything one could possibly ask for in a concert-going experience. On Saturday morning I awoke with no less than tired limbs and a head full of lyrics. The Los Angeles Times describes The Airborne Toxic Event as “poetry you can dance to” and they proved to Kansas City that this could certainly be considered more fact than opinion.
After only a few songs, Mikel Jollet (lead vocals and guitar) announced, “It’s Friday night… Friday night in KC, holy shit!” Now that it was established that bedtimes were no cause for concern the band seemed to treat the show more like a marathon than a sprint. The band’s enthusiasm seemed to grow with every song, and the interaction between stage was floor was constant, consistent and real. The more the audience screamed, the more the band jumped. The more the audience jumped, the closer the band seemed to get to the edge of the stage.
However, while every song played was fueled with high energy, the band was not afraid to shift the mood as needed from one song to the next and a quiet meditation did frequently fill the audience who watched the band with focused eyes. However, this never lasted so long that people began to get antsy. The band managed to keep everyone’s attention throughout the entirety of the set and seemed able to shift tones seamlessly to coincide with the audience’s mood.
This spontaneity felt so authentic that there were moments during the show where I saw Jollet leaning on a speaker, and it felt as though he was literally living his lyrics as he sang them. The conviction that permeated his vocals felt too truthful to be contrived for one moment. Before “The Kids Are Ready to Die” he even took a few moments to rant about his frustration with the current situation in Iraq. Ardently stating that his “anti-war” views were not “anti-American (but instead) anti-sending people to go die for their fucking country” This didn’t come across as false or contrived; it instead felt like an intentional and well thought out forward to an already passionate poem about the travesties of war.
I’m noticing now that while I began this by stating that the show was upbeat, fun and lively, I know find myself focusing predominantly on the moments that could easily be interpreted as the opposite of that. An evening of introverted and political songs may not be everyone’s concept of a crazy Friday night, but these moments were merely sprinkled throughout a show filled with fervor and liveliness. Songs like “Changes”, “Does This Mean Your Movin’ On” and “Gasoline” kept the audience swaying to a steady beat and dancing right into their alcohol-saturated dreams.
The night built like that of a volcano. It started promising, but quiet and then grew to an explosion as the audience and band fed off another for the duration of the night. Song after song seemed to get louder and louder. Before the night was over Jollet was holding the mic out into the audience urging them to sing along and amplifying the night even more.
By the evening’s conclusion, a medley of covers incorporated bits of Springsteen, The Clash and Johnny Cash into the mix. The immediate recognition of these songs only gave the crowd an opportunity to sing every word a little louder as the night began to come to a nearly orgasmic close. No one seemed ready to leave as the band finally walked off the stage. Yet, I think we were all hoping that they would find an excuse to continue to encore their encore. However all nights inevitably must end, it’s just hard to let ones go that are as great as a night with The Airborne Toxic Event.
Setlist: “Wishing Well” “All I Ever Wanted” “This Losing” “A Letter to Georgia” “Half of Something Else” “Happiness is Overrated” “Gasoline” “Something New” “Changing” “The Kids Are Ready to Die” “Welcome to Your Wedding Day” “ Sometime Around Midnight” “Innocence” Encore: “Does This Mean You’re Moving On” “Missy / I’m on Fire / I Fought the Law / Folsom Prison Blues” “All At Once”
By Erin Tuttle
Photos By Rebecca Armstrong