Last night, KCRW presented the first Berkley Street Session of the year with indie rockers Airborne Toxic Event. This was a rather charming, intimate evening – the white wine was chilled, the room was dark, albeit inviting, and the audience was eager. Upon entry, guests were informed that the night would provide a modest live set and an interview with the band. The LA natives took to the spotlight like champs, breaking straight into their set. It was obvious they all felt very at home on stage. Their music is sincere and easy to follow. Simple lyrics speak to the masses and catchy hooks never hurt a listener either. Singer Mikel Jollett mentioned how a few songs were written. For instance, before playing “Wishing Well,” he relayed that this is an “I was sad and poor” song, but he admitted “now I own a house,” and shrugged. These instances connected the audience with the band, igniting little chuckles throughout the dim room. Moments like this reminded us that even rockstars can still keep it real.
Jollett joked about how performing almost nightly has become the norm for them. Aside from the fact that they’re living the dream, he recognizes how silly it is that what may be a normal night, such as staying in and watching a movie, for their friends and family is not the same for them because they are most likely playing a show. After five years of being on the road, they have become accustomed to the life. That does not change the fact that they miss their loved ones incessantly.
Undoubtedly, these musicians are extremely talented and versatile. During their interview, they revealed that we were witnessing the first live performances of their newer songs to be released in March. Jollett incited the crowd’s smiles as he told the story of how the group lived together in a strange Nashville house for the entire month of recording their latest album. Making Blackbird Studios their second home for that month forced the five members to get even closer and to try new methods of approaching the recording process. They recognize that they’re not “married” to each other but they do know each other extremely well at this point; and just looking at them, anyone would want to know them extremely well. An audience member spoke for the room exclaiming how easy the band is on the eyes.
Airborne admitted their most recent round of creating was less conventional, especially because Jollett cannot read music. Being in such an adaptable group with people who can exchange instruments and incorporate mandolin, keyboards, piano, tambourine and whatever else they can get their hands on makes their music sound elevated and orchestral. Jollett simply chooses a tune and hums or sings it for one of the band members, and they pick it up on his instruments of choice. The rest is history. Well, he makes it sound so easy. Conjuring an idea for a theme for a song and then when it developing it into a record made Jollett realize that there is something special in the fact that other people hear his music and relate to it so magnetically. The universal connections make him feel like he’s not alone in his thoughts and ideas, thus being able to connect with fans on a more personal level.
Perhaps the happiest part of the night was the encore performance in which Airborne blended their song “Missy” with the all-time favorites of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” Tom Petty’s “American Girl,” and the Boss’ “Born in the USA” – songs that everyone knows. The killer combo of personality and talent makes Airborne Toxic Event a force to be reckoned with, so it would be wise to keep them on the radar. They have a lot to accomplish this year with an impending appearance in two weeks at SXSW in Austin, Texas in as well as the release of their new record all in the same month. Catch the broadcast of their Berkeley Street Session on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic on Monday March 11 (preview video after the jump).
All at Once
Book of Love
Sometime Around Midnight
All I Ever Wanted
Missy (Cash-Petty-Springsteen medley)
In case you miss their appearance on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic March 11th, here’s a video of Airborne performing “True Love.”