One single gets airplay on the radio (Locals Only on KROQ- ten pm on Sundays at 106.7 with Kat Corbett) and suddenly, Los Angeles is all abuzz with the sounds of “Sometime Around Midnight.” The addictive single from the Airborne Toxic Event has gotten them signed, sighted, and sold out- I had the pleasure of witnessing their act last week at the always-fun Glasshouse in Pomona.
The radio airplay definitely showed in the crowd that came out that evening- where usually I’d expect to see boys and girls with tight jeans and low cut shirts (when did guys start showing cleavage??), there was quite the vast array of fans out that night. Loads of soccer moms who listen to Star 98.7 came, some even brought their kids (I even saw a few toddlers). There were jocks, the odd hipster, some punks (they probably came under the guise that they were there to see VooDoo Glow Skulls play down the street but secretly relish the guilty indie pleasure of Airborne), men wearing socks and sandals, kids out on a school night, all kinds of people, all ages. Never have I seen such a mix at the Glasshouse (maybe I should go more often).
Starting out the night was Rademacher- two dudes and one very petite girl playing bass. The singer sounded a bit like a mash up of Cake, Bob Dylan, and maybe a bit of Bowie rolled into one- if that sounds weird, it should. Because it was. There was a certain staccato quality about the way he sang- at first it sounded catchy and slightly gimmicky, like at any given moment he was actually going to sing. But no, it stayed the same through out. They weren’t bad, per se, they just seem new, young, and experimental. With a bit of practice and experimentation, they’ll find the right sound. I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ll hear of them.
Up next- the Henry Clay People. The performance doesn’t really stick out in my head- I can’t honestly tell you what was catchy about it. Again, not bad, they just have the feel of a band starting out playing at bars trying to make a few bucks and find a few fans. Keep trying guys, you’ll plug out a hit some day.
Though what I find really great about the experience as a whole- all these bands hail from Southern California. The Spaceland music scene has become something of a cult phenomenon, even more so since the Airborne Toxic Event has blown up. Though from seeing it myself, and knowing a few dudes who play the scene, the camaraderie between these bands is great. They are really supportive of each other, they play together, and I’ve even seen bands swap bassists or drummers when someone was sick. So what’s neat about this Glasshouse show is Airborne could have taken someone with bigger pull on tour (I hear they’re hitting gigs up with Kings of Leon next- holy scenester heaven Batman! They should call it the “I like indie music but only if the radio tells me I do” Tour), but they chose to play with their buddies that they’ve been jamming with for- well, I was going to say years, but I really don’t know how long they’ve been playing together.
That being said, I’ll move on. I’ll be honest- besides the single, I had no clue what to expect from Airborne Toxic Event. It’s a really powerful single though- really well written, and it really has mass appeal for something that I feel is profound. I don’t know, maybe it’s kind of trend-ishly profound, like guys who wear TWLOHA tee shirts (not that there’s anything wrong with that organization). Anywho… “Sometime Around Midnight” is unique- it has no hook, and no chorus, it just keeps building on itself with the vocals and instruments gradually growing to a passionate and painful climax. It tells a story with beautifully descriptive words and music to match, and the story is one most people can relate to- festering (mopey) pain building up inside until one screams to let it out.
All in all, Airborne is very tight for a recently discovered band. Their sound is rough around the edges, but not so much that the every day listener can’t enjoy them. I particularly enjoy the violinist- cute, talented, and fun to watch. The bassist was also a treat- from time to time he’d pull out a bow and play his bass with it. They’d have a mini strings only jam session during songs. I also dig the singer’s deep voice- it’s got an 80’s throwback quality to it, but without being a copycat. The band as a whole has mastered the influence of the 80’s- the strings replace previous generations’ synthesizers perfectly- without losing their sound in Depeche Mode covers.
There were a few crowd favorites, none more so than “Sometime Around Midnight.” Overall, it was an enjoyable experience. One weird spot though- right around the middle of the set they started playing something that was very familiar in a weird way. And it hits me- they’re playing “Goodbye Horses”- yeah, THAT “Goodbye Horses,” as seen in The Silence of the Lambs (and in Clerks II, for those of you that haven’t seen SOTL and missed that it’s a parody). I look around, not even a smidge of irony in the band, or the crowd for that matter. The only one who is mock-dancing is this weird guy next to me… Ok, it was my boyfriend. Whatever. Anyway, it was a very WTF moment, but they pulled it off, uh… well. I mean, I guess they did, it’s just that every time I’ve ever heard the song my full attention isn’t exactly devoted to it. Shut it you.