New York City is particularly an unusual place to be on September 11, it is not the typical New York one is accustomed to. On the ninth anniversary of the greatest attack on American soil, the mood in the air is thick and heavy all around. Especially this year, just turn on any news station or flip through any newspaper or webpage and things are at a boiling point. It is a day where we all reflect on what happened that one September morning, the events that will be embedded into each of our minds from here to eternity. As we look back throughout the day; we push forward, look for a release. There is no better release than that through music. L.A. art rock act, The Airborne Toxic Event brought that much needed release to Town Hall on a day when their audience needed it most. Dubbed "An Acoustic Evening with The Airborne Toxic Event featuring The Calder Quartet" the LA band brought their sense of passion and fury to the intimate New York theater.
As the Calder Quartet entered the stage, a small string ensemble that featured two violinists, a violist and cellist, opened with their own overture and served as the entrance music to the band. As the five members of Airborne Toxic Event strutted on stage, they opened with "Wishing Well," the lead track off their first record. As the audience was unsure of what to do, either sit or stand (this seems to happen a lot with audience's in a seated theater when string instruments are involved), the band set the tone right away -- do what you feel is right. In between songs, singer Mikel Jollett would speak to the crowd about the origin of songs, as well as discuss the recording of their much anticipated sophomore record, All At Once (Due in early 2011). "We spent the last nine months locked up recording this record, so we have a lot to say," Jollett mentioned as the band played a slew of new songs and rarities in the first part of the set. The show was broken up into two 45-minute sets, the acoustic part and the "rock and roll part of the program," as Jollett would call it. The first 45 minutes were in essence, showing off what fans can expect in the coming months as they wait for the new record. The absolute highlight of the acoustic set and gig came during "Papillion" where they performed a medley featuring Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire," and Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." The band would take a brief 15-minute intermission to recoil and retool for the second half.
As for the "Rock part of the program" the band featured their normal set they would take on tour without the string quartet. At this point the crowd made a decision and realized they would stand and enjoy the program, again strings on stage trick the audience. What would come next would scare the band and audience alike as Jollett, while throwing water into the crowd, would take a horrible slip on the stage and would lay on the floor for a bit. While the band thought we was joking around and the crowd would cheer him on, he got to his feet and said "I think I broke my ribs, I will continue but is there a doctor in the house please come see me after the show, I am seriously hurt." Jollett soldiered on, while the fans would applaud him, he and his band still brought such high energy for the rest of the night. Maybe music is the best medicine? The quartet would arrive back to the stage to support the sound of the band's breakthrough single "Sometime Around Midnight," which never sounded as beautiful as it did that night. Still using the strings and closing with "Innocence," the band would come back on stage to perform "All at Once," the title track off their forthcoming record.
While the new songs blended perfectly in with the old ones, and fans left with a smile from ear to ear, Airborne Toxic Event gave that release New York was looking for. For a band with such dark and heavy tones to their music, they know how to provide comfort for those that are in need.