March 15, 2013
By Chrissy Mauck
With an opening gig at Thursday’s Waterloo Records SXSW Day Party, Los Angeles’ the Airborne Toxic Event delivered in spades.
They didn’t have much time in the abbreviated time slot that the South by Southwest music festival typically allows, but the indie rockers fit a lot into their set.
At one point, the energy was so high that singer Mikel Jollett even climbed to the top of the scaffolding to deliver the anthemic “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?” off their self-titled debut.
The band began with the catchy “True Love,” as guitarist Steven Chen took over bass duties for Noah Harmon, who in turn picked up a mandolin to add a little flair to the new song.
The infectious hand-clapping, boot-stomping “Changing” was next, followed by Jollett and Harmon joining Darren Taylor behind his Grestch drum kit to share the sticks.
Classically trained violinist Anna Bulbrook mostly played keys, but she did break out a viola for a haunting intro to the slow-building “Sometime Around Midnight.”
The set was split 50-50 in terms of delivering their most popular and familiar tunes and introducing material from their upcoming spring album Such Hot Blood. On Thursday, the band also released a new EP, The Secret, that previews the upcoming album and offers their newest single “Timeless.”
A beautifully written song about Jollett’s grandmother dying, “Timeless” was the slowest of the bunch performed, but with such intensity and vulnerability that it promises to be their next radio hit.
As she disappeared alone in the darkness, felt her spirit stay in the room. And I wish that our lives were endless. Because it’s all too short and I’m leaving. I want to hold on to all the people I love. I want to keep them with me. We would never part.
With time for these SXSW sets at a premium, the crowd wasn’t nearly ready for The Airborne Toxic Event to leave. There was a collective sigh when Jollett announced that they only had time for one more – a new tune called “Missy” that the singer said was about “not knowing what to do with your life and then deciding to make it up with music.” Fortunately “one more” turned out to be a whole lot more as “Missy” bookended a medley of covers including Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “American Girl” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.”
“Does this Mean You’re Moving On”
“Something Around Midnight”
“Ring of Fire”
“Born in the USA”