April 2011, Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth…
Head bobbing rock music to line dance too from a collection of musicians that swapped instruments like ‘pass the parcel’. LA indie rock band, The Airborne Toxic Event, certainly managed to entertain and intoxicate this modest crowd.
Having casually claimed the stage at the Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth, the band swooped up the room with the first catchy tune of the night ‘All I Ever Wanted’. A winning start that served as an instantly mood lifting time capsule to a festival on a sunny day.
Intimate moments included the back-story introduction to ‘All for a Woman’ by Mikel Jollett (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), who explained the unfortunate subject matter of his ex, an obvious sore point recovered by an apology for seeming “touchy feely or some shit” accompanied by another flash of his adorable cheeky grin. This made the song all the more inspiring as a privileged moment and insight into his soul.
As changing as the mood were the instrumental positions of The Airborne Toxic Event members on stage. Like a musical relay race, Noah Harmon (bass) and Mikel hotfooted several times to keys shifting violinist, Anna Bulbrook, to centre position where she rocked her violin with the rest of the band (pictured below).
Anna was intriguing to watch with her absorption into the music while she also provided angelic backing vocals and intermit keys or tambourine. There were further impressive performances from Noah’s upright bass playing skills with a bow, the technical wizardry on guitar from Steven Chen and Daren Taylor on drums who provided complex and solid foundations for the band throughout.
An eclectic mix of familiar sounds were apparent sporadically during the set including; Franz Ferdinand, Wham, The Smiths, Crowded House, U2, Kings of Leon and Brian May. Influences marched forward by Mikel’s vocals likened to the raspy grounding of Bryan Adams, indulgent fast-paced narrative of Morrisey and high-pitched passion of Matt Bellamy (Muse). This fusion topped by the folk reminiscent sprinklings from the violin was deliciously different with the potential to win over any music lover no matter their musical taste.
Each song represented a unique pocket of sound with the ability to cause the involuntary feet tapping and the sea of bobbing heads that filled the room from the beginning, ultimately building to a willing lively breaking wave during favourites such as ‘Gasoline’ and ‘All at Once’ and eventual collective chant for an encore.
Having been stuck in Ireland prior to the show, the band were Relentless in returning with two more treats notching up to an 18 song energetic set. The Airborne Toxic Event are not to be missed by anyone with a passion for good music and a desire to feel good, they simply must be seen to be believed – spine tingling.
Photography by Hannah Mesquitta