Music Reviews — 21 November 2011
Airborne Toxic Event at Terminal 5: A Concert Review

 Airborne Toxic Event
Terminal 5, New York, NY
November 18th, 2011

In today’s musical climate, it’s rare for an artist to rise from a relatively unknown to a major label featured act in a short period of time. Los Angeles based alternative rock quintet Airborne Toxic Event, is one of the fortunate few who have garnered both independent and mainstream success seemingly overnight.

With only two full-length albums to their name, ATE has earned national praise as one of rock and roll’s most dedicated touring artists. In fact, Friday’s sold-out show at Manhattan’s Terminal 5 was the sixth time the band has performed in New York City in 2011 alone. The previous five performances were a part of a promotional run dubbed the “Origins Tour,” consisting of five shows each in London, Los Angeles, and New York City. Beginning with the smallest venues in each city, these dates encompassed a wide range of differently sized venues in which the group has played since its inception in 2006. Each night’s setlist consisted of rarities, covers, and live staples in local venues like Pianos, The Bowery Ballroom, and The Mercury Lounge. However, on this seasonally chilly evening on Manhattan’s west side, a capacity crowd of nearly 3,000 was treated to a 90 minute set that featured live renditions from ATE’s self-titled debut release, in addition to the group’s current release, “All At Once.”

Named after a section of the book White Noise by Don DeLillo, Airborne Toxic Event arrived on stage five minutes early, opening with the poignant number, “All At Once.” With their blend of profound, heartfelt lyrics coupled with indie rock upbeat tracks, ATE kicked the early portion of their performance into second gear as lyricist and frontman Mikel Jollet thanked the New York City fan base for joining them as part of ATE’s largest NYC headlining show to date. This seemed to set the tone for the remainder of the main set, highlighted by an energetic version of “Wishing Well,” one of group’s most recognizable numbers from their debut release. Additional stand out cuts included the lively “Gasoline” and  “Something New,” in which Jollett climbed on top of a side speaker,being helped to the venue’s second level before completing the song. Shortly thereafter, the band convened around surrounding drummer Daren Taylor as the quintet broke into an impromptu jam session before transitioning into their breakthrough mainstream hit, “Changing.”

However, through a recent and well-deserved string of commercial success and recognition as one of alternative rock’s most buzz worthy acts, what truly sets Airborne Toxic Event apart from their counterparts is how the band came to fruition.  ATE’s down to earth front man never truly had aspirations of becoming a rock star. In fact, he was a true artist of words as a poet and essayist. It was only when Jollett encountered a year’s worth of hardship in a single week in 2006 when his mother was diagnosed with cancer, in addition to be diagnosed with multiple cosmetic conditions. He also encountered a break-up during this time, which produced a series of intense writing sessions that spawned their most impressive creation, and encore highlight, “Innocence.” We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that “Innocence,” a six minute tale about losing someone important without actually realizing it until you are on the verge of losing everything you worked for, is one of the best recorded alternative songs of the past few years. We experienced this track live a few years back and it continues stand out in a live setting. If you don’t believe us, we invite you to check out Airborne Toxic Event. You will undoubtedly have your opportunities. This band isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.

Setlist (courtesy of

  • All at Once
  • Half of Something Else
  • Letter to Georgia
  • All For A Woman
  • Wishing Well
  • Numb
  • Something New
  • Changing
  • Does This Mean You’re Moving On?
  • Gasoline
  • Papillon
  • Welcome to Your Wedding Day
  • Sometime Around Midnight
  • All I Ever Wanted
  • Encore:
    • The Graveyard Near The House
    • Innocence
  • Encore 2:
    • Happiness is Overrated
    • Missy/I Fought The Law


- Buzz Francis

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