A Los Angeles story of madness and awakening, in twelve parts

The Airborne Toxic Event with the Pacific Symphony at the Pacific Amphitheatre

The Airborne Toxic Event with the Pacific Symphony at the Pacific Amphitheatre

Part X: Impressions of Costa Mesa, missteps at Laguna Beach and the Wavelength Festival with Delta Spirit and The Airborne Toxic Event

Driving around Costa Mesa, looking for a decent vegetarian breakfast, it occurred to me how much the city is like a sprawling Simsbury, Connecticut — or, for you Bostonians, perhaps Newton. There were the endless upscale shopping centers, pristine landscaping and not a single non-white person to be seen at the outdoor yuppie-style cafe I finally came across in one of the many fancy yet nondescript strip malls. Even the name was vaguely elitist: Haute Cakes. Perfect. Two haute couture women were sitting next to me, chattering non-stop, while their equally stuffy and primped little dog wound itself around my leg. The food was good but no match for the ‘Angel’s Mess’ at Millie’s in Silver Lake, which was life-affirming.

I was thinking about the importance of the show I would be seeing that night. I’d been a fan of The Airborne Toxic Event since 2008, and though they’ve performed with an orchestra before, this was the first time they’d done so in the Los Angeles area. It was part of the Wavelength Festival, and they’d be appearing with the 85-piece Pacific Symphony at the state-of-the-art Pacific Amphitheatre. Fellow Angelinos Delta Spirit, a marvelous band and headliner in their own right, was opening for them. Over the five years I’ve known Airborne, they’ve continuously raised their game. They’ve become more accomplished musicians and performers, and their musical arrangements, particularly for the orchestral shows, ever more impressive. I can’t imagine how much time and energy it takes to work out parts for 85 additional players. Add to this the majesty of performing in a world-class amphitheatre with a world-class symphony orchestra, in front of what most certainly would be Southern California’s finest in terms of sophisticated music aficionados. All of that was bound to add up to a beautiful experience, right?

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