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Tag: The Airborne Toxic Event (Page 1 of 7)

Introducing… The Bulls (as they Come Unwound)

Photo by Josh Giroux

Photo by Josh Giroux

Just one song so far, and it’s a shimmering beauty. The Bulls is multi-instrumentalist Anna Bulbrook (The Airborne Toxic Event) and guitarist Marc Sallis (The Duke Spirit). In early October, they unveiled their first song, “Come Unwound,” which begins as a reverent and breathy Nico-esque sad prayer to an unraveling relationship. The minimalist music slowly builds into a dramatic orchestral production with soaring strings and reverb-soaked guitars, dropping back down for each verse. Stunning.

After hearing Anna’s beautiful voice slowly taking on a more prominent role in her outings with Airborne, it’s a real treat to enjoy it full-strength, front and center stage. And likewise, as her “day job band” embraces synthesizers on their next release, it’s a pleasure to know that her stellar violin/viola skills will enjoy free rein here. With influences ranging from late ’80s/early ’90s dream-pop and shoegaze, The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees, bits of new wave and guitar grunge, luscious strings and ethereal vocals, The Bulls promise to give us some pleasant daydreams to float off and away in.

To accompany these aural delights, The Bulls released equally compelling visuals in the form of a provacative video, directed by Evan Mathis, that features Kinbaku model Stacy Lewis. Anna and Marc talk about the video and the formation of The Bulls in an interview with L.A. Weekly.

I’m looking forward to their debut EP, hopefully out early next year. In the meantime, you can purchase “Come Unwound” on iTunes.

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Introducing: Darren Rose Radio: Inside Radio & Records (it’s a podcast)

For those of you who enjoy a behind-the-curtains look at today’s music business, there’s a new podcast you should know about. Darren Rose, best known for his previous on-air gig on Alt 98.7 KYSR in Los Angeles, has just inaugurated Darren Rose Radio – Inside Radio & Records. It’s an unedited and uncensored series of conversations with people from every corner of the music business — artists, managers, DJs, producers, label executives and others.


In these hour-whatever conversations, it’s no-holds-barred discourse about people’s careers, world views and insights into this sketchy sophisticated industry. Darren has a great resume for doing a show like this, as he’s interviewed many people in the biz at 98.7 and enjoys a casual rapport with them, which always makes for great conversation. Judging from his first four podcasts, this is going to be a real eye-opener, a rare look at how the music business operates today.

Thus far, he has featured Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event, Pete Galli of The MGMT Company (who manages Airborne, Andrew W.K., The Bravery and others), his friend Josh Venable, Radio Programmer and DJ at Z104.5 in Tulsa (and formerly with Alt 98.7 and 102.1 The Edge in Dallas) and producer Andy Rosen (a.k.a. Dr. Rosen Rosen). Here are my initial thoughts.

His friendly chat with Mikel – This 75 minutes is like a rushing river of information after a particularly long dry spell for Airborne news. Mikel has a tendency toward major snarkiness if an interviewer 1) doesn’t know anything about the band and clearly hasn’t done their research or 2) asks the stock questions (“So tell us about the name”). This was a casual chat between friends, unguarded to the point where Mikel spoke about what he’s been doing the past six months, his home studio, what his plans are for the next Airborne album, how he and the band work together, his writing process, his thoughts on radio singles, his favorite artists, his health and workout regimen, his lifestyle, marital status, personal introspection, the music industry, you name it. For the Airborne fan, it’s an exhausting, exhilarating, gluttonous feast.

Music Business 101 with Pete – It’s a 30 minute crash course on today’s music industry and what a band has to do to get noticed, from one of the most savvy people currently in the business. Pete shares his four steps for breaking an artist (great songs and recordings, a good story, band identity, live show). He talks about the importance of blogs, radio, major labels and gives an extremely valuable insider’s perspective. It’s also heartwarming to hear him get totally geeked about Airborne and their huge hit, “Sometime Around Midnight.” After many years in the business, he still has that youthful passion and enthusiasm and isn’t completely jaded. Great stuff.

His two-hour gabfest with Josh Venable – This one’s an extremely interesting and thoroughly depressing look inside today’s commercial ‘alternative’ radio station travesty industry. It takes some effort to get beyond their gushing over Coldplay and their defense of Clear Channel (I suppose it’s understandable for a pair of working DJs, as CC has absconded with the bulk of U.S. radio stations). But there’s some really funny shit here. Their conversation veers recklessly from an extremely precise look at DJing as a career, ratings mechanisms and the inner workings of a rock station to behind-the-scenes gossip and endless stories from two chummy radio DJs who are survivors of the industry’s implosion and almost complete annihilation of independent stations by corporate giants. As the “interview” winds on, things eventually disintegrate into a gloriously unedited drunken frat party.

His tête-à-tête with Dr. Rosen Rosen – The conversation veers from home renovations and parenting to his remixes, recent production work with Meg Myers, what it takes for a band to be successful, the role of radio, the importance of artist interviews, live shows and stage production, his process of becoming a producer and his favorite artists. Timbaland? Uh, no thanks. Hearing about his experience as a songwriter and producer in the music biz? Yes, please.

Damn, this is going to be good. Best of all? The podcasts are free to stream or download from his site. Here’s to many happy podcasts, Mr. Rose.

As he says himself, “Over the last 15 years, the music industry has seen more changes than any other time in history. One of those changes in recent years has been the near extinction of the long form interview. Enter Darren Rose Radio, a chance to connect and understand the business from artists and industry insiders far beyond their social networks.”

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The Airborne Toxic Event’s February Mini Tour

The last time I saw Airborne, they were tearing it up during an incendiary 45-minute set at Boston Calling.

The last time I saw Airborne, they were tearing it up during an incendiary 45-minute set at Boston Calling.

Consider this a continuation of my flakey attempt to see what my L.A. bands have been up to lately. I started this exercise in earnest at the end of last year with Black Hi-lighter, went boldly into the new year with Summer Darling and Sea Wolf, and then promptly fell off the face of the earth. Chalk it up to 2014’s strange beginnings, a curious job situation and the on again, off again polar vortex. Call it what you will.

I’m back now to have a look at what The Airborne Toxic Event have been up to recently. By recently, I mean since last October, when they finished off with 13 European shows, marking the end of the “on again, off again” tour to support the brilliant Such Hot Blood. So what have they been up to? Uh, not a whole lot. Or I should say, not a whole lot that they’ve been talking about. One can extrapolate, however, from various sources. Their single “Hell and Back”, from the Dallas Buyer’s Club soundtrack album, has been doing really well, in the top 20 of Billboard’s “Alternative National Airplay” chart for 13 weeks now. Mikel Jollett has been all but invisible, save for a cryptic tweet every two or three weeks. There’s been a virtual “radio silence” from the rest of the band, except for Anna Bulbrook doing a few side projects, setting up her own studio, picking up some new musical skills and tweeting about her canine roommate, io. All signs point to a pre-recording scenario (writing, collaborating, arranging), and sure enough, a recent tweet from Anna announced a vague “listening session with Mikel Jollett,” so I guess that’s probably right.

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My Musical Highlights of 2013

(clockwise from upper left): A blessing to see all my favorites this year - The Henry Clay People, The Happy Hollows, Malcolm Sosa's 123Death and The Airborne Toxic Event

(clockwise from upper left): A blessing to see all my favorites this year - The Henry Clay People, The Happy Hollows, Malcolm Sosa's 123Death and The Airborne Toxic Event

I’ll be honest — 2013 was a bitch of an “all work and no play” year, but the times I did get to cut loose with some fine music were pretty spectacular. There were a few really nice festivals (not a format I’m typically fond of), an intimate backyard deck show in Echo Park and the swan song of a beloved L.A. band. What might have lacked in quantity was well compensated in quality. Due to my work circumstances, I had to select carefully, so what you’ll find here are mostly old favorites. As the year winds down, it does so on a rather ominous note, and I’m not entirely certain what the future holds. Ok, no one is ever certain; I’m especially not certain. If there’s anything in a musical vein that I hope for in 2014, it’s that however my life changes, it does so in a way that I can experience a wider range of musical delights in the new year. For a comprehensive overview of top recordings released in 2013, visit Ryan’s Smashing Life for his ’50 Best Albums of 2013.’ Meanwhile, here are six of my personal live performance highlights, in chronological order.

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Lost and Found (X of XII)

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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Boston Calling, Day 1 ~ beautiful vibes, pretty music

Daren Taylor, Mikel Jollett and Noah Harmon of The Airborne Toxic Event at Boston Calling

Daren Taylor, Mikel Jollett and Noah Harmon of The Airborne Toxic Event at Boston Calling

Despite it being a rather corporate affair and priced out of the reach of many of this city’s music fans, the Boston Calling Festival did a lot of things right, as large outdoor concerts go. They made an effort to include two more local bands and support a Boston charity through their Sonicbids contest, with a portion of proceeds from the submission fee donated to Boston Children’s Hospital (VIVA VIVA! played on Saturday and Royal Teeth on Sunday). Though they served alcohol (naturally), they did so in a special “beer garden” set away from the stages, which I think contributed to the fact that most of those close to the music were there for the music, and not just to get shitfaced with their friends. This was no small thing, and was greatly appreciated. The downtown setting was unique, convenient and was I’m sure a great sales boost to local businesses. There were a few problems at the start (mostly to do with what was and wasn’t allowed on site and consistency between various entities), but as they sorted out the stage placement, I’m sure they can deal with this as well. I still believe the cost is prohibitive, considering that festivals elsewhere with more performers and stages are similarly priced. I’m disheartened by all shows that cost more than $20-25, but the whole “concert-going elite” subject is a much larger topic.

Boston Calling, City Hall Plaza, at high noon.

Boston Calling, City Hall Plaza, at high noon.

People begin to gather at the blue stage.

People begin to gather at the blue stage.

Onto the music, which was absolutely superb. They wisely divided up the bands between the more “indie rock” types and the “dance/hip-hop/electro” types, which made sense and helped those who could only afford to go one day. I planted myself in front of the blue stage for most of the day, so my photos are of those bands. Everyone was clearly energized by the audience, which was among the best I’ve seen at something like this. Extremely engaged, friendly, supportive… just great. I’m sure this might not have been the case further back or as the night wore on, but my experience was very positive, and typically I’m not a lover of large music events, far preferring the small sweaty (more intimate) club scene. But I have to say, this was a lovely day. Onto the photos and my personal favorites.

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Apologies and I.O.U.s

Airborne sans symphony will be performing at Boston Calling tomorrow (photo: Costa Mesa, CA 8/23/13)

Airborne sans symphony will be performing at Boston Calling tomorrow (photo: Costa Mesa, CA 8/23/13)

So I had thought that most certainly by now I would have checked in with at least Part I of my “L.A. Phantasmagorical” report (which looks to be a whopping 12-parter — plus a short story, when it happens, and which may come with a different title, if no one gets the joke). Or perhaps my “review” of The Airborne Toxic Event’s dramatic performance with a really big symphony orchestra in Costa Mesa, California. However, work and general madness ensued (and not the fun sort of madness either). So to commemorate Airborne’s appearance tomorrow at Boston Calling, I present to you… an I.O.U. For now, here’s a few photos of an evening under the stars with a spectacular rock ‘n’ roll band, a stunning orchestra and a lot of inebriated people.

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The Boston Calling Festival: Bat for Lashes & The Airborne Toxic Event; Solange & Wolfgang Gartner

I’m back from Los Angeles with all sorts of amazing stories to tell. But before that happens, a bit of “Boston housekeeping.” Amazingly, tickets are still available for The Boston Calling Music Festival on September 7 & 8 at City Hall Plaza. It’s a great lineup, with Saturday as an indie rock love-fest and Sunday being more of a dance party. So if funds are tight, pick your favorite day and get on it.


In this installment, we have a look at two more bands from Saturday (Bat For Lashes and The Airborne Toxic Event) and two more from Sunday (Solange and Wolfgang Gartner).

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The (Infamous) Eastside L.A. 2013 Midyear Round-up! (part IV)

Andy and Joey Siara of The Henry Clay People - The Trocadero, Philadephia, Oct 10, 2009

Andy and Joey Siara of The Henry Clay People - The Trocadero, Philadephia, Oct 10, 2009

Here we are, then — the final installment of my last Eastside L.A. Round-up. How appropriate that I’m trying to stay awake to finish this on the eve of the Echo Park Rising festival, which I’m happily attending this year. The festival was first conceived last year, and rose from the ashes of the freshly defunct Sunset Junction Street Fair. This year, there are 19 stages with bands performing over two days (including The Henry Clay People’s Swan song). Incredible. If you’re anywhere in or around L.A., most definitely check it out. Oh yeah, it’s FREE.

A very big “thank you” to all the wonderful bands I’ve been enjoying since 2008, and for those who are still alive and kicking, I’ll continue to cover their exploits individually. Support your local bands! Peace out.

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On my Airborne Toxic Event anniversary…

(from The Beantown Bloggery, posted 7/30/2008)

(from The Beantown Bloggery, posted 7/30/2008)

A brief commemoration is in order today. On this very evening five years ago, I first saw The Airborne Toxic Event. It was upstairs at an Irish-Mexican bar in downtown Boston called Jose McIntyre’s, a curious gathering called “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” sponsored by WFNX. I actually just stumbled upon an advertisement of this event on The Beantown Bloggery. How cool. here’s my review of that pivotal event in my life. Sadly, this was before I started documenting, but you can see my first video of the band from later that year at Knott’s Berry Farm (see below). And be sure to check out (sorry, can’t seem to embed) this extremely cool video I unearthed of an old interview with the ‘FNX guys backstage at their Miracle on Tremont Street show in December ’08, where they talk about the show back in July. Good times.

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