screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

The Airborne Toxic Event @ Roseland, NYC

Electric Touch, The Airborne Toxic Event, The Fratellis
at Roseland Ballroom, New York City, September 5, 2008

By 6:40 p.m. (20 minutes before the doors opened), there were already a few hundred people in line vying for choice “seats”. Obviously I’m quite out of the loop when it comes to Scottish indie bands. Most were Fratellis fans, of course, and I had no idea they had such a following. But of those I spoke to, it seems many knew of Airborne when they did some shows with the Fratellis a few months ago.

The Roseland Ballroom is what I think of as a “New York style club” – big, impersonal, cavernous, and with the requisite disco balls. One expects a venue like that to have abysmal sound quality, but it wasn’t so bad overall, save for some audio “snafus” at the start of ATE’s set.

First band up was the Electric Touch. Curiously from Texas (or so they said), but with British accents. They were really funny with their pretentious poses, though I’m fairly certain it wasn’t intentional. They were loud; I’ll give them that. During their set, a woman in front of me turned around and asked, “Is the next band better than this?” “Oh yes,” I replied. “Ohhhhh, yes.”

Airborne was next. Some people in the front cheered as they came out to set things up. Some were probably familiar with them from their last jaunt with the Fratellis. I’m sure there were others, like me, who had come primarily to see them.

At this point, a blow-by-blow description doesn’t seem to do justice to the near-religious experience of a live Airborne Toxic Event show. Their L.A. fans would know what I mean. Sensuous. Visceral. Majestic. Heart pounding. Soaring. Cascading. Life-affirming. Inspirational. Ethereal.

They did the songs from their debut album, plus “This Losing” – a lovely track (not on the album; hopefully on the next one!).

The hot and sweaty atmosphere (broken air conditioning) only served to raise the feverish energy even higher, prompting thoughts of Indian sweat lodges, Baptist revival meetings, whirling dervishes, and other such out-of-body experiences.

This was the first time I’ve heard the Fratellis, and they were really quite good. One way I assess the value of a band’s performance is by the reaction of the audience, and if there’s a real connection there. There certainly was, and I don’t think it was all due to hyperthermia. Sorry I can’t give a track listing or any specifics, but suffice it to say they sounded great, gave an energetic performance, and I’ll definitely check out their music so I can give a more intelligent review (hopefully) for the Boston show.

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the debut album from the airborne toxic event


Wire – Middle East Downstairs, October 8, 2008


  1. Jen

    Sorry to read that you didn’t like Electric Touch. I wanted to add that only the singer is British but the band is based out of Austin TX. Most fan/journal reviews have been more positive but hey, you can’t win them all, can you ? 😉
    I can’t comment as ATE as I haven’t seen them yet. I’ve also read fan/journal reviews that weren’t favorable in ATE’s favor.
    To each their own, right ?

  2. admin

    Sorry Jen, I was rather harsh. It certainly comes down to personal taste in the end, which I guess means that all reviews should probably best be ignored. One thing I’ll say is that as much as I love live performances, I often find shows to be too loud, in that you miss the nuances of the music. I’ll be seeing two more shows on this tour, so I’ll give them another listen (both at nice old theatres – the Orpheum is one of our best venues for live music here in Boston).

  3. Jen

    I came across your site when I was looking for reviews. No worries about your critique. It’s simply a matter of personal taste. I can’t compare ATE with ET since they won’t be playing with The Fratellis and ET in Austin.
    I suppose if you’re seeing Electric Touch for the first time, their performance style might across as over the top or pretentious. I’ve known the singer, Shane, since he first came to Austin 3 years ago with an all British band. And with Christopher (the other guitarist)…I guess that you would either love or hate his guitar poses…LOL :-). On the other end of things, I often can’t stand bands that just stand there and show no emotion whatsoever.
    ET is a loud band but hopefully the sound will be better at the other shows that you see.
    Looking forward to seeing The Fratellis at Austin City Limits. Hope they’re ready for the hot weather at an outdoor festival !

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