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The Airborne Toxic Event Celebrate 15 Years of Debut For 4 Nights at El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles

Pop Break Live: An Evening with The Airborne Toxic Event ‘Celebrating 15 Years of Their Debut Album’ at The El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, California August 16-19

In celebration of their self-titled debut album released 15 years ago this August, The Airborne Toxic Event took to Los Angeles’ El Rey Theatre for a four-day residency that brought the band back to their local roots. Following the success of similar residencies at Bowery Ballroom in New York City and Lincoln Hall in Chicago, The Airborne Toxic Event, or TATE, brought a fan-forward approach to celebrating their debut album with the city of Los Angeles – the same city where the band played their first ever show only a month after forming in October 2006, 17 years ago.

Over four nights from August 16th to 19th at the El Rey, TATE offered a different setlist every night, mixing in deep cuts with brand new tracks, and the occasional entire album. VIP packages for each night promised early entry, a signed poster, and even a personal stage tour by the band’s tour manager. For those who don’t know, TATE are known for having some of the most intense and hardcore fans in the indie music space (someone standing at the barrier for the second night of the residency remarked that this would be their 91st TATE show) – and it’s clear that this experience was designed with those fans in mind.

The second night of the residency – which took place on Thursday the 17th – TATE opened their set with three stripped-back acoustic numbers before going full electric as a band. Singer and guitarist Mikel Jollett and touring violinist Mimi Peschet opened with “Bride & Groom” and “Change and Change and Change and Change”; with only an acoustic guitar and violin, the songs felt gentler yet still upbeat. The rest of the band joined for a plucky acoustic rendition of “Poor Issac,” as Jollett explained that he once asked a festival crowd in Europe if they were interested in hearing a song about the Biblical tale of Issac and was met with complete silence. Luckily, Jollett was in good company that night as the crowd roared with approval.

As promised, nearly all of the band’s debut self-titled record was played, including the electric “Wishing Well” and string-heavy, sprawling number “Innocence” during the main set. Always ones to surprise, the band decided to not play the record in order, but mix up the setlist by including several new tracks like “Frank Pigg.” An upbeat song with heavy power chords and memorable percussion, “Pigg” is inspired by a real riot that took place at Chino State Prison in 2009, and – despite being practically brand new – had dozens of fans in the crowd singing along with every word. The best new track of the night, however, was “Glory,” an emotional tune with delicate melodies and soft piano that crescendoed into a lively bridge and outro that featured Jollett howling, “I love you more than now” over powerful guitar played by Steven Chen. Although the evening was a celebration of looking back at early music, it was clear how much the new material could easily become fan favorites.

Those interested in TATE’s other records like Such Hot Blood and their most recent Hollywood Park were also given their time to enjoy with the incredibly infectious “Elizabeth” and instant classic “The Common Touch.” In a fun twist, the band even played, “Hell and Back,” a song Jollett wrote for the Oscar-winning film Dallas Buyers Club back in 2015. The most exciting part of the show – which changed each night of the residency – was the encore; on night two, much of it was in celebration of the debut. “Sometime Around Midnight” – a powerhouse of a song that has almost surpassed the band after a decade and a half – felt transcendent at the El Rey with every voice singing as one. The night ended with a celebratory mash-up of “Missy” that has gotten its own unique twist every show; at this one, the band played elements of covers “I’m On Fire” and “I Fought the Law” with the early hit. Everyone sang along, clapped hands, and cheered – a fitting ending to a show that would pick right up again the next night with entirely new material.

The Airborne Toxic Event’s residency at the El Rey proves that anniversary shows don’t always have to be steeped in nostalgia; while some artists rely on the past, Jollett and the rest of TATE seem eager to always create new art and keep writing new songs. Providing a fan-based experience to those that have supported them since the beginning, the band deeply understand the value of a well-curated residency. This was a wonderful gift to the fans and city that have been with the band since the beginning: Los Angeles.     


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