For a couple months I thought Seattle would be the last The Airborne Toxic Event show I attend. I mentioned it to Bestie in San Francisco that the end was coming after enjoying a memorable three nights. With number eleven notched in my belt I felt like I’d gotten all the live show experiences TATE could offer. They’d served me well since 2009 when I first saw them in Seattle at the other Showbox. I found it only fitting my last show would come full circle to happen in the same city.
The decision had nothing to do with band members changing or their music moving in a more electronic direction. In fact, I really like the new sound. My intentions will continue to be a loyal fan, spread the TATE love, and keep an Airborne song in the weekly radio program I do. I might even resurrect the Dufraine project to entice them to Southern Oregon. However, I planned to end my multi-state travels to relive TATE love so I could pursue other musical group interests.
The Portland show on October 25th saddened me. Horrible people mashed against my skin in our small space a couple rows behind the barrier. One woman, who’s companion admitted he didn’t know what she’d taken, continued to fall into me the entire time. This was between her constant texting and checking the World Series’ score. Her friend proceeded to be drenched in gross body fluids which she continued to flick on me the entire show. I folded my arms across myself to try to keep myself as small as possible.
The band didn’t seem into it either. Mikel flashed his smiles on the right cues and the others dragged their bodies to the front for solos, but I didn’t feel the love. It’s the thing I worry about when seeing them multiple times, looking like work versus passion. So sad going out like this. After the set ended, I retreated from the front to catch a breath in the back. The band returned for a shortened encore and disappeared quickly. I didn’t try to stick around for pictures. Hubs and I went to a bar and enjoyed Irish coffees.
Seattle arrived and I hoped they would bring more for my farewell. Of course, they have no idea who I am or my decision. I only hoped there was something to draw an energetic show. I delivered my HooKies and mingled with other fans. The conversations were bittersweet. TATE fans are a unique breed. Most have double digits in their concert repertoire and follow the band to the ends of the Earth. I felt like I just met them and it was already time to say good-bye.
I snagged a barrier spot. My first time at being a “front.” I stopped HooGie and we chatted for a few seconds about the cookies. He thanked me and said he sent a picture to his daughter. So cute. I may have offered to send his wife-to-be and daughter cookies for the rest of their lives. When the band came on you could feel their energy immediately. I knew it was going to be a good night. Mikel engaged the audience from the start. He bantered with Adrian and Steven in choreographed kicks.
I sang every song. My emotions mixed with enjoying the music and battling sadness in knowing the end was near. The show concluded and I screamed for the encore. My last piece of my favorite band. It started with a silent guitar. Mikel tried to fix it, but called HooGie out for repairs. (He totally deserves cookies every day!) The guitar started up and they went into Missy. The song that got me to buy the album on its first listen five and a half years ago. I knew what to expect. Missy would turn into I Fought the Law or another favorite. I’d seen it many times before. I hoped it would be Boys Don’t Cry like some had seen at other shows.
Mikel’s guitar screeched again. He adjusted his foot pedals a couple times before he unwound from the guitar strap. He looked to the side stage and lifted the guitar over his head. The matte black instrument raced down against the ground. I thought it must have been an accident. Then the second smash and wood splinters sprayed out. It ignited the crowd into a frenzy, including me. My heart raced. Confusion turned into excitement. I looked over to HooGie who shrugged without a grin or grimace. All I could do was scream, “Holy fuck” and jump up and down.
After the song and show ended, Mikel continued to piece out his guitar. He flicked shards into the crowd. People screamed and reached. It’s hard not to get caught up in it when you’re surrounded. My greedy hands stretched over the barrier gate even though I was fortunate to already receive a pick handed over by the bassist, Adrian. Mikel walked over to my stage side and I waited for someone to snatch the last piece from his hand. He calmly lowered the piece to where only I could reach it. He dazzled with a smile and let me take it before he darted back to the stage.
The crowd kept me pinned to the barrier. The thirteen-year-old girl next to me said how cool it was he gave me the piece. I couldn’t stop beaming. Mikel worked his way down the line, signing autographs, taking selfies, and thanking people for coming. His fan appreciation was the number one reason I became a loyal fan after seeing them in 2009. When he got to me, I waited for our normal exchange where I thanked him for the great show and he thanked a faceless fan for coming. Instead, Mikel wrapped a sweat-soaked hug around my shoulders and thanked me for making the cookies for HooGie. It caught me completely off guard. I think I mumbled something about it being my pleasure; I was happy to do it. He said something nice and moved to the next person waiting their turn.
And this is how The Airborne Toxic Event has me re-evaluating my decision. The reason why I don’t know if I can make the Seattle show my last. Even when I thought there were no surprises left, they have a way to make me feel something more. And it’s not just about the band anymore. Their fan community is something I never expected. Each show I meet more people and find out more stories. About how we all have separate lives we put on hold to converge onto one place and weave a new one together. It’s something I don’t know if I would be able to get with any other show or with any other band.
I guess this only means this is my final Airborne Toxic Event show for now. When a new tour comes up, I’ll have to decide if I’m in the place to write a new memory or be satisfied with this last one. It may be a hard decision. Because although Seattle was pretty fucking awesome, who’s to say the next won’t be better?