A few years ago I was fortunate to meet the ultimate Airborne Toxic Event fan, Glen Hoos. He reached out and introduced me to the TATE fan community I’ve grown to adore. I assumed this was due to my hilarious blog dedicated to documenting my experiences with the band and their concerts. In actuality, he saw a single tweet where I chomped away on Mikel cookies. Since then, we’ve met at shows in Seattle and San Francisco, he puts up with all my shenanigans where I embarrass him by telling everyone how famous he is, and fortunately we’ve been long distance friends ever since.
There aren’t many fans who actually “do” anything with their band love. They may rock out to the song or tell a couple friends, but that’s where their initiative stops. It certainly doesn’t manifest in starting up a successful blog with a regular posting schedule. <Cough, cough, it’s really tough to punch these out on a regular basis.> And most definitely it doesn’t end up writing a book about your favorite band’s history.
Here we’ll take a look of the crazy fan who wrote a book about The Airborne Toxic Event.
Breaking Books: Who is Glen…the man…the myth…the legend? Ha!
Glen Hoos: Just a guy who’s in way over his head. Husband of one, father of fourteen. Oops, I mean, four. It just feels like fourteen sometimes. I’ve got two teenage daughters, a 12-year-old girl and a six-year-old whirling dervish of a son.
My wife and I engage in what we like to call “extreme parenting.” Our 12-year-old has Down syndrome, and has spent the past two years battling leukaemia. Our son, who we adopted four years ago, has a couple of rare genetic syndromes with big names, an intellectual disability and extreme hyperactivity. So basically, our family is an Event in and of itself.
My work life is spent raising money for the Down Syndrome Research Foundation. And on the side, I kind of like a band.
BB: How long have you been an Airborne fan and what sparked your passion for them?
GH: I discovered The Airborne Toxic Event in the summer of 2008. A friend introduced me to “Sometime Around Midnight” after we arrived too late to catch their set at Pemberton Music Festival. I was instantly hooked and bought their first album. My appreciation for them steadily grew through the releases of All I Ever Wanted and All At Once.
But the night that changed everything was June 7, 2011. That was the eve of my first Airborne concert, viewed from the front row beneath Anna’s keyboard.
It was a revelation. Four nights earlier, I had seen U2, who had been my musical obsession for 20 years. In my list of top bands, there was U2, and then everybody else was fighting for second. I thought it would always be so. But as the final notes of TATE’s set faded away, I realized that for the first time since I was 15, I had a new favorite band.
BB: How many concerts have you attended and how many miles have you traveled? What’s the farthest you’ve gone to see them?
GH: 18 shows, and around 9,000 miles of travel from my home base near Vancouver, Canada. (Wow, that sounds like a lot when I put it in writing!) I’ve been to San Francisco twice, Reno, Sacramento, Portland, Seattle and multiple locations here in BC. The furthest I’ve traveled to see them is Red Rocks (Denver), which was a bucket list venue for me.
My furthest show would have been Los Angeles, had life not rudely interrupted. I had tickets to their big homecoming show at the Greek in 2014, but my daughter’s cancer diagnosis hit like a ton of bricks two days before the gig. Needless to say, that put frivolous things like rock shows in their proper perspective really quickly. Still, the fact that I have yet to see them on their home turf is the biggest hole in my TATE fan resume.
BB: Any weird concert traditions you would like to share?
GH: Don’t think I don’t know why you asked this, Susan!
For the benefit of the reader, my first live Susan experience was at an Airborne show in Seattle in 2013. We already “knew” each other online, and Susan spotted me in a bar, waiting to be let into the venue. She proceeded to offer me every drink on the menu (seriously people, this woman does not take “no thank you” for an answer). I was finally forced to explain to her that I don’t drink any liquids past mid-afternoon on a show day. After spending hours lining up for the perfect spot in the front row, I can’t risk needing a bathroom break once I get in there.
Unfortunately, the older I get, the earlier I have to cut myself off.
There, Susan, now the whole world knows. Are you happy?
BB: Uh, yeah, seriously I am. That’s the best story ever.
BB: When did you start This Is Nowhere and why?
GH: The short answer is because the band inspires me, and that leads me to try to write it all down.
Beyond that, my other great musical loves, U2 and Springsteen, we’re stoked in large part by the websites atU2.com and backstreets.com, respectively. Both sites are fan-operated, and yet both have an impressive level of professionalism and quality about them I really admired.
As TATE took over first place on my playlist, I would read those sites and think, “Man, if only there was something like this for Airborne.” And then one day it occurred to me: perhaps I could be the one to create it!
Over the subsequent three years, it has grown far beyond what I had envisioned. I just found that I really loved doing it, and I added one piece at a time until it became what it is today.
BB: Being a fan is one thing, writing a biography is another. What made you want to write a book about them?
GH: Some times one thing just leads to another…
I recently wrote a whole post on this, so if you want the long version, check that out here. The short version is, I had an idea to write a few articles looking back on key events in the band’s history. Before I started work on any of those, fellow Airborne fan and writer Julie Stoller offered up her treasure trove of TATE articles and interviews that she’d been archiving since the earliest days of their career. Her collection of material was all-encompassing, and it spurred me to sketch out a full history of the band.
It began as a blog series, to be published one chapter at a time, every two weeks for about a year and a half. I kept to that schedule religiously, and partway through I realized that by the end of it, I’d have written a book. So that’s what it became.
BB: What is your best TATE memory?
GH: Through 18 shows, I’ve been utterly spoiled. There are more than I can name. But one moment will forever stand above them all.
To be very honest, I’m quite an insecure person. My paranoia can get the best of me, and at times, I’ve worried that Mikel and the band might disapprove of what I’m doing – whether it’s for being too intense of a fan, or writing something that doesn’t accurately represent them, or whatever.
Which is why the first night of the 2014 Fillmore residency meant so much to me. That night, they were to play their first record in its entirety… and that meant that, for the first time, I would see “This is Nowhere” performed live.
What went down is a bit of a blur. I remember Mikel walking over to my front row perch between he and Anna just before launching into the song, leaning down and shaking my hand. I remember him screwing up a line, glancing over at me and winking. And I remember him coming back over to shake my hand again at the end of the song, this time depositing a guitar pick in my clenched fist.
I have little recollection of the next song, “Midnight,” so stunned was I from what had just taken place. It felt like affirmation of all the time and effort I had poured into the website. He had noticed, and he appreciated it. Honestly, it meant the world.
I’d be lying if I said I don’t still wonder at times if they think I’m nuts, or worse. Maybe they’re horrified that I wrote a book about them.
But then I remember that moment at the Fillmore…
BB: Which member is dearest to your heart and why? Yes, I’m asking you to pick one.
GH: Okay – honestly, I hate this question. Yes, because I love them all. They are all wonderful musicians and, more importantly, excellent people. But more because, for me, being a fan is more about appreciating and connecting with their work than hero worship. (And yeah, I know that the story above probably comes off as idolization, but it was really more about me just needing my insecurities settled.)
So, with that disclaimer aside and a gun to my head, I guess I’ll have to go with Mikel. At heart, I’m a lyric guy, and as much as I’m addicted to the music, it’s the words that get me every time. No matter what I’m going through in life – and I’ve had the full range of emotional experiences since getting hooked on Airborne – Mikel has a lyric for every moment. Through my daughter’s cancer ordeal, it’s been “The Thing About Dreams”: “Circumstance changes and life’s always calling your bluff. Enough is Enough.”
Plus, early on in the writing of the history of the band, I realized I was really writing Mikel’s story. Airborne is built on Mikel’s experiences and his desire to connect with people through his sharing of those experiences. Everything else in the band is ultimately in service of that objective. He succeeded in connecting with me, and that’s what it all comes down to.
BB: If you could create any fantasy TATE experience what would it be?
GH: Okay, so, I’m super boring. Some fans may wish to join the band on stage to play or sing or dance; I’m quite happy in front of the stage, thank you very much. Others may dream of hitting the bar with them and partying it up, but that’s not really my scene, and then they’d just find out how lame and awkward I really am (though I suspect Anna already knows).
Truthfully, my dream is pretty close to what they did for some lucky fans last year in Philly – an intimate show for about 80 people, with one fan getting to choose the setlist. The winner generously shared his prize and let other fans help choose the songs. I don’t know if I could be as cool as him. I would kill to choose the setlist.
If you want me to jazz up my fantasy a bit, let’s say the show is at one of their old school venues in LA – perhaps the Satellite, formerly Spaceland, or the Echo, where they played their first show. And maybe I could hit up El Gran Burrito with them before the gig. I can only embarrass myself so much in the course of a taco.
BB: What’s been the hardest part being a TATE die hard fan?
GH: For me the hardest parts relate to running the site and writing the book, rather than just being a fan, per se. Not that I’m more important than any other fan, of course; but I think that in becoming a self-appointed TATE reporter/historian, I’ve put myself in some awkward spots and created pressures for myself that go beyond the typical fan experience.
As a fan, I just really want to be a cheerleader. But in my writing, I try hard not to come off as too much of an overgrown fan boy. Going back to atU2 and Backstreets, that’s what I always admired about them. They are fans, yes, but they also report on things objectively, and ask tough questions, and occasionally take unpopular stances on things.
In the past few years, The Airborne Toxic Event has gone through some controversial stuff. I won’t rehearse it all here (it’s in the book!). Covering those events was really difficult.
As a fan, I had my opinions. As a “reporter,” I wanted to be objective and cover all sides. As someone who wants to do right by the band, I desired to present them in a good light. As a representative of the fans to some extent, I wanted to honor the viewpoints of others, even if I didn’t share them.
It was all terribly complicated and more than a little stressful. But no one put that burden on me; I put it on myself. It’s what I signed up for, even if I didn’t know it at the time.
I eventually realized I can’t please everyone; all I can do is seek out the facts to the best of my ability, and write from the heart.
I will say, the ups and downs of the past three years have made for great story. Every good book needs some conflict!
What has made it all worth it are the relationships I’ve built with my fellow fans, and the encouragement they’ve given me along the way. So many have told me that This Is Nowhere has strengthened their love for the band. I’m genuinely proud of that, and I hope the book will have the same effect on those who read it.
Once again, Glen Hoos amazes. I am fortunate to know him not only as G-Man Superfan (his nickname on my blog) but also as a friend. If you would like to get your own copy of Toxic History: The Story of The Airborne Toxic Event, you can purchase the hard copy here or the ebook here.