Ice caked the windshields of cars outside, but inside the Rave, it was sweaty. Rock n’ roll reigned when the Airborne Toxic Event took the stage Saturday.
The five piece band from Los Angeles finally played a Milwaukee gig that wasn’t Summerfest, and it was the last show of their winter tour. After dealing with barely audible vocals on the first couple songs, Airborne loosened up and performed in celebratory fashion. Front man Mikel Jollett had the crowd singing and clapping along as the band barnstormed through the set list.
Fans of Airborne’s 2008 self-titled debut album were satisfied, as rocking renditions of “Gasoline,” “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?” and “Papillion” bounced off the walls of the sold out room. Anna Bulbrook’s viola solo opening to “Sometime Around Midnight” resulted in loud cheers.
It was also a night for new experiences. The band’s bassist, Noah Harmon, recently had a child and was not available for this stretch of the tour. Filling in playing the low notes was Adrian Rodriguez. According to Jollett, Rodriguez was able to learn about 20 songs in a day. There were times when it was obvious he wasn’t well-versed, but the new addition mostly kept up and brought energy to the stage.
Another recent change to Airborne shows is the new song, “Hell and Back.” The acoustic guitar-laden sing along was a great opportunity for the crowd to engage in a call and response with Jollett holding the microphone above the singing audience.
Guitarist Steven Chen’s scorching guitar riffs allowed Jollett to abandon his guitar on a few songs and lock hands with people near the front of the stage. The main set ended with “All I Ever Wanted” off Airborne’s 2011 release All At Once. The crowd was not done rocking yet, though. Few people left, and the room continued to get louder until the band came back for more.
The encore started with a feel good cover of the Magnetic Field’s “The Book of Love.” The song ends on the words, “I love it when you give me things, and you ought to give me wedding rings.” At the song’s conclusion, a couple in the audience became engaged. Jollett announced from the stage, “She said, ‘Yes.’”
The massive wall of sound “Timeless” was next. Daren Taylor’s drums were the backbone for the Such Hot Blood hit. The encore also gave Jollett a chance to introduce the band. With a smile on his face, Jollett said of Chen, “My grandma thinks he’s the sweetest angel in the world.”
Airborne went back to their first album for the final song, “Missy.” It’s a song about “not knowing what the fuck you want to do with your life,” Jollett explained.
As the crowd funneled through the exit door, faces looked satisfied after the hour and a half set. Kongos was the opening act. The four brothers from South Africa brought a unique sound. A song blending Dr. Dre-esque beats with a new take on the Beatle’s “Come Together” was the highlight.