[phlipcam video] Airborne Toxic Event @ HOB: band fosters love-fest; dedicates unrecorded song to Billy Ruane; inspires marriage proposals

Wishing Well

Mikel Jollett might be the most charming lead singer ever. What kind of she-devil would break up with this guy and leave him stumbling through the streets, drunk and alone? Scratch that. THE AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT might be the most charming band ever. At the very least, they're the most charismatic alt band I've seen take the stage at the HoB in quite a few months. Watch here as Jollett shadowboxes energetically with bassist Noah Harmon. See there as violinist/keyboardist Anna Bulbrook bops adorably around the stage, peering at her dancing bow from beneath a fringe of bangs. Is Jollett dedicating a crowd-stirring cover of Peter Gabriel's "Book of Love" to his grandparents? He is.

Shit. Now he's ushering a surprise guest onstage. An Airborne fan is on his knees proposing to his girlfriend in front of a packed House of Blues and she's saying "yes." Jollett could not be happier if we were toasting his own nuptials with our sweating cans of PBR.

Onstage proposal

If this all sounds a bit twee, it wasn't. The crowd, myself included, ate it all up. This was musical symbiosis at its most elemental. Fans enjoying a band. A band enjoying their fans. A band enjoying being a fucking band. It doesn't hurt that the TATE has fine-tuned their live performances over the years (the first time they were in Boston, Jollett noted, they played for a room of no more than 40. Well, look at us now) and that they're just a fine rock band, heart-tearingly emotive with out crossing into emo, free of artifice and pomp.

Billy Ruane knew it. Airborne dedicated one of the first songs of their third hour on stage to Ruane. (I don't think I've ever seen a headliner at the HoB exceed 120 minutes). The never-recorded song was Ruane's personal favorite, Jollett said, and was his and his alone. "We miss you Billy," he said, at its finish, and even those who were hearing Ruane's name for the first time last night felt something akin to loss. 

Billy's song

If all of this grouplove wasn't enough, the band returned for not one but approximately five encores, sampling the Clash, Johnny Cash, and the Boss with aplomb. Not too shabby. Jollett waded through the crowd, serenading swooning girls at random and jumping around like a giddy fan himself.

The Airborne Toxic Event? I think it's catching.

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