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The Airborne Toxic Event

WHO: Absurdly rich with talent, this Los Feliz five-piece is composed of hyperliterate front man Mikel Jolet, resident spaz/drummer Daren Taylor, bassist and “tone Nazi” Noah Harmon, keyboardist/classically trained violinist Anna Bulbrook, and on guitars and keys, Steven Chen, who’s also working on his first novel.

SOUNDS LIKE . . . : Having earned comparisons to Modest Mouse, the Smiths and the Cure, Airborne Toxic Event delivers choruses so adhesive and memorable (as on radio favorite “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?”) that you’ll discover yourself humming them like a well-worn cassette from college. Drums demand foot-stomping participation, viola is laced between indulgent guitar hooks, and the lyrics, labored over for months and crooned dryly by Jolet, are just wry and chagrined enough to tickle your nerd bone.

WHAT: The band was born last summer as a two-piece between Jolet and Taylor, who locked themselves in a dank practice space downtown for hours on end “just drinking and dancing and screaming and practicing.” Describing their instant bond, Jolet continues, “I think it was just that we could get weird together.” They booked their first show this past October, scrambling for backup and tripping upon the other members, who instantly clicked. In a few short months, they’ve played CMJ, become local radio darlings and have secured the March residency slot at the Echo.

SOMETHING ABOUT THAT VOICE: Jolet’s baritone could compete with some of the best in Britpop, but a discerning ear may recognize the singer’s speaking voice from occasional contributions as an essayist on NPR.

IN THE AIR: Live, the group delivers total cohesion and unflappable energy: Members bounce off one another’s backs with goofy charisma as Bulbrook wields her viola and Harmon sporadically strokes a bow against his bass strings. And yes, that is a salvaged 1969 Alfa Romeo hood they’re banging onstage.

THEM READS BOOKS: Airborne Toxic Event plucked their name from Don DeLillo’s social criticism/science fiction novel White Noise — which, though published decades ago, quite relevantly explores the bewildering effects of an increasingly media-saturated and shallow culture. Like, totally, right?

BREATHE ’EM IN: At the Echo every Monday night in March.


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