The Airborne Toxic Event at the Newport Music Hall in Columbus, OH

The Airborne Toxic Event @ The Newport Music Hall, Columbus | Photo by Harry Acosta

The Airborne Toxic Event and In the Valley Below finally gave the people what they had been missing for the last few years in Columbus, OH

It was a cold night in Columbus. The kind of night where you don’t see many people waiting outside the doors of the Newport Music Hall for a show to start. This crowd, however, showed up early for a performance they previously thought might never happen. Gen Xers and millennials filled the Newport Music Hall with the front row packed with women. They continued to wait patiently for a show that was originally supposed to happen more than two years ago. 

Angela Gail and Jeffrey Jacob, professionally known as In The Valley Below, reassured the crowd with their presence that the wait was finally over. Primarily staying to their sides of the stage, they came together for vocals to share a custom dual mic stand joined by an angel. At one point, they got too close for the sound guy and there was a lull of feedback.

This duo has been making beautiful music together (in both senses of the phrase) since 2011. For those who had never seen them before, it was unclear if this stage duo was in a relationship together until Jeffrey introduced a song saying, “This is a song about when we fell in love. There were certain chemicals involved but it hasn’t worn off in over ten years, so no harm no foul.” 

They had an old-school, dark 80s synth sound with dirty guitar riffs. Their style was enchanting and dramatic. Sometimes performers don’t want to interrupt this mood by addressing the audience, but Jeffrey in his white suit had an engaging demeanor to help the show along.

Despite the cold that was permeating the venue, small fans on stage were facing the mic stands to cool off the guitarists. The stage was well organized with rows of guitar picks on the mic stands for guitarist Steven Chen and bassist Adrian Rodriguez. Two more mic stands stood in front of the stage for vocalist Mikel Jollett and Mimi Peschet on keys and violin. A row of guitars separated Daren Taylor’s drum kit from the rest of the stage. This was all taken in by the audience during the final seconds of their long wait. It seemed an eternity but the wait was finally going to pay off.

Members of The Airborne Toxic Event trickled out onto the dark stage a few at a time. Before you knew it, they were performing “All At Once.” They’re an easy band to quickly become a fan of and recognize their distinctive sound. There is a desperation to Mikel’s voice that conveys the passion in his lyrics. Mikel and Steven played around dueling out their music while Mimi struck dramatic poses with her violin. 

Mikel’s face was consumed with light for the majority of the show, except for the third song, “Numb,” where Mikel announced, “Let’s turn off the lights and play around in the dark for a few minutes.” The front row could still make out the figures on stage, but the seventh/eighth row of the crowd listened to music from a black void. There were just two five-second bursts of strobes during the four-minute song.

In the darkness, something that differed greatly from the studio recordings to the live performance is how much Mikel’s voice sounded like Bruce Springsteen on stage. Yes, there is only one Springsteen, but his influence on the music and especially Mikel’s voice is undeniable, especially on stage. At no time did they sound like they were trying to mimic Bruce, and that’s what is really important. Find inspiration where you can, but make something that is your own. If you didn’t know their history of being fans of Bruce, you might think it was coincidental.

Throughout the night, they ramped up the setlist with bigger favorites like “Changing,, and “Sometime Around Midnight,” but it was the five-song encore with a medley of “Missy,” “I’m on Fire” (Springsteen), “Fought the Law” (The Clash), and “Folsom Prison Blues” (Cash) that set the room ablaze. Many in the audience had seen The Airborne Toxic Event five or six times and this was not likely to be the last, no matter how long the wait.

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About Harry Acosta 25 Articles
Harry Acosta is a professional photographer who started out shooting concerts. He is an avid concertgoer and loves to capture his favorite musicians and unseen moments we take for granted in everyday life.