The World is Watching
Angels & Airwaves broadcast peace and love from Nashville
by Trace William Cowen
photo by Trace William Cowen
Mathematically, I had to do it. Angels & Airwaves, free show (the annual Journey’s Backyard BBQ), three-hour drive to Nashville, so-so shopping mall ““ it made too much sense to ignore. So, after a quick Waffle House breakfast (honestly, the atmosphere alone can fill your stomach) perfectly complimented with four cups of coffee, I turned my girlfriend’s Camry gently in the direction of Nashville”¦well, Franklin, Tennessee. Thankfully, I kept a mildly detailed mental journal of the day ahead and will do my absolute best to transcribe it here.
10:30ish ““ After settling comfortably into the knowledge that we are halfway there, I decide to enjoy my packed lunch of: a) one turkey taco (deli sliced turkey, shredded Mexican cheese, yellow mustard, wheat tortilla), b) two prunes, and c) the desire to enjoy the Rice Krispie slyly lurking in the bottom of the cooler; a desire not fully realized until about 12 hours later.
12:15ish ““ I whip through the parking lot of the Cool Springs Galleria (wreaking overall of a subtle attempt at appealing to wine “˜n’ cheese types, though I can’t really pinpoint why I feel this way) at a pace semi-terrifying to my girlfriend (“I’ll drive on the way home!”), park, and enter the mall. I savor a Vanilla Shredder from Smoothie King ““ a savoring that happens all too quickly, as I will endure a fleeting stomachache about 30 minutes later.
12:45ish to 4:40ish ““ Angels & Airwaves aren’t playing until 6pm, so about four or five hours are spent calmly alternating between the barbeque (hot sun) and the mall (too-cold AC) ““ a pastime adopted by nearly every attendee, particularly those here solely for Angels. Every time I reenter the barbeque, the number of people multiplies significantly. Eventually, I cave and buy a hot dog. I don’t usually eat red meat, so I enjoy accordingly ““ it reminds me of marching band, in a good way.
6:00ish to nearly 7:00 ““ The closer the clocks tick to 6pm, the more obvious it becomes how many people are here for this and nothing more. It’s free, so casuals and those generally “out of the loop” are to be expected ““ but the San Diego, California based Angels & Airwaves have filled the pavement with about 1,500 people who, individually, have very little in common. Skateboarders, fans of frontman Tom DeLonge’s former band Blink 182, fans of Angels, curious adults, cops, and the aforementioned casuals”¦a potpourri of mall America. It would be forgiven, even expected, if a band playing a free show in a parking lot (no doubt a decision fueled by the fact that DeLonge’s company, Macbeth, is a large sponsor of the Journey’s BBQ) decided to simply take it easy by regurgitating unpracticed renditions of the hits, interacting very little with the audience, and jogging defeatedly back to the bus for the drive to the next, more “important” show. Yet, platinum recording artists Angels & Airwaves possessed a characteristically triumphant tone with each song ““ to them, the Cool Springs Galleria was simply a sold out arena in disguise. Tom DeLonge tossed his guitar off to the side to appropriately fuel opener “Call to Arms” with just the right hint of grandiosity, honesty, and victory (a feeling carried over into every song)”¦reaching optimistically to the sky and articulating each word with an undeniable conviction. The band, completed by guitarist David Kennedy, bassist Matt Wachter, and drummer Atom Willard, have weathered quite the storm of mixed reaction from critics and fans (namely, the sad fact that many listeners feel they have the authority to try and halt DeLonge from evolving out of his lighter, pop-centric past with Blink), yet have finally projected themselves as truly untouched by it. DeLonge believes in his message, and he knows that others do as well ““ regardless of those left clinging to a buried, but not forgotten, past. Angels & Airwaves has finally achieved the atmosphere DeLonge spoke so confidently about surrounding the release of the band’s first album (2006’s We Don’t Need to Whisper, followed quickly by 2007’s I-Empire), a fact that is most certainly the ultimate revenge against those who continually question and mock the band’s ambitions. Tom DeLonge’s sense of humor is still firmly intact (he claimed one of his childhood dreams was to “play in the parking lot of a JC Penney,” and thanked the audience for helping him “reach his dreams,” even inviting them to help him purchase some Dockers later on), but he wisely refrained from even mentioning Blink 182 ““ a decision that will continue to allow him renewed relevance as the years go by. The people listening this time around have applied the message to their own lives, only further evidenced by the appearance of a homemade American flag replacing the 50 stars with the “˜AVA’ logo ““ a triumphant moment in a triumphant, 45-minute escape.
7:00ish to now ““ The drive home was easy; as I felt renewed and impassioned myself. The purpose of art is to create inspiration, and inspiration is the spark to everyone’s fire. Any artist that can start this fire in merely 45 minutes in the front of a JC Penney deserves the entire world in sold out arenas across the globe for an audience, sure; but sometimes you can reach the entire world from a parking lot in Tennessee.