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A storyteller starts a band

When a former novelist starts a band, the least his listeners should expect is for his lyrics to tell a story.

But for Mikel Jollett and his Los Angeles-born Airborne Toxic Event, the work produced over four albums – including this year’s “Dope Machines” – has amounted to much more than literary fodder backed by guitars and synth. It’s amounted to record sales, critical success and tours like its current iteration, headed for Buffalo’s Town Ballroom (with support from Dreamers) on Tuesday for an 8 p.m. all-ages show.

Returning after a recent appearance at Alternative Buffalo’s Kerfuffle festival, the quintet’s cuts certainly walk listeners through different scenes and characters, with its gold-selling 2009 single “Sometime Around Midnight” chief among them. Echoing and theatrical, the second-person narrative teams Jollett’s expert storytelling with Steven Chen’s building guitar chords and Anna Bulbrook’s moody strings. The song serves as an ideal gateway to the diversified offerings of a band that is as apt to go radio-ready alt rock (“Changing”) or clap-inducing synth sing-a-long (“Hell and Back”) as it is to break out a coverof Q Lazarus’ “Goodbye Horses” – a song made infamous by Ted Levine’s Buffalo Bill in the 1991 thriller “Silence of the Lambs.”

Tickets are $18 in advance ($22 day of show), and are available via ticketfly.com or at the Town Ballroom box office.

– Michael Farrell

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