Thursday, April 10, 2008

Explosions in the Sky

Young scene kids discussing and singing Fall Out Boy‘s recent cover of MJ‘s infamous “Beat It“, metal heads conversing about their latest piercings, awkward indie rockers shuffling uncomfortably bobbing their heads as Wolf Parade played over the speakers; Possibly one of the most diverse crowd filled the Pageant on March 29. As soon as the lights dimmed after opening band Lichens had finished their interesting-if-not-repetitive set, the extremely varied groups joined their attention together on the stage. Within minutes, instrumental post-rock band Explosions in the Sky appeared. With Chris Hrasky behind the drums and Mark Smith and Michael James grabbing their guitars, Munaf Rayani approached a mic to introduce himself and his fellow band mates. Seasoned listeners knew it would be the first and last words he’d say as he slinked back and grabbed his guitar… Before the concert, some history is in order.

The Austin, Texas-based band formed almost ten years ago and released their first album in 2000. How Strange, Innocence contains two personal favorites, “Song for Our Fathers” and “Magic Hours”. Both songs illustrate the band’s cinematic feel as both seem like they belong on a soundtrack. Although initially seeing a very limited distribution, EITS quickly gained a respectable fan base, inciting a more commercial re-release. The band would gain more media attention for their second album, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever. However, reporters focused less on the evolving music and more on a coincidence. The artwork for the album pictured an airplane with a caption that read “This plane will crash tomorrow.” Although the album came out in August and concept art was created months earlier, many thought the album was released on September 10, 2001. Munaf‘s Middle-Eastern descent also added to suspicions and reporters negative view of the band. All suspicions and rumors died down quickly after however.

The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place was Explosion’s next release. Described by members of the band as their “attempt at love songs”, the album mostly lighter than those preceding and succeeding it. After this release, the band’s cinematic sound was finally fully realized when they were employed to compose a soundtrack for the film Friday Night Lights. Taking place in Texas, the film follows a football team and their pursuit to be state champions. The dramatic feel of the movie is driven by both previously created and original material by Explosions in the Sky. In 2005, the band recorded The Rescue, an EP that never saw a major commercial release. Inspiration for the recording came when, while on tour, the band’s van broke down and would take eight days to fix. With hardly any money, the band was lucky enough to find a man kind enough to let them stay in their attic for no charge. The EP is seen as a “thank you” to that man. Finally, Explosions released their latest album All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone last year. The album follows the same successful formula as previous albums while adding a heavier sound with more distortion.

As Munaf fastened his guitar strap around himself, the band nodded to each other, ready to start. With that, Michael James stepped forward and plucked one instantly recognizable note on his guitar. The crowd was already losing it, cheering as loud as they could as the opening notes of “First Breath After Coma”, one of the top fan favorites, began. Seeing the members of Explosions on stage was almost like watching a choreographed performance. As Chris pummeled on the kit, Mark would lunge his head forward as Michael would throw his back, as if playing off of each other. All the while, Munaf, his guitar so low it seemed he was playing it around his knees would rock side to side, adding intensity to his movements when it suited the music.

Throughout the show, the music never once stopped. Explosions found a way to make a near two hour set seem like one, cohesive piece of music. Although there were no words or lyrics sung, the band managed to command the audience’s attention with their impressive showmanship and talent. During some songs, guitarist and bassist Michael James would strum so rapidly that the entire crowd would look at each other in disbelief. During the end of “Magic Hours”, Munaf took off his guitar, picked up a couple of drum sticks, and stood above his own personal snare drum. Once he caught the rhythm, the guitarist proceeded to blow the crowd away with a staggering beat. During another fan favorite, “Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean” off of …Cold Dead Place, the band was bathed in a vibrant blue light, adding to the emotional impact of the song and its truly epic ending. During one song, the audience was in enough of a frenzy to cheer through three minutes of it, adding a sound that made the song larger than life. Finally, as their show closed, the three guitarists were aligned on stage, perfectly in sync with each others movements as their final sounds blared over the speakers. With one last strum, the final note run out as Munaf approached the night, gave another simple, “Thank you,” and walked off. Explosions in the Sky put on a unique and rewarding live show, easily worth the ticket price and more. Their live sound was so full, listening to the albums afterwards doesn’t feel complete, like a huge chunk is missing. Fans of progressive, instrumental, or rock in general would do themselves a favor by checking out such refreshing, brilliant music.

Explosion in the Sky's concert recieves a Fu Man Chu (a 4 out of 5).

First Breath After Coma - Explosions in the Sky


bo said...

I should have known you would have been there. I was in STL that weekend, with no means of getting there (by reliable persons).

I've heard four accounts(now including yours) ((one in Michigan)) of the show and all I got was nothing short of life changing.

Derek said...

We found two random tickets at Vintage Vinyl the day we went. They were folded over a EITS CD and no one was claiming them. Had I known you were there, I would've found you and given them you.