all words: Dana Mahr
all photos: Katherine Gaines
Hip hop shows get a lot of arm movement from the crowd, punk gets the pit, hardcore gets the pit, the push and shove, electronic gets a massive amount of dancing, so what do we get at an Explosions in the Sky hour and a half instrumental set? I’d say some abrupt awakenings and a fair amount of nodding. Considering this, I was pleasantly surprised to see the full house eagerly awaiting EITS.
Don’t get me wrong, I love instrumental. Two beers down and maybe a hit or two and the experience is life changing. But personally, I think the best shows are those that can be enjoyed even if – dare I say it – one is sober.
Maybe I’m asking too much. As I watched in positive amusement, The Antlers simulated ghostly howls into the mic rather than singing, and then Explosions’ guitarist Munaf Rayani’s almost spiritual love-making to the floor beneath him, I couldn’t help but pinch myself to see if I was dreaming. The music – in all its harmoniously melodic and lullaby ways – had entranced me. And possibly put me to sleep.
There were, of course, intense and inspiring break downs that awoke even the heaviest music lover’s “trance,” only to cast a spell once more, making the soft rhythmic breathing of the dozing crowd seem intentional and very much a part of the song. They were then only to be startled once more by the fleeting excitement of the musicians on stage, racing with their strumming to see who can get to the end of the break down the fastest.
I mean, honestly, both bands have incredible talent and their music, especially Explosions’, has a timelessness that holds them in my top 10 favorite bands of all time. But what is the point of playing live if you’re not going to put on a show? The only visual on the stage was the Texas state flag draped over a speaker and a bare minimum light show that was probably a courtesy of the venue.
I would love to see Explosions live again and I highly recommend it for any music lover, but bring some 3-D glasses or watch Wizard of Oz on mute during the show because clearly the only sense this band is interested in stimulating is your hearing, leaving all of us awkwardly wondering what to do with our eyes, and possibly our hands…pretty squished in this crowd to be standing still for an hour and a half.
I can say, though, that Explosions have one dance move that may or may not be intentional but they certainly have perfected it, giving me optimum enjoyment; I call it The Guitar Bow. During one of their many breakdowns positioned sporadically between long bouts of slow, light lullabies, all three guitarists will play their guitars, all bent over in front of them, as if they were bowing to the crowd, all the while heavily strumming and very much absorbed into the music they are creating.
What fun! After the show, the crowd did not plead for an encore, exhausted from the stop/go mind games being played for over ninety minutes, quietly shuffling out of the building and back to their consistent, something that cannot be said of the latter, beds.