Passion, intensity, tears from Explosions in the Sky

The Austin, Texas natives played at The Blue Note on Sunday.

By Steven Dickherber | April 11, 2011

Tags: Concerts Music

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A half hour before the doors opened, a line wove around The Blue Note for people waiting to see Explosions in the Sky, the post-rock instrumental group from Austin, Texas. Like cutting onions, the unashamed beauty of Explosions patient crescendos and ear-bleeding climaxes will get even the toughest lumberjack all teary-eyed.

But before I could see my favorite band for the third time, I had to get through the opening band The Octopus Project. Unfortunately, I’m not hip enough to say I had listened to The Octopus Project before, but I Youtube’d them before the show. Let’s just say my expectations were low. On Youtube, it sounded like the songs had been composed using only GarageBand.

So when The Octopus Project opened with some pretty interesting drum combinations and catchy guitar riffs, I was pleasantly surprised. Honestly, they blew my expectations, especially when the groups only female member Yvonne Lambert pulled out a theremin for the last few songs. I’d never heard of a theremin before, but it’s basically a radio antennae played by positioning two hands at varying distances.

If you want to put off studying for an extra five minutes, Google it. It's totally worth it. Besides the theremin being incredibly badass, Yvonne was a cutie to boot.

As well as they did, The Octopus Project simply can’t live up to the glory we know as Explosions in the Sky.

The only way I know how to describe the show is best explained by the song “A Poor Man’s Memories” by Explosions. For four and a half minutes, a minimalist guitar piece with accompanying drums and base builds upon itself.

Visually, it’s like the clouds you see in a distance. They’re dark. You know they’re coming, but it’s hard to notice them moving, until all at once, they’re right on top of you. And then the suspense, as Munaf Rayani picks the high E on his Fender Stratocaster purposefully slower than before and Chris Hrasky lightens on the drums as the first drop of rain falls on the end of your nose.

And then, thunder.

Not the thunder you made as a kid, waving tin foil sheets like a penguin trying to fly. But the unadulterated passion of God, completely obliviating any doubt, any non-belief in the band’s deity. It surrounds you, then completely fills you until, somehow, you are the music.

And isn’t that why we turn the knob to the right on those long road trips, or “blast it” while working out?

We all just want to be involved in the music, to somehow belong in the song. If we turn it up loud enough and close our eyes for three and a half minutes, we can draw meaning from a lyric-less tune.

And when we open our eyes and see 300 people moving their head and raising their fists to the same meaning, it doesn’t matter anymore that we're not in the front row, and that the guy behind us has some serious B.O. For just a little while, we're united in a song.

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