September 26, 2011
The seventh year of Pygmalion Festival opened up with a bang, or more appropriately, an explosion, as Austin, TX-based four-piece Explosions in the Sky played their mind-blowing instrumental post-rock for the sold-out Canopy Club crowd. I became an instant fan of Explosions when their 2005 breakthrough album, The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place reached my eardrums and have been listening ever since. I was able to catch the band at Lollapalooza in 2008, where they put on one of the best shows I’ve had the pleasure of watching. Plus, I started watching Friday Night Lights this summer and hearing their music soundtrack the adventures of Coach Taylor and the Dillon Panthers / East Dillon Lions has led to an even deeper appreciation of the band (and made me want to yell “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose!” during their concert). So it was with bated breath that I waited for Explosions in the Sky to perform. Before they took the stage though, Portland husband-wife duo Viva Voce performed a solid set of reverb-heavy alt-country tunes. Anita Robinson plays a mean electric guitar while harmonizing with husband Kevin, who switched between drums and acoustic guitar (often within the same song). It’s been a while since I listened to this band (since 2006′s Get Yr Blood Sucked Out), and after their scorcher of a set I’ll definitely be checking out their recent album The Future Will Destroy You.
Explosions in the Sky opened their set with “Yasmin The Light”, a hypnotic, melancholy tune from their sophomore album Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell The Truth Will Live Forever which, like many of their songs, will burst into chaotic frenzy on a moment’s notice. “Last Known Surroundings”, one of the highlights from this year’s Take Care, Take Care, Take Care came next and introduced the sound most people automatically associate with Explosions in the Sky, massive soundscapes, prominent marching drum beat, and beautiful intertwining guitar melodies. It’s incredible to watch the band create this music, as they seem to channel every fiber of their being into their instruments. While on stage, the band exhibits some of the most intense concentration I’ve ever seen, making moments like the stunning crescendo of “The Only Moment We Were Alone” and the aggressive percussion of “Catastrophe and the Cure” into transcendent experiences for everyone in the room.
The peak of the set for me came just after the halfway point starting with “Birth and Death of Day”. I’ve always found the guitar melody of “Birth” to be one of the band’s finest moments and the boisterous climax of the song was one of the most epic, fist-pumping moments of the night. The band followed it up with “Your Hand In Mine”, perhaps their most popular song due to it’s association with Friday Night Lights and there was a big recognition applause as the song kicked in. The track is definitely deserving of it’s popularity, it captures the band at their most beautiful, the emotion coming out of those arpeggioed guitar chords is immense. Then came “Greet Death”, another early favorite that provided the most unbelievable guitar playing of the night, particularly from Michael James. I literally did not know hands could move that fast. The band closed it the night with “Let Me Back In”, the fantastic closer to their new album and one of the most interesting compositions in the band’s catalog. It was a great close to a truly phenomenal set. Texas forever.
Follow the jump for more Explosions in the Sky / Viva Voce pictures. Click here to see the full set.
Explosions in the Sky