Explosions shocks and awes at Middle East

by Beacon Staff • March 28, 2007

is nothing short of explosive.The band's instrumental brand of lengthy, post-rock compositions

gave anyone lucky enough to be at the sold-out performance at the Middle East an auditory onslaught that will leave a lasting impression.,An Explosions in the Sky performance

is nothing short of explosive.

The band's instrumental brand of lengthy, post-rock compositions

gave anyone lucky enough to be at the sold-out performance at the Middle East an auditory onslaught that will leave a lasting impression.

The story behind this group of Texan natives started with a drummer who posted a flier, aptly stating "Wanted: Sad, triumphant rock band."

Since the flier caught the attention

of two guitarists and an occasionally six-string-slinging bassist, Explosions in the Sky has put out a handful of albums, created

the soundtrack to the film Friday Night Lights and sold out nightclubs on both sides of the Atlantic.

"There's a band from Austin called .And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Our Dead. They helped us a lot by giving us a show in Austin where we opened for them," said bassist Michael James about the band's climb over the phone last month. "Before that we were playing for 10-15 people. Then we played a show with them, and we found ourselves playing shows to 100-200 people who came just for us."

Even though Explosions in the Sky is the farthest thing from traditional

mainstream rock music, many critics are already speculating

that the band's most recent release, All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone, will be on more "Top Ten of '07" lists than can be counted.

A recurring formula behind the group's music is a noticeable lifespan each tune contains in and of itself. On All of a Sudden, Explosions utilizes its carefully orchestrated instrumentalism to bring its listeners from a mellow start to a gradually built climax.

As a song reaches its dynamic height, the listener is instantly, yet gracefully, brought back to the mellow beginning they were introduced to. The end result is the closest thing to a simulation of birth, life, and death, which any indie-rock outfit has yet to engineer.

At the Middle East last Wednesday,

the entire audience seemed to be mutually awestruck by that musical life cycle. Rather than dancing and rocking out to the group's tunes, the audience was unusually still.

Most in the crowd seemed more inclined to observe the performance

with a dropped jaw than to pump their fists to the music's rhythm. One of the most astounding aspects of Explosions in the Sky's stage dynamic was the degree to which you could visually observe the life cycle of each song.

As the band began building on the night's grand finale, "The Only Moment We Were Alone," James stood as firm as a statue, pumping

out the bass line that the tunes are crafted around. As he constructed the DNA of the song, Mark Smith (guitar) crouched low to the ground while bringing the tunes' appendages out of his amp.

Munaf Rayani (guitar) rocked himself back and forth, as though he was cradling the infant of a song to sleep, while Christopher Hrasky (drums) beat out the rhythms that the music incorporates

as a skeletal structure.

As each song begins to climax, the band members the intensity up a notch. It became abundantly clear that the drive of the tune was on the rise as the evening's auditory life-givers began to violently flail their limbs to the songs' rhythms. While the climactic life of an Explosions in the Sky song begins to pass, it gradually fades into death. James caresses the dying notes out of his four-stringed grim reaper while the group's guitarists loop chunks of emotive feedback that they manipulate into a close. The end result of the song's final phase sounds like a Jonny Greenwood who had never heard of a Thom Yorke.

Needless to say, Explosions in the Sky was more than content with its mind-blowing performance

at the Middle East.

After the set, James, the unofficial frontman, commented to The Beacon, "We played our hardest ... we left everything we could out on the stage."

"This is my favorite kind of venue. A five- to six-hundred-person capacity is great. Anything bigger than that changes things," James said about what made this show better than previous nights. "Small shows are always my favorite. They're more intimate and it's the way I like to play."

As the group looks toward the future, the guys are modest about their goals and limitations. Far more humble than dreams of platinum status or playing arenas, James said, "If we can make the world a brighter place for the people who like our music, then that's good enough for me."

Unfortunately, given the absence of vocals and the abstract sound the group creates, the band's ability to tap into the mainstream remains limited.

"I don't think we'll ever get mainstream radio play, because of the length of our songs, but as far as the popularity of the band, I really don't know," James said. "We'll just have to wait and see."