Explosions in the Sky
The Glass House
April 18, 2012
It can be tough to characterize performances by a band like Explosions in the Sky. While an instrumental act such as Explosions shouldn't really be hindered by their lack of lyrics, it can still be a factor in building a connection to the audience. That said, nobody seemed to mind during their set last night at The Glass House in Pomona.
With a stage setup that included no vocal mics, nothing that would let the band interact with the crowd except through their music. But the guys of Explosions didn't let this hinder their expression at all; in characteristic Explosions mode, they managed a reasonably long set with only 10 songs, each jam reaching and reaching until the audience was utterly enveloped in the sound.
To say that Explosions is an introspective band is a bit of an understatement. With each member's eyes closed for most of their set, the venue was cleared of the usual stage banter, hellos and how-ya-doings of the average performance. What shines through, instead, is their music, letting each of their lengthy songs fill the void perhaps left by their lack of vocals.
It's definitely interesting to see the band bridge this gap. Where there might be a clever lyric, a guitar riff echoes instead, rising and falling with the torrent created by the other band members. These peaks, swells and dips somewhat characterize the nature of Explosions, an organic element of their music uninterrupted by the need to vocalize. Where there might be casual banter between tracks, there was barely a moment of silence before each member, barely acknowledging of even the present moment, started their next song. (Thus, introspective.) In this respect their set felt less like a traditional concert and more like a poetry reading, with little interaction and little acknowledgment going out between poems.
And poetry it was, practically. Each song seemed to build up a tidal energy, rising and falling again and again; and like the tide itself, the songs never seemed to end, sometimes blending into each other. Each member rose and fell with this music, truly feeling (again, eyes closed) as they wove together the saga of movements strung through their setlist.
Sometimes guitarist Michael James would kneel down on the stage during more intense sections of a song. Munaf Rayani, stage left, seemed to careen back and forth at the mercy of the music, entire body swaying ominously, long hair obscuring any facial expression. Drummer Chris Hrasky started the set with earmuffs on, to be sure, but they did not stay on. Michael James switched between guitar and bass, and though center stage, seemed not to occupy any more prominence than the rest of his band save a reclusive fifth member next to the drum kit.
Eyes shut, feeling each crescendo, delivering riff after riff, reverberating, crouching, standing, crashing, breaking, immersing themselves, swells of sound swallowing not just the audience but Explosions as well, so intensely concentrated on their task like monks sworn to silence by some greater power. You could almost close your eyes and be enveloped in the same swell, losing the moment — The Glass House, the hipsters around you, the unused disco ball in the center of the room, the concessions stand where there should have been a bar, the orange lights, the smell of weed in the bathroom, the bar next door, the guy with the light up shirt, the Lone Star Flag screaming Texas as the most outwardly projecting element on the stage, the world outside — all lost, all forgotten.
When it was over, the band did say goodbye before walking off the stage, sans encore, perhaps not willing to tarnish their poetry by performing it again, perhaps afraid that if they started again, they might not stop for ten more songs.
It's amazing what you can do without a microphone stand between you and your audience.
The first time I heard Explosions was in my freshman dorm in college. A friend told me, ecstatically, that I had to give these guys a chance. I sat on a couch, eyes closed, and listened to “First Breath After Coma,” and had one thing to say: “Whoa.”
Thick-framed glasses, straw hats, beanies, lip rings, tattoos. A few people with Coachella wristbands.
Overheard in the Crowd:
“I just got so many pictures of you taking pictures, and they're all going on Facebook. Get ready.”
“Oh my God. Oh Jesus. Thank you God.” (Worth noting: this was the guy with the light up t-shirt)
Random Notebook Dump:
The lady at the concessions counter recommended the pretzel, said it was pretty damn good. She did not lie.
Catastrophe and the Cure
Last Known Surroundings
Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean
Be Comfortable, Creature
The Birth and Death of the Day
With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept
Let Me Back In
The Only Moment We Were Alone