Explosions In The Sky at First Avenue, 10/10/11
Explosions in the Sky
Photos by Erik Hess
October 10, 2011
First Avenue, Minneapolis
"Hello Purple Rain, how are you?" queried Explosions In the Sky's Munaf Rayani from the sole microphone onstage at First Avenue Monday night, before breaking into "The Only Moment We Were Alone" from 2003's The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place.
From there the crowd was treated to roughly 90 minutes of highly effective (and affecting) post-rock, but it was post-rock of their own design. EITS hasn't followed a previously cut path into the woods -- they've forged their own trail.
While much of the music in this genre -- a genre which lends itself to drawn-out passages and 10-minute songs -- often seems to wander aimlessly after a few minutes and ultimately ends up going nowhere in particular, EITS has found a way to make their work seem almost -- almost -- pop-like in a way, a Herculean feat given the fact that not a one of them contained any lyrics. The songs never seemed as long as they actually were and for the most part were as catchy anything you'd hear on the radio. That assessment will possibly offend a few people, as it's more than clear EITS isn't shooting for a radio hit at all (to be sure, none of these songs would ever find its way into rotation even on the Current), but the fact remains that the songs seemed to stick around long after they were over.
As the set progressed it became more anxious and emotional. Rayani was up and down from his pedal board toying with the guitar, coaxing bursts of noise and quieter, note-by-note passages from it while occasionally pounding a tambourine on the ground with all his might. Guitarist Michael James seemed to be the anchor for the night, measured and steady, his expression never changing, letting oddly organic chords escape from his fingers in the midst of the prickly monsoon of noise that detonated every so often only to recede into quiet, crushing grace.
Call it post-rock with a prehensile tail -- that little bit extra that makes people take a hard look and wonder what, exactly, it might be. In the end, however, the labels don't ever matter. What matters is whether or not the band has the power to reach into your grey matter and poke around a bit, shaking things loose you forgot were tucked away in there and then thump your heart a little for good measure. EITS creates vast expanses of music designed around elaborate, noisy, deliberate guitars with the strength to pummel your brain into mush and make your heart feel as if it's stopped beating for just a split-second here and there. Rarely does a band this technical hit so hard and so precisely in a live setting, but EITS stepped it up a notch on Monday night. 90 minutes of moody, pastiche-filled, decidedly long songs flew by like it was 15 minutes of 3:30 pop songs. We all know magic isn't real -- except, of course, in those times when it is.
Critic's Bias: There aren't many bands in this genre that I don't enjoy on some level, but there are very few, if any, I enjoy more.
Photos by Erik Hess
The Crowd: Exceptionally quiet. I was startled when a man across the room from me yelled "I love this band!" during a quiet passage and was easily heard throughout the club, as it induced a round of cheers.
Overheard In The Crowd: "I thought that girl was going to smell like patchouli but she smelled like perfume. The hippies are stepping it up around here."
Random Notebook Dump: Friday Night Lights seemed like a strange marriage for EITS, but now it's obvious why it worked.
For More Photos: See our full slideshow by Erik Hess.