Explosions In The Sky Kept The Focus On The Music During Its Gorgeous Bomb Factory Set.
“Post-rock” is one of those vaguely-defined sub-genres. It’s sometimes tough to tell if any given band does or doesn’t fall under its umbrella. One notable exception is Explosions in the Sky. Through its (sorry) explosive song structures, the band’s music truly feels like an evolution beyond the simple “rock” descriptor; its music is so moving that its songs often come across as stories being narrated without words, which also makes it fairly easy to see how their music lends itself so well to movie and television soundtracks (see: Prince Avalanche, Lone Survivor, Manglehorn and both the film and television version of Friday Night Lights).
Soundtracking and scoring has indeed been the Austin band’s primary focus of late, so much so that it’s kept the band off of the road for the last few years. But with this year’s release of its latest album, The Wilderness (the band’s first since 2011’s Take Care, Take Care, Take Care), the four-piece has started to play shows again. Which brings us to last night’s rather celebratory affair at a nearly sold-out The Bomb Factory, the band’s first date in the region since 2013, when it performed in Frisco, of all places.
Kicking the night off was Preoccupation, the band formerly known as Viet Cong. Despite that band’s grandstanding past, lead vocalist Matt Frengel’s banter came off rather meek and reverent of the headliner during his banter on this night. And their opening set was a fitting one. Preoccupation’s repetitive and frantic sound, filled with long instrumental interludes in between verses, made for an exhilarating set. Between the drums and the alternating synthesizer/guitarists, there was plenty of ambient noise and insane technical pyrotechnics — not to mention more than enough spontaneity and apparent improvisation to kept this night’s enthusiastic audience entranced.
After a brief intro by guitarist Munaf Rayani, Explosions in the Sky would then kick things up even further, starting off its own enchanting set with “Catastrophe and the Cure.”
It’s always fascinating to see people freak out when they hear the opening notes of a song from an instrumental band. Consider that a testament to the devotion of the fans — something that was displayed repeatedly on this night as the band went through its set list, which commendably sampled the majority of its career. Even so, the set was remarkably forward-thinking; over the years, and especially with its latest album, Explosions in the Sky has increasingly expanded its sound to include more and more electronics, this performance saw them adding such embellishment event to its older material, providing those songs with a fresh, new and often heavier appeal.
That was cool to hear, to be sure. But more impressive with EITS is what’s heard. There’s no one real lead player in the band; everyone takes turns being the focus of a song’s section. And unlike Preoccupations, whose light show was as trippy and frantic as its music, EITS’ lights focused more on wash-out imagery of waterfalls, rain and fire, giving the set a monolithic aesthetic that paired well with the band’s music. More than just a beautiful experience, though, that made the music the focus of the band’s display.
Too few bands these days are willing to let their music do their bidding in live settings. But isn’t that what a concert should be about? Last night, EITS made sure it was. And its performance was all the better for it.