Explosions In The Sky | Salt Lake City

Posted April 7, 2008 in
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How long can one actually stand the sounds of chirping birds blaring out of rock-star amplifiers? It's a great question (I ponder it daily), and one that was poised upon the opening of Lichens set at In the Venue. Draped in white and sitting in a regular folding chair − a flood of effect pedals at his feet − it was obvious that were was something different about this guy (real name Robert Lowe). As he picked up his guitar and slowly began adding spacey E-string plucks to the cacophony of bird sounds (after two puzzling minutes), it was obvious what his simple gimmick was: this man loves his repeater pedal. As the simple guitar plucks finally got looped up into his "structure", he brought out his E-bow and began adding even more guitar effects to the already-spacey piece. The audience − largely consisting of all your hipster friends from high school and college − were largely intrigued by Lichens very Explosions-esque atmospherics. After awhile, he put the guitar down, picked up a microphone, and began adding wordless vocalizations to his exploratory piece, soon making sounds like some lost desert siren, transporting the crowd to some far-off imaginary place in their minds. Of course, if you were a fan of Explosions, then you're likely already tolerant of drone-based work like Lichens, and by the time Lowe abruptly ended his song after some 23-odd minutes, the room exploded into a flurry of applause and cheers.

Yet there was also some disappointment to be had as well. Printed on everyone's ticket were the words "Explosions in the Sky w/ Lichens, Black Moth Super Rainbow," and though the prospect of seeing America's favorite trippy stoner-rock band in full force is nothing short of exhilarating, the group was nowhere to be found. Where were they? According to a February 10th post on their website, there were certain dates in March (about six of them) where they were scheduled to play, but they had no clue that they were even booked, and told their fans "not to expect us" at any of those dates … Salt Lake being one of them.

Almost immediately after a good 10-minute drink break, Explosions in the Sky finally strode onto stage with absolutely zero-swagger, apparently just happy to be here. Guitarist Munaf Rayani grabbed the microphone and mentioned to the crowd how the last time they played SLC, it was seven years ago and the band walked away with $33 at the end of the evening. Judging from the packed main floor of In the Venue that evening, it was obvious that they were going to be walking away with a little more this time out.

As the band started, your eyes immediately set to Rayani and bassist Michael James: the two were in perfect sync with each other, swinging to the melody forwards and backwards at different intervals, Texas pendulums who couldn't get enough of the delay effect. Their energy was remarkably high, bashing out their cinematic rockers with reckless abandon, moving between faster and slower passages with ease (though all three guitarists wound up sitting down onstage at some point -- perhaps to catch their breath). Drummer Chris Hrasky just might be the lankiest skin-pounder in all of indie-rock, but he still was an incredible basher, riling up a percussive fury at a moments notice. The show's first real peak was about 20 minutes in when the group played one of their most recognizable classics: "Memorial". During its climax, James was hitting his bass with such speed and fury it looked as if he was possessed by a demon whose sole purpose in life was to punch through a guitar with bare knuckles and bare knuckles alone. "The Birth and Death of the Day" brought forth a ton of fury, as did the searing "Your Hand in Mine". Once the band hit the hour-mark, however, the energy began to wane ever so slightly, which might be why the group closed up their set shortly after, reaching one final climax in which the group unleashed punk-like fury (James' neck suddenly became rubber during this moment). When they ended, the cheers erupted and sustained long after the group strode off stage. Yet as we sat awaiting an encore, the Venue staff then hurried everyone outside, as if they were a bit too eager to go home.

Regardless, it was still a well-done show, and if it truly is the last Explosions tour ever (as has been rumored), then like their own band name, they truly did go out with a bang.