Thursday, June 28, 2012

Explosions in the Sky illuminate the Ryman with brilliant blinding light

Rarely has there been a more aptly titled band. Explosions in the Sky may seem like a random, odd or even dumb name, but if you think that then you haven't seen what I saw at the Ryman Auditorium Wednesday night. The instrumental rock quintet from Austin, TX have been one of the key contributors to a surge in popularity of post rock, which uses the traditional rock instruments but seeks to use them in new and innovative ways.

The sound is characterized by soft, pretty melodic lead guitar playing or sometimes ambiance that builds as the song progresses. Most of their songs are a slow burn until the reach their crescendo, breaking out into a devestating collection of loud, heavy and punishing riffs.

Or, another way of putting it -- they explode.

Explosions in the Sky present the most prolific post-post rock spectacle Nashville has likely ever seen. 

They are well known for their ability to transmit a sense of jubilation, which is exactly what they got across to
a packed house at the Ryman. When the climaxes hit, it projects the type of sensation that makes you want to launch yourself from your seat and raise your fists to the air, which is exactly what many did during the final song of the band's set.

With three guitarists, a bassist, and a propulsive drummer in Chris Hrasky, it's easy for Explosions to make a ton of noise. As far as actual songs go, it's tough to pick them out as the nature of their music causes the songs to run together. This makes it hard for me to sit through post rock albums, but seeing it preformed on a live stage is something else entirely. It's like taking a journey to another world for an hour and a half. I thought I might be bored, but that wasn't the case at all. Conversely, I started to get bummed out everytime they got to a quiet passage beacuse I was afraid it might be ending soon.

And they were class acts to boot. Before getting started, they paid the Ryman its proper respects. "You all know better than us the importance of this room," guitarist Munaf Rayani intoned. They also took the time to laud their opening act, Zammuto, fronted by former Books co-conspirator Nick Zammuto. I've always felt that headliners should give a shout to their opening bands more often, and Zammuto was certainly one worth bestowing lavish praise upon.

They focused on offbeat patterns and time signatures laid down by drummer Sean Dixon, along with Nick's quirky, digitized aututone vocals. They also have a penchant for humor, it seems. During their performance there was a marquee running in the background playing videos about tech deck skateboard tricks, a guy making fun of standard rock time signatures, and plenty more. Some pieces focused on intricate guitar noodling, while others, like "Zebra Butt," employed heavy use of electronics to create raging rave breakdowns.

Nick Zammuto wants to shove a Zebra butt directly into your face.

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