[ATTENDED: May 20, 2016] Explosions in the Sky
The band was inexplicably pretty late getting on stage (and then had to come out and fix their gear themselves). As they came out on stage I realized that I had no idea what the band members looked like.
I was excited that I was able to get so close to the stage (the show was sold out). And, I was pleased to realize that EITS was a no mosh pit kind of band, so things were fairly mellow so close to the stage.
The band’s set up was that there was one microphone placed kind of far to the stage (there’d be no singing tonight). When the band came out guitarist Munaf Rayani (the only guy to talk) apologized for them being so late. He then said they were Explosions in the Sky from Texas. And until he said good night that was the only voice for 90 minutes (except for a half dozen of idiots standing nearby talking way too loud and taking selfies).
Even though I’ve been a fan of the band for years and have all their official releases, I don’t know the names of their songs. I just know that they are all epic and most have a recognizable guitar riff at some point. Their latest album is a bit different from their previous ones though. There’s a couple of short songs and there’s a bunch of synths on many tracks). Most of the songs don’t sound quite as epic. But they still sound great.
What was interesting about the show was the crowd. The crowd was really into the music. But, and I don’t know if this happens a lot, they would cheer throughout a song. Most of the songs are seven or eight minutes long, but it seemed like the crowd would go wild every time the band reached a crescendo and then faded back again. So perhaps there was cheering three times in a song. There’s nothing exactly wrong with it–it just seems odd from a purist standpoint.
But that did nothing to diminish the awesomeness of the show.
The band came out–three guitars right up front and a drummer in the back. There was also a fifth member who is their touring guy. He more or less hung out in the back and just rocked out with his wild shock of hair.
EITS have a bunch of albums out (they have done several soundtracks as well). For this show they only played songs from 4 of their records, but there are no complaints about song selection. They played four from The Wilderness (the new one), Four from Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever. Two from All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone and two from The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place. In looking at some of their other recent setlists, I feel like we got an extra special show since we got 12 songs and many other places got only ten or eleven. (yea us).
I was on the left side of the stage–Mark Smith’s side. Smith plays most of the high solos in the songs–those recognizable moments that really push the song along. He even used a violin bow on the first song, which was awesome.
In the middle was Michael James. James is kind of the workhorse of the band. He seems to play most of the main riffs. He also switched to bass on a number of songs (and played main riffs on that too). When the songs really rocked out, I have never seen anyone strum all four strings of the bass guitar so heavy before. He had a kind of genial smile through the whole show and was a really joy to watch. I loved when he would lift his hands up and kind of pummel the chords out.
On the right side was the most animated guy in the band Munaf Rayani (the guy who it was hardest for me to get a photo of–stupid tall people). Rayani plays a lot of the textures and noises and well as some solo parts. He was so much fun to watch since during the chugging parts he would slouch really low, swinging his guitar around (video on Instagram). He lifted his guitar high, he did all kinds of things. His guitar was also the loudest for some reason.
On drums is Chris Hrasky. I’ve been raving about drummers lately. And I definitely noticed on the records how musical the drums are to their songs. But with no disrespect to him, my eyes were all on the guitars (in part because the drums were set really far back and I couldn’t really see him). But he was spectacular throughout.
Carlos Torres is their touring musician. He played bass on most of the songs although when James switched to bass, he would play guitar. He also played keyboards and, for the song “Disintegration Anxiety” he played hammered dulcimer (which I don’t think we could hear at all but was fun to watch him play).
Smith and Rayani also sat on the floor a number of times playing around with various gear. There were a few times when I’d wished I was up in the balcony so I could see what they were doing better, but it was great to see them so close.
The show opened with “Wilderness,” the title track from their new album. And as the person behind me said moments before the show started…where we’re standing this is going to sound amazing. And he was right. Rayani played synth on this one and Smith bowed his guitar (watch a brief video here).
They followed this with “The Birth and Death of the Day” one of those song that has series of quiet sections that just burst forth in a volley of sounds and light. (Video here of a few seconds going quiet to loud).
This was when I knew that the light show was going to be spectacular. The lights were moody and perfect for the quiet moments–washes of blue or red filling out the spaces before the songs would crash and bright lights would fill the theater.
“The Ecstatics” followed. In addition to having an electronic drum sound (very surprising for them), it features a lead keyboard riff. “Catastrophe and the Cure” is one of their songs with a really recognizable main riff and it was amazing to see them play this live (and to watch Rayani waving his guitar around). During the second half of the song, Rayani got out a snare drum and he and Hrasky played at the same time. I got a cool video of this on Instagram).
“Greet Death” also has a wonderful riff that runs through the song. James switched to bass on this one. Typically when he plays bass he does so for a couple of songs in a row, like “Logic of a Dream” (a new one with Smith on a teeny keyboard). This song also features some great drumming from Hrasky. It’s another new song with a middle section that is probably the catchiest thing they’ve done.
I really also enjoyed that between songs, rather than letting each song end, they would have chords ring out or feedback echo until the band was ready to play the next song. It felt like one big 90 minute song.
“With Tired Minds, Tired Eyes, Tired Souls, We Slept” opens with a big wash of noise and then switches into some really pretty guitar work (James on bass again). The loud /soft dynamic in this song is amazing. On the record “Have You Passed Through This Night” has a sampled spoken word section–that wasn’t included here. “Yasmin the Light” is one of those great songs with a really fast mid section and really intense drumming.
“Your Hand in Mine” made the crowd go berserk. If the band can be said to have a hit, it would be this (it’s been featured in about a half dozen movies or TV shows). “Disintegration Anxiety” is their newest single. It was cool to watch him play the opening bass lines right in front of me. They even played it on Stephen Colbert’s show.
The band ended their show with the epic “The Only Moment We Were Alone.” I loved watching Rayani pound on his guitar in the beginning to make the big echoing explosions. But the end of this song (and the show was the single most outstanding show ending moment I think I’ve ever seen). On the record, the song ends with a big crash and some notes ringing out. But live, as the song was nearing the end (for the last minute or so they were teasing out the ending building louder and louder) I watched as Rayani took off his guitar (or maybe it fell off?) and then swung it around by some amps to generate feedback. He then put the guitar on the ground, jumped in the air and as he landed total silence and darkness–as if he himself was controlling all the power to the stage.
What a moment.
I didn’t know if the band would do an encore but they certainly didn’t need one after that. The lights came back up Rayani thanked us and off they went. It was intense.
You can watch a show from Washington DC from the night before mine. NPR recorded the show. The setlist is mostly the same with a few songs swapped out. But I think their light show might have been better (either that or I couldn’t see just how cool this was because Iw as too close).
Watch the Hi Def video on NPR. if you can’t watch the whole 90 minutes, start the video at 1:17 to watch the last five minutes to get a sense of the suspense and amazing ending.
The Birth and Death of the Day
Catastrophe and the Cure
Logic of a Dream
With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept
Have You Passed Through This Night?
Yasmin the Light
Your Hand in Mine
The Only Moment We Were Alone