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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Live Review, 4/16/12: Explosions in the Sky Builds a Wall of Sound at Palace of Fine Arts

Posted By on Tue, Apr 17, 2012 at 9:29 AM

Explosions in the Sky at the Palace of Fine Arts last night.
  • Explosions in the Sky at the Palace of Fine Arts last night.

Explosions in the Sky


April 16, 2012

Palace of Fine Arts

Better than: Firecrackers in your face.

Post-rock, ambient, pop -- whatever you want to call sonic escapists Explosions in the Sky, its music makes riding the bus and sitting in a cubicle tolerable. That says a lot about the Austin-based foursome, which performed at the Palace of Fine Arts last night and plays again tonight. As grandiose as Explosions in the Sky's sound is, their live show is minimal, miniscule even. There's just a drummer and three guitarists -- no visuals, no fog, no confetti. And last night, their songs sounded so familiar you might as well have opened a music box.

If you're easily swept away by musical currents, hearing this band live will make you feel feelings -- all the feelings you feel when it's blaring through your headphones at a job you hate, when one song and one day flows into the next. But it's okay, because you're droning out to a soundtrack better suited for one of those movie scenes where the camera's jammed in someone's face as they spin in circles grasping the wrists of their high school sweetheart. Sometimes the ascending, pulsing guitars sound like two sonar machines in love, beeping toward each other underwater. Sometimes the wall of sound crashes on you like a tidal wave and clears a pocket of air where you can actually hear your own thoughts. It has momentum and stillness at the same time, and so do you when you're listening to it.

The difference between hearing an Explosions in the Sky album on your stereo and hearing the band live is like the difference between fireworks on TV and fireworks in person. The band is louder, it's bigger, and it's right in front of you. Even so, people stayed calm and seated last night, like they were at a chamber music concert. This band doesn't do a lot of audience interaction, even when going into its best-known song, "Your Hand in Mind," anthem of the show Friday Night Lights. It's not surprising that a group that doesn't sing doesn't talk, though guitarist Munaf Rayani stood out as the appointed peace and love hype man. "What a beautiful room for us to be sharing with you," he said. "I know we're in a room with seats like this, and you might feel like you can't hoot and holler and be free, but be free." Then he exploded.

Hot tip: Show promoter Another Planet Entertainment released some tickets at the Palace of Fine Arts box office right before last night's show. They made the announcement via Twitter.

Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown, follow Elizabeth Pfeffer @liz_sf, and like us at

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