Even with the post-SxSW concert-going hangover, the lingering cold and the fact that it would be my fourth night out in a row (which isn’t really the best way to recover from either of the first two points), I was still really excited Explosions In The Sky’s show at the Opera House on Saturday night, their first of two sold-out shows in town this weekend. I’d been waiting ages to see them live and even though the Friday Night Lights factor put them in a larger venue than I’d have liked, I didn’t let that dampen my enthusiasm. That, as it’d turn out, would be taken care of elsewhere.
Starting things off was Eluvium, whose set was the aural equivalent of a glacier – slow, massive and unstoppable. Matthew Cooper, he who is Eluvium, built these enormous sonic constructs by piling on layers and layers of noise from his keyboard, guitar and laptop – all you could do was close your eyes and be taken away which was just as well, since there was really nothing to look at. Cooper sat at his little workstation way off to the side of the stage, essentially hidden from view, and a projector displayed the same video of birds flying around a smokestack for the duration of the 40-minute set.
But what Eluvium lacked in visual stimulus, the next band more than made up for. Led by John Congleton, who produced the latest EITS album, The Paper Chase came off like a less-tuneful, far more maniacal Dismemberment Plan. Aggressive, abrasive, theatrical and not at all what the typical Explosions concertgoer might have been expecting, The Paper Chase need to be commended for making an impression – after the show, I heard as many people talking about their set as much as they did the headliners. Most of them were complaining loudly, sure, but still. They didn’t do much for me either but it was an effective wake-up call after Eluvium.
Explosions In The Sky’s latest All Of A Sudden, I Miss Everyone hadn’t made as much of an impression on me as its predecessor The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place – I found it more cinematic but less visceral and impactful. The band were still, for my money, the pinnacle of instrumental post-rock, but the new record was a bit of a let down. But still, their live shows were supposed to be legendary so whatever they played I was sure I’d love it.
And it’s here I need to segue a bit to mention one of my fellow concert-goers, who had been making a minor annoyance of himself all night. Having smuggled a hash pipe in via his shoe (he made a grand display of extracting it making me wonder why on this, of all nights, the usually oppressive Opera House security staff was nowhere to be found), he had been getting more stoned, drunk and obnoxious and now that the headliners were on, he was extra-determined to be an utter asshat. Explosions’ music demands immersiveness on the part of the listener, a commitment that it’s hard to make or maintain when the guy beside you is yelling, “yeah! whoo!”, talking loudly to his friends or trying to tell the band while they’re playing that they rock, all the while shoving his way up front and being a total boor. Not necessarily unusual behaviour at a rock show but so much more unwelcome at this one.
Basically, save for a few moments where I was able to fully tune in and appreciate it, the Explosions set became background music for being annoyed by this guy. It was no longer a musical concert but a test to see how long I could go without putting my fist in this guy’s face (it came very very close and might have come to pass if I thought he would have felt anything through the booze and drugs). Bottom line, the show was pretty much ruined for me but from what I hear from those located elsewhere, Explosions were great. Maybe next time I’ll experience it for myself. I totally should have gone to the Sunday show like I’d originally planned. Oh well.
PopMatters has an interview with the band, Ground Control talks to drummer Chris Hrasky about writing the new record, guitarist Munaf Rayani shuffles his ipod for The AV Club and NPR still has the show from DC available to stream or download, which is what I’ll need to do to actually enjoy them live.
Photos: Explosions In The Sky, The Paper Chase, Eluvium @ The Opera House – March 24, 2007
MP3: Explosions In The Sky – “Welcome, Ghosts”
MP3: The Paper Chase – “We Know Where You Sleep”
MP3: Eluvium – “New Animals From The Air”
MySpace: Explosions In The Sky
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