September 11th could have sidelined Explosions in the Sky. Their breakthrough album, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever, was released less than a month before the attacks and featured a picture of a plane with the caption “This plane will crash tomorrow.” This unfortunate coincidence, coupled with their name, made the Austin-based quartet an easy target for the paranoia of the time.
But instead of cowering or apologizing, the band has held their ground, releasing another full-length in 2003 and scoring the soundtrack to blockbuster football flick, Friday Night Lights. This year, Explosions have continued their crescendo with a tour supporting February’s All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, and Friday night they played a sold-out show at Starr Hill.
Between long album titles and longer eruptions of guitar racket, Explosions in the Sky filled an already sold-out Starr Hill to capacity.
The music hall filled up early, but neither opening band was able to command the audience’s full attention. Eluvium started the show with shifting ambient washes accompanied by a projected film of birds, but the chatter of the room killed the vibe. The Paper Chase followed with a set that occasionally approached the tight kinetics of At the Drive-In but mostly offered a sad imitation of Brooklyn mainstays The Hold Steady or Les Savy Fav.
Then came Explosions in the Sky. Their ambitious instrumental rock is good on headphones or as a big-screen soundtrack, but it reaches full potential on stage. The band alternated between beautiful, reverb-drenched landscapes and walls of sound built with cymbal crashes, snare cadences and gritty distortion. The audience was happy to be along for the ride, and it was a great one: somewhere between an interstate road trip and a snaky roller coaster. As the night ended, Explosions resisted the demand for an encore, a fitting decision for a group that capitalizes on anticipation. “Don’t worry,” reassured guitarist Munaf Rayani. “We’ll come back soon.”