Thursday, September 29, 2011

Explosions In The Sky, Part Four

You didn't forget it was Rocktober, did you?  Explosions In The Sky played tonight at The Tabernacle.  Extra bonus points:  Wye Oak opened.

We'll discuss Wye Oak first.  This is a band that I've wanted to see for a while now, and truth be told, they're really the reason that I brought tickets for tonight's show. Wye Oak are the duo of Jenn Wasner, who sings lead vocals and plays electric guitar, and Andy Stack, who plays drums with his feet and right hand, and keyboards with his left.  Their sound has been aptly described as "earnest folk-influenced indie rock with touches of noise and dream pop," and both light and dark elements combine nicely in their music.  

Wye Oak played a terrific set, with lots of dollops of noise thrown into the mix.  In a perfect world, I would like to see them share a stage with The Joy Formidable, and watch Jenn and Ritzy, the two blonde guitarists, blasts out angular chords of dissonant rock.  At the least, it would be interesting to hear them cover each other's songs.  

Wye Oak's set this evening included Civilian, naturally, as well as I Hope You Die, but The Tabernacle never really managed to get the mix quite right, and Ms. Wasner's vocals were often buried beneath the sound.  I couldn't make out a word of her stage banter between songs.  I'd love to see Wye Oak in a smaller club like The Earl someday.  

This was my third time seeing Explosions In The Sky, although the first two times were both on the same day.    Yes, they played according to their patented quiet-quiet-quiet-loud-loud-loud formula, but I have to admit, it really works.  It's not complicated or overly cerebral, but why fix something that ain't broke?  The crowd around me loved it, as did I.  The quiet passages are hypnotic and spacey, and just as you start to lose yourself in the intricate layers of patterns, they slam you with  big block-busting slabs of dopamine-inducing stoner rock. A young lady standing to my left literally passed out - twice - during the performance, and another to my left was hanging off of her friends to keep from collapsing.  

I have my criticisms.  Everything's played in the same 4/4 beat and the tempo never varies, and the three guitarists always play in unison and no one ever steps out and  solos, but as I said before, it works, so why complain? And after all, you have to hand it to them for sheer artistry - they're entirely instrumental with no vocals at all, yet they keep their audience spellbound just with the sound of their music.  There are no audience participation segments, and no one on stage ever called out, "How you feelin', Atlanta?" 

Their performance this evening was better, in my opinion, than their show in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square, but then again, better acoustics and visibility might play a role in that assessment.  However, I felt kind of smug this evening knowing that no one else in the audience tonight likely ever saw this band in as intimate a settting or with a clearer sound system than the KEXP session at the Doug Fir that I saw earlier that same day in Portland.

Pictures will eventually get posted over at the Live site.  So far, though, I've only managed to post the Bumbershoot pictures from Labor Day weekend, and haven't even gotten to the MFNW pics yet.

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