While most people spent Sunday celebrating Easter or awaiting a second Kendrick Lamar album that never came, Texas post-rock band Explosions in the Sky coincidentally spent their Easter Sunday in a church: the Ryman Auditorium.
The night began with the group Thor & Friends, led by Swans’ Thor Harris. The group consists of a rotating cast of Austin-based musicians, many of whom are percussionists like Thor. They played a concise 20 minute set of dancing xylophones and vibraphones accompanied by two violinists. Despite a short set, the audience enjoyed the group’s antics as well as their classical-esque stylings and gave the group a huge ovation.
Next was Explosions in the Sky, who walked out unassumingly and began to set up. Guitarist Munaf Rayani said a few grateful words about the chance to play in the Ryman. The band then launched into their nearly two hour set without stopping once. The setlist spanned almost their entire discography, including songs from 2016’s The Wilderness all the way back to 2003’s The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place.
Flanked by two walls of light emanating from LED strips on the floor, the band captured the audience’s attention while the LEDs pulsed in time with the music or changed color to match the mood of the song.
Although some of the crescendos from the band’s more recent albums seemed lacking when played after their older material, the show was nevertheless captivating and grandiose. With a variety of constantly layered textures such as electronics, shakers, tambourines and an EBow, the show never grew monotonous.
The night ended with a cut from the band’s classic album The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place titled “The Only Moment We Were Alone”. Following the typical post-rock formula, the song began with a slow melodic piece but escalated to the most impressive crescendo of the night, a dynamic contrast so undeniably potent it was nearly impossible not to have chills.
Upon finishing this crescendo, the band immediately cut their sound and turned out the lights, leaving the audience in a silent, black vacuum of awe, followed by a rousing standing ovation.
To receive such fanfare in a venue as revered as the Ryman is one of the greatest feats in live music, and Explosions in the Sky more than earned it that night.
Photos by Kathy Yuan