photos by Matt Ziegler, words by Parker Langvardt
Explosions In The Sky @ The Chicago Theatre on 6/26/2012
Austin, TX post rock favorites Explosions In The Sky headlined The Chicago Theatre on June 26 with support from label mates Zammuto. Zammuto's funky and electronic-infused set made for an interesting contrast to the headliners. Nick Zammuto (of Books fame), whose project it is, was joined by his brother, Mike Zammuto, who played bass, as well as drummer Sean Dixon and guitarist/keyboardist Gene Back. Nick played rhythm guitar and sang, standing in front of a laptop. They opened with "Groan Man, Don't Cry," a rhythmically busy, vaguely African pop piece with synth and vocoder vocals in Nick's upper register. A projector screen, which seemed small in comparison to the size of the stage, showed a well-chosen compilation of videos taken from a car window, which got increasingly more interesting as they traveled onto tight mountain roads.
At times, Zammuto hit a similar emotional spot to Explosions In The Sky, with a more level approach to dynamics. Before "Too Late to Topologize," Nick Zammuto announced the song was about finger skateboarding. The quarter note bass pulse, quickly brushed snare drum, and light synth melody were paired with videos of a guy masterfully playing with finger skateboards. The weirdest moment of their set was the performance of "Zebra Butt," which has a buzzy bass synth line intro and female robot vocals. The lyrics were captioned in plain white text on a black background when there weren't zebra asses framed on the screen. The music underneath had a progressive feel, with an intense closed hi-hat drum part and a dark guitar that sounded like Les Claypool's slapped bass. The drums got progressively more jazz oriented as the song grew louder.
They performed The Books' "Classy Penguin," which already had a bass line from Mike Zammuto. It was paired with a collection of home videos, as seen on The Books' dvd Play All. They ended with what Nick Zammuto called "The Greatest Autoharp Solo of All Time," the Civil War song "The Battle Hymn of the Republic". They let an auto-harp instructor begin the song on the video screen, and over time his playing (and image) was chopped and tweaked before Sean Dixon came in with snare rolls and the rest of the band eased their way in before rocking through it. Though entertaining, it did not carry nearly as much energy and emotion as their previous pieces, and was a kitschy way to end the otherwise cohesive set.
Explosions in the Sky opened with "Postcard from 1952," which begins with calm, but forward-leaning ambience before taking a couple rhythmic turns on their way to a thunderous crescendo. Guitarist Munaf Rayani played several bars of of a heavy chord before the rest of the band joined him in one of their few instantly-loud pieces, "Catastrophe and a Curse," which eases up over time to fall into a heartwarming melody. Rayani began, backed up drummer Chris Hrasky, with a second snare drum part in the final build of the song. Their fifth live member mostly played bass with a tone emphasizing sub-bass frequencies, becoming especially loud and booming in "The Only Moment We Were Alone". Guitarist Michael James switched to bass to play the high bass melody of "Human Qualities," as the fifth member played pattering hand percussion. "The Birth and Death of the Day" was the most impressive song they played, and a great example of tension and release. The bouncing groove in the first few minutes of "Let Me Back In" added diversity to their set, along with a brief minor key guitar part that mildly evokes their debut album How Strange, Innocence, which they unfortunately didn't touch on, not that it was really expected, considering how they feel about it.
More pictures from the Chicago Theatre show continue below, along with the setlist and some video footage.
Zammuto pictures HERE.
Explosions in the Sky
Explosions In The Sky - "The Only Moment We Were Alone" @ The Chicago Theatre
Explosions In The Sky - 6/26 Chicago Theatre setlist:
Postcard From 1952
Catastrophe and the Cure
The Only Moment We Were Alone
The Birth and Death of the Day
Your Hand In Mine
Let Me Back In
The Moon Is Down