The first day of fall began to set in as the vibe began to rise in anticipation for Explosions In The Sky to encapsulate their cosmic dance in the land where Ken Kesey settled and started his professional life as a creative writing professor at U of O and the merry pranksters found themselves at home. Eugene, Oregon is a place full of nostalgia from the 60’s psychedelic scene and still provides a place for those searching to either get completely lost or find themselves and grow. For those of us fortunate enough, we found ourselves at the McDonald Theater, reeling in the pure and powerful energy of Explosions in the Sky.
The profound musical tapestry that Explosions In The Sky has interwoven since the Austin Texas quartet got their start in 1999 has expanded, combusted, evolved and enthralled all that have been blessed to encounter their introspective collection. The live, five piece, multi- instrumentalist, indie rock group held nothing back as they set sights, deadlocked, on the fan that fears and doubts their own subjective thought process and invited all to join in the liberation of the kill.
The set started with a ravenous intensity as “With tired Minds, Tired Eyes, Tired Souls, We Slept,” the last song from their 2001 release, Those Who Tell the Truth, coursed delicate emotion and visceral inspiration throughout the crowd. The light crew at the McDonald Theater seemed to have the band encased in what looked like a red forcefield as the explosive sounds left us all with no choice but to connect.
The show held true from beginning to end in classic style as the majority of their set was comprised of their first two main records Those Who Tell the Truth and The Earth is not a Cold Dead Place. The classic roots allowed for the new blossoms of recent years like, “Logic of a Dream,” ”Colors In Space,” and particularly, “Disintegration Anxiety,” from their most recent release in 2016, The Wilderness, and “Human Qualities,” from their 2011 release, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, to take shape and astound. It seemed as if the rhythmic dance of EITS consisted of teleporting from album to album in seamless transition to the tender depths of the mind out into the orbit of the colliding stars in a way that is akin to the brutal emotional honesty of composers such as Richard Wagner.
The utilization of dual bass guitars from Michael James and touring EITS musician Carlos Torres (bass/guitar/keyboard) on powerhouse tunes such as, “The Birth and Death of the Day,” and “Greet Death,” provided strength and depth that could be measured on a richter scale. It was impressive how both James and Torres switched from six to four string throughout the set. Torres was busy transitioning from bass to electric guitar to keyboard and electronic drums. Mark Smith and Munaf Rayani carried through with perfect guitar harmonies and explicit double picking that truly displayed the comfort and precision that EITS is well known for. Smith transitioned from six string to keyboards while Rayani switched from six string to percussion and Christopher Hrasky held strong on the drums constantly provoking respect and astonishment. The entire crew was shapeshifting and contributing with full force to this beautiful display of the unexplainable.
The flow kept entrancing as “The Only Moment We Were Alone,” from 2003’s The Earth is not a Cold Dead Place, proved to destroy any understanding of time and space. The rising and falling action came to a magnificent climax as the group dove into double picking and dedicated endurance, when all of the sudden James, on point, smashed down on a pedal that shut down every light in the house in an abrupt uproar of total silence.
This show is something to be cherished and as a recent Facebook post from states, “These will be our last shows for a long while,” and parting words on stage from guitarist Munaf Rayani, “Take care of yourself,” invoke a kind of care that can only be expressed through music. This sense of compassion is proof of the emotional authenticity that EITS continues to generate. In the land where the psychedelic scene lives, we were reminded that this is all the more reason to remember this show with nothing but gratitude.