Under the Stars There Are Explosions in the Sky

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Chevron Gardens is just a little bit fancy. The Perth International Arts Festival (PIAF) stage sits under the stars and a cascade of fairy lights at Elizabeth Quay. There is a small bar but not a single port-a-loo in sight. Perhaps I am too used to seeing music in rooms best described as ‘dingy’ or ‘dank’, but seeing a beautiful band in a beautiful outdoor setting was literally a breath of fresh air.

As to be expected, this particular venue caters to a slightly older and generally classier caliber of person with a more highbrow taste in international music. One such act is the wondrous Explosions in the Sky, returning after many a year to tour their emotionally stirring instrumental rock. Taking the PIAF stage under the stars, the mild mannered Texans brought a selection of their dramatic soundscapes to Chevron Gardens last Thursday night.

After the initial “Hi, how you going,” the band barely spoke for the best part of their hour and a bit set. At the first appearance of dancing chords in ‘The Birth and Death of a Day’, the drunk guy next to me yells “AH YEAH I LOVE THIS ONE.” While the rest of the crowds appreciation is quieter, more respectful, the man gets glares shot from all sides.

It isn’t often we talk about songs not by virtue of how they sound, but simply by the way they feel, yet Explosions is singularly gifted in their ability to sonically encapsulate emotions without words. There are swelling crescendos, like that of ‘First Breath After Coma’, and there are the muted rumbles like that of ‘Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean’. Throughout the night the band commanded unwavering attention and contemplative appreciation; The most significant movement from the crowd being the occasional nod of a head to the rhythmic percussion, while otherwise standing mostly still, totally engrossed in the expansive sound.

While the guitars swirl and play to create a spacious sound, sometimes subtle, sometimes grandiose; Explosions undeniably always remain evocative. To complement the band was a precisely orchestrated and synchronised light and smoke show, dancing on the light breeze pulling off the swan river. Towards the end of the set was the lovers’ anthem, ‘Your Hand In Mine’, the gradual swell to its soaring guitar riff heralding the arrival of a crowd favourite and a nostalgic masterpiece.

The evening was an instrumental exploration of the spectrum of human emotion, almost playing like parts of a symphony. While under the stars, Explosions in the Sky delivered a performance that made for a particularly emotionally stirring experience. Hopefully it is only one of many more fantastically highbrow international performances we see at PIAF this season.