Explosions in the Sky makes Westcott debut

Review: The Texas instrumental rock band delivered an energetic performance on Tuesday to a sold-out crowd.

The Westcott Theater had two firsts on Tuesday night: performances by post-rock instrumental band Explosions in the Sky and local psychedelic rock group Black Throat Wind. The two bands performed to a sold out theater, with an audience that largely consisted of teenagers and 20-somethings.

At about 8 p.m., pink lights illuminated the stage and fourpiece Black Throat Wind started their half hour set. They chose songs that emphasize their strong instrumental talent and the clean vocals of Logan Messina and Stephen Fitzgerald.

Photo: Katie Hogin
Music fans listen to Syracuse's Black Throat Wind perform before Explosions in the Sky take the stage at the Westcott Theater Aug. 6.

An hour later, the crowd welcomed Texas-based Explosions in the Sky. The band was formed in 1999 and had five members playing at the Westcott on Tuesday. Guitarist Munaf Rayani was one of the most entertaining musicians, both in his playing and his banter.

“The last time we came to Syracuse was 14 years ago to play at a house party,” Rayani said to the crowd. “We played one song and then the cops came. Then, our van broke down and we spent eight days in an attic.”

The band had better luck this time around. Explosions started off strong in the percussion section with their more powerful rock instrumentals. Although the music was the main event, the lighting was done extremely well and enhanced the performance. The light technicians stressed the use of blue light and later went on to use a couple of ground spotlights, adding to the lighter tones of some of the songs.

The Westcott’s sound technician said the band didn’t have a definite set list for the show and decided on the songs as the performance went on. This lack of planning suits the band, which is very organic and experimental.

Band members Michael James and Rayani were the most entertaining during the whole performance. Rayani demonstrated his stage presence with some pretty impressive dance moves while playing his guitar.

James and Rayani also changed their instruments for some of the songs – Rayani played percussion for the end of one song and James exchanged his electric guitar for a bass.

The audience was more enthralled when Explosions played their popular songs, like Your Hand in Mine, Let Me Back In and Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean. The band visibly worked hard throughout the performance, and most of their sounds were produced solely from experimenting with their guitars. In Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean, Rayani produced a fascinating sound from his guitar, which was appropriately reminiscent of small explosions echoing through the theater.

Choosing Black Throat Wind as the opening act worked well in the scheme of things. Their music brought the same energy as Explosions in the Sky, and they made the night upbeat from the get-go. Explosions’ presence was strong, and the effort they put into producing their unconventional sound was evident.

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