Explosions in the Sky Debuts in Bangkok
Thailand’s capital is not a cold dead place
By Marc Savlov,
11:30AM, Tue. May 6, 2014
Even on her best behavior, Bangkok remains a hectic, gritty, tropical sauna of 15 million souls. Often it seems everyone’s going in opposing directions, both literally and metaphorically. It’s less a city than a dream of a city enhanced, possibly, by a few ccs of the neurotoxin from the Gulf of Thailand’s deadliest resident, the box jellyfish.
Consider the hallucinatory-hued taxicabs, the wheezy shrieks of the three-wheeled tuk-tuks, and untold legions of Vespas, Honda Clicks, and jerry-rigged, two-tired jitneys that gridlock the skyscraping megalopolis’s thoroughfares daily.
Now imagine you’re hailing one of those madman’s cabs for a concert in a part of the city of which you know nothing, although, of course, you had the presence of mind to print out comprehensive directions to the venue — in Thai script — beforehand. The maniacally grinning cabbie informs you that he knows exactly where to go, but consider that the streets of Bangkok weren’t so much “planned,” grid-wise, as simply “happened organically over a period of centuries.”
That translates into a solid 90 minutes of nail-gnawing ricochets up shadowy, side-streets and down transient avenues that seem to unravel into “glittering blackness” ahead of you. Add to that a few freakishly close could-have-been calamities with everything from roaming packs of feral soi dogs to tottering aunties tipsy from too much home-brewed rice whiskey and you’re, well, you’re about halfway to your, um, final destination.
Then – without warning or fanfare – you’ve arrived!
Intact. First breath after coma....
Now this is how it went: Banish from your mind all memories of Friday Night Lights and everything else you thought you knew about Austin post-rock soundscape/film score squallers Explosions in the Sky’s methodically melodic masterpieces. Cut the lights, cue the tigers, and contain a 1,000-plus ecstatic Thai teens and twentysomethings (and their indie-hip elders, natch) within a sprawling film studio’s soundstage to see Explosions’ positively ballistic Bangkok debut.
The endlessly appreciative roar of the audience nearly eclipses the sonic reverberations rattling the superstructure of Lat Phrao district’s Moonstar Studio 1. Fueled by sponsor Singha beer and the palpable excitement of true believers getting a possibly once-in-a-million-incarnations chance to see this “sad triumphant rock band” in the flesh – and in their homeland – Bangkok is, for one night only, transformed into a sonic cathedral (or more apropos, a wat) of sound, fury, love, and grace.
Opener “Only Moment We Were Alone,” off 2003’s The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place, sets the loud/quiet/louder/downright anthemic groove for the entire show. Guitarists Munuf Rayani and Mark Smith’s delicate phrasing shimmers upwards amidst the starry light show before breaking apart and cascading over the jagged, percussive peaks of Chris Hrasky’s drums and touring bassist Carlos Torres’ emphatic bass.
Lulled by the lush passages between songs, the audience erupts into grateful applause that create the perfect corridor into a gargantuan “Catastrophe and the Cure” and a delicate, latticework rendering of “Postcard from 1952.” Another explosion of fan love — and by this time couples are arm in arm, or at least Sinha in hand — readies to “Greet Death” with “Your Hand in Mine,” the former a gorgeous cacophony.
The latter arrives as a love song for the end of days in Bangkok, the city whose true name is as hypnotically sonorous as Explosions: “the City of Angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.”
Deep breath’s all around and then it’s time for “Let Me Back In” and its somehow cheerful dissonance rivaling and even at times outdoing My Bloody Valentine’s melodically grand moments. The pealing, epic guitars of Rayani, Smith, and Michael James coalesce into something approaching physical vitality for conjoined closers “The Birth and Death of the Day” (ravishing) and clockwork intricacies of “The Moon is Down,” all of it set sharp against Hrasky and Torres propulsive pummeling.
That was the end, the crowd swept away, enthralled, and yelling for an encore that wasn’t happening, and would’ve seemed superfluous if it had. Bangkok is a multifaceted mirror of herself. What you take from her is what you bring to her, and Explosions in the Sky gifted this City of Angels with 90 minutes of heaven.
Richard Whittaker, Nov. 7, 2016
Raoul Hernandez, March 5, 2007
Oct. 2, 2020
Sept. 25, 2020
Explosions in the Sky, Munaf Rayani, Christopher Hrasky, Michael James, Mark Smith, Carlos Torres, Friday Night Lights, The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place, My Bloody Valentine, Bangkok, Moonstar Studio 1