Explosions in the Sky returns to Dallas this week for its first area performance in a few years. In turn, it's looking like one of the most-anticipated shows of the year -- mostly because, yes, with the instrumental, four-piece Austin post-rock outfit playing the outdoor Strauss Square in the AT&T Performing Arts Center on Friday night, you can expect things to be loud, loud, and loud.
But if you've been plugged into the band's music -- whether it was through your college radio station, through a Cadillac commercial on TV or through the Friday Night Lights movie or TV series -- you know this is not some sophomoric noise.
No, the band's been around since the turn of the millennium. So it's no surprise, then, that when we asked guitarist Munaf Rayani to share with us his early Explosions show experiences, he had plenty to offer, including the band's first, and rather embarrassing, performance here in Dallas.
What was the first show you remember seeing?
I think my first show was when I just turned 15, and we were living in Midland at the time. It was me and a couple of really close friends, who were just a little older so they had a driver's license and a car. As a matter of fact, one of the guys is with us right now, Carlos Torres; he's kinda become our touring bassist and he's been friends of ours for half of our lives. So it was Carlos and I and a few other friends, and we drove from Midland to Austin to see this punk rock band called Propagandhi.
Oh yeah! From Canada! With that song, "Anti-Manifesto."
Yeah! This was around the time of the album, How to Clean Everything. It was my first rock show experience. I mean, leaving a little town of Midland, in which we had been living in all our lives, and then coming to Austin, which isn't too far away but was far more liberal and artistic, and going to this punk rock room that doesn't exist anymore called the Voodoo Lounge. Boy, they did it. We watched and we were mesmerized at how much emotion and how they had the crowd in the palm of their hand. All their songs sounded great, and it was a hot night. We walked out of the club drenched, like we had just got out of the shower. It was a pretty spectacular memory and I'm glad it was one of the first things I got to see because, even if it was ever so subtle, it was the first mark of showmanship. For me to see that they believed what they were playing, it translated so well to the audience that it made us believe. And it's stuff like that that carried over to our own live show, in which we try not to be a flat-footed band. We try to move with the music so if an audience member sees us, lost in it, then hopefully they too will get lost in it.
What do you remember about the first Explosions in the Sky show?
First show happened at the Gallup Poll Agency talent show. Both Michael and Chris had worked there for a short stint back in '99 or 2000. They were going to have a talent show for all the employees. Mind you, this is a call center cubicle-type place. So we signed up and we knew we would stick out like sore thumbs, but it was a very low-pressure kind of environment. There were other super-great things like comedians, puppeteers, interpretive dancers, and couple of people got up and sang karaoke, and then we got up there with our instruments and got loud.
What do you remember about the first show you played in the DFW area?
We had played the night prior -- it was going to be our first tour that we were leaving Austin on. I remember speaking to Andrew Kenny, who was in American Analog Set and is now in a band called The Wooden Birds. Do you remember American Analog Set?
They were definitely one of our favorites for a long time. Because Austin's a scene of musicians and we all got to know each other, they were at the show. We played Stubb's, inside. I remember Ken saying, "I'm so excited for you guys. It's your first tour!" He was kind of vicariously living through us from what he had experienced with his own band of going out on that first tour and not really knowing what to expect, but being excited about the prospect. The Stubb's show was a success and we got paid $400. I remember being outside in our van and jumping for the moon. Giving each other hugs, saying, "Can you believe someone gave us $400 to play this show?" We thought we were headed to the stars. We got in the van and drove to Dallas. We arrived at the venue in Dallas the next day and we start to unload our gear and my amp was missing. My amp has a cabinet of two 15s and a pretty decent-sized head. It's super-hard to miss and forget. Turns out, we left it in Austin because we were so ecstatic by what had just done and how well they had paid us. I had to borrow an amp from a band called The Falcon Project. It was very kind of them to do that.
Do you remember what the venue was?
I want to say it was something Lounge.
Liquid Lounge! That's it.
Playing in a place like that, I can imagine a lot of people were having to yell at each other just to have a conversation.
That happened a lot in our early days. It was another reason why we'd turn it up to 11. There is no talking during the set. We're gonna demand your attention.
Explosions in the Sky perform Friday, September 16, at Strauss Square in the AT&T Performing Arts Center.