A few weeks ago I had the privilege to witness two extraordinary bands play the classy and echoing halls of The Palace of Fine Arts. Having seem Jonsi (of Sigur Ros) and The Books dominate this stage already, I was confident that both the mighty Explosions in the Sky and Books guitarist Nick Zammuto’s aptly named new project Zammuto would mesh well with this elegant and seated venue.
It took a few songs before Zammuto displayed their various projections while performing time sensitive acid washed bass lines, overly auto-toned vocals, and spastic drumming. The projections were only reserved for certain songs though; for instance there was one that featured silly home videos of Nick and his brother, a song about back pain which featured stock photos of people having back problems, and an unreleased track called The Greatest Autoharp Solo of All Time, which involved an older gentleman with an autoharp and edited in a way that made him seem like he was playing it at warp speed. The music is familiar to those who have enjoyed The Books, however Zammuto is another entity all together. The music is still experimental but accessible and trade indecipherable noise for prog-rock jams sessions and tumbling percussion. Speaking of which, Zammuto’s drummer was definitely the star of the show. Being able to hold the mathematical precision of each trembling crash and complex beat shifts, he was quite a force to witness. But the main aspect that derives from The Books is the amount of fun these guys seem to have on stage. If you’ve seen The Books live, they were stoic and emotionless. Zammuto seemed more connected with the audience and with each other, which helped the whole experience come together and make for the perfect warm-up act for Explosions in the Sky.
Kicking off with the nine minute long epic Memorial of off 2003’s The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place, the band immediately went into crowd pleasing mode. As the song rode around minute five, the place had this collective skin-tingling feeling about the sound of this band and the venue’s pitch perfect acoustics. Moving onto the quick launching Catastrophe and the Cure from 2007’s All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone, the band drifted through the movement with expert precision and unyielding power. New songs like the marching Last Known Surroundings, the slow moving and cinematic Be Comfortable, Creature, and the very old school EITS style song Let Me Back In were welcome additions to the setlist.
Of course the spellbinding Six Days At the Bottom of the Ocean made it’s roaring appearance, along with The Birth and Death of the Day, which sounds like it could be used in the soundtrack to the birth of a universe. The unexpected song of the night was With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept from the much abandoned 2001 album Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever. The song was just as heart breaking and hypnotic as I remember it and was nice to finally hear live.
Closing with the emotional juggernaut that is The Only Moment We Were Alone, Explosions in the Sky displayed yet another powerful