By Jacqueline Howell
In our plan for the 44-band strong TURF in Toronto, the festival that marks the end of the season locally, our Day One schedule was built around one performance: Austin Texas’ post-rock instrumental outfit Explosions in the Sky. Perfectly timed as the sun went down and night fell, the band gave Toronto fans something really special and rare, a full show where words are actually besides the point.
Explosions in the Sky has been gigging and paying their dues since 1999 and are now touring their seventh album. It’s a wonder to find a band these days whose been given (or been able to give themselves) the necessary time to grow and get to seven albums. And the band is as impressive as you’d hope after 16 years.
You’ve heard this band whether you count yourself as a fan or not. Cinematic in scope, their work has been favoured by Hollywood (and Indiewood) for use on film soundtracks as well as in the world of gaming (a market now bigger than film). And the crowd is large at the main stage, mostly standing, woo’d by some impressive lighting effects and the sight of these musicians really jamming and rocking out while making something beautiful for us. The majority of the songs played are from 2016’s The Wilderness. Befitting an instrumental group, their songs have intriguing, evocative titles such as ” Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean”, “Remember Me as a Time of Day” and “With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept” (the last of which is played at this show). One can imagine these titles capturing the imagination of Canada’s (always, but now more publicly celebrated) unofficial Poet Laureate, Gord Downie, and I turn early in the gig to see the private, unassuming humble man himself blending in with a small group of family and friends and seeming to enjoy the entire thing. Unassuming he may be, but he’s a giant to us, and it’s a special, private moment we wouldn’t dare mar with an intrusion.
Moments like this can happen in this strange summer of music and feeling.