Explosions in the Sky and Wilderness overwhelm the Bowery Ballroom - Oh My Rockness

Recommended Show
December 01, 2005
Everybody loves inspirational instrumental, even Billy Bob Thorton and Steve Martin. When Explosions in the Sky aren't scoring Texas football movies, or providing passionate preview music for a film about a poor and lonely Claire Danes (yeah right), these awesomely aural Austinites are reissuing demos better than many bands' classics, and selling out shows from the Left coast to the Best coast. They're ready to rock three times at the Bowery Ballroom (the first two shows are already sold out -- the two with Wilderness opening, but more on them in a minute) and as of this writing, it is as yet unclear if Ed Norton has secured his ticket (he was at their Knitting Factory show a while back... OMG!).

It's strange that I just mentioned four famous folks in an Explosions in the Sky profile. Listening to them back in '02, I never would have thought their sound would come to penetrate the musical tastes of that oh-so-coveted, self-absorbed celebrity shell. I mean, when Brad Pitt says he loves you, you know you've made it (oh wait, that was Interpol). But really, this should have been expected. Every review of Explosions has called them "cinematic" and the cinema is something them Hollywood types are apparently all about (besides politics... and hybrid Hummers... and thinking people care). The simple truth is that Explosions in the Sky are one of my very favorite bands, and if "stars" care to recognize them too, well, yay for the "stars." Just another thing we can be thankful to them for...

Now let's talk about Wilderness! It took me a little while to get into Wilderness' self-titled debut album. Perhaps my lack of instant enthusiasm had to do with James Johnson's voice. I mean, it's not really that awesome (in a conventional way). He swoops and slides, he sometimes sounds "spooky," and often, he sounds like he's yawning. But the more I listened to this band, the more I got used to, and probably even started to like, the whole unique vocalization thing he's got going on. Regardless, I can look past most anything, even something as prominent as the singing, when guitar lines like these stream through my stereo.

Wilderness' power lies purely within their guitarists. This band comes littered with Explosions in the Sky references, and since we don't want to feel left out of that cool club, we'll also throw in this reference to most accurately describe their sound. Wilderness draws inspirational atmospherics from shimmering guitars, often strummed extremely fast. And I'll be damned if they can't coax the sweetest melodies out of them. It's an interesting paradox to have such pretty music played over such decidedly non-pretty vocals, but I guess that's Baltimore for you. After all, aren't all the movies of native son John Waters always about finding the beauty in the unattractive?

Supposedly, Wilderness writes strong social and political declarations in their songs. But for the life of me, the only lyrics I can decipher on the entire album are, "Oh computer, computer," and I've listened to this album A LOT. Most lyrics sound like, "Wone Laa Dooh! EE Ba Num whoo! Um Subeeee!" But whatever words Johnson is in fact singing, the band's powerful message still comes across, because melodies like these have just got to be speaking the truth.

If you tried to listen to this band before and weren't into it, I suggest trying again. They definitely grow on you. And if you still don't like it, well, eBay that shit.

To date, it is still unclear whether Tobey Maguire listens to Wildereness. I'm pretty sure John "did you know I'm also an accomplished pilot" Travolta does though.

Explosions in the Sky play with Wilderness at Bowery Ballroom, Sunday, December 11th, and Monday, December 12th.

Explosions in the Sky will also play a third show at Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday, December 14th with Lichens (get tickets).


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