By Janice Yau ‘14Guest Writer
The moment I get out of my parked car after the 90 minute drive, I am more than ready to attend the Explosions in the Sky concert at the famous but unusual venue, Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Going into the venue, we had made a wrong turn, essentially having to walk around the perimeters of the entire cemetery. After walking for about 25 minutes in the sweltering heat and circling Paramount Studios, my excitement has plummeted. I can hear the Papercuts set echoing and I try to follow the noise. Frustrated, I see a godsend: masses of people walking in one direction.
Next thing I know, the sun is setting and I am standing in line with people whose hands are full with blankets, picnic baskets and wine glasses. Upon walking into the cemetery, I feel an eerie chill of excitement, reminiscent of the feeling one gets when walking into a haunted house on Halloween. My excitement floods as I walk the path, surrounded by humble tombstones and towering mausoleums. I follow the path toward the concert stage with massive palm trees hovering over the Papercuts set. I can barely see anything except for big blobs of darkness walking toward me, so it is almost inevitable that I accidentally stumble over a body (someone lying down, of course).
About 1000 feet from the stage, hundreds of people are spread out on the cemetery grounds. They sit atop their blankets with their hoods over their heads, soaking in the music of the opening band, Papercuts. The crowd basks in the hazy, dreamy music floating from the set. The Papercuts’ short half hour set ends and I creep closer to the stage. Trying my hardest not to step on audience members’ bodies sprawled across the grounds, I finally make it up to the stage about fifty feet away. Only about 70 people are standing up there with me.
Explosions in the Sky finally come on stage. As soon as they walk on, the screaming starts and does not cease until guitarist Munaf Rayani greets the crowd. The band starts their set with the song “Postcard from 1952” from their recently released album, “Take Care, Take Care, Take Care.” The new material preserve Explosions in the Sky’s trademark sound, with layered delay echoes, lengthy crescendos and beautiful melodies juxtaposed with textured tremolo guitar. The first note of their set echoes throughout the venue and is soon swallowed by the layered guitars. This is my first time hearing the song, and it does not take long for me to become enamored. As the seven minute song soars, the band members become visibly more excited with the prospect of playing their new material for their audience, living and dead. The three guitarists take turns playing lead melody, tremolo and unconventional sound effects, showcasing the breadth of their talents. Each musician plays in a trance-like state, but the drummer’s spattering of intricate rhythms are especially impressive live.
“Let Me Back In,” another of Explosions in the Sky’s new songs, is another impressive piece in their set. The song climaxes at an incredible crescendo and heartbreaking guitar melodies through out the song. Most notably, this song features an echoing backtrack of a person who is either singing or perhaps screaming softly. Its darker mood offers a glimpse of the new direction the band has only half-pursued. Another notable song the band plays is “Your Hand In Mine,” most likely one of Explosions in the Sky’s most well-known tracks. They do not disappoint.
When the show finally ends, it is a bittersweet moment. I have just experienced two of the most euphoric hours of my life, and they are over now. “But,” I think to myself as I walk through the cemetery, “I can now die happy.”