Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Thursday, May 6

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

« Have No Fear: Your Fall Concert Line-up is Here STRFKR Score Local Film, Play Lincoln Hall »

Review Thu Sep 22 2011

Review: Explosions in the Sky, Viva Voce, Common Loon @ Pygmalion Music Festival, 9/21

First nights of music festivals, even established ones with stellar lineups, can be a mixed bag with the culmination of months of planning, little hiccups and the sense of anticipation jumbled together. On Wednesday, the 7th year of Champaign's Pygmalion Music Festival kicked off with Common Loon, Viva Voce and Explosions in the Sky at the Canopy Club. It wasn't perfect, but the flaws weren't major and the anticipation is clearly warranted.

viva voce_01.JPG viva voce_04.JPG

Viva Voce (photos by Rory O'Connor)

As local opener Common Loon pointed out, they are no strangers to this festival since they've opened it a few years in a row. The guitar/drum duo powered through a set of their psychedelic pop that, without looking at them, sounded as if it came from way more than two people. The guitar was fuzzy and booming. The drumming was intricate yet not distracting. Unfortunately, they didn't play very long and seemed to leave before their time was up. Portland duo Viva Voce were next with a set sounding far more steeped in southern rock than in the past. Sludgy country hooks were featured across songs highlighted when sung as duets. Drummer Kevin Robinson strapped on an acoustic guitar for a few tunes and still stomped the bass drum and hi-hat, even ditching the guitar midway through to close out a couple songs with bangs and crashes. Anita Robinson serenaded the crowd with her cool vocals and breezy guitaring, which is all well and good, but it's tough to not think she should let loose and wail a little more. When she does, she pulls it off with aplomb.

explosions in the sky_03.JPG explosions in the sky_02.JPG

Explosions in the Sky (photos by Rory O'Connor)

It's not uncommon to begin sets with songs from a new album that a crowd maybe hasn't had enough time to digest. It creates a buffer zone for everyone to get into the show before rolling out the hits, so to speak. But Explosions in the Sky have tinkered with their malleable formula on their latest album Take Care, Take Care, Take Care and stringing together a few of those songs lost some of the crowd. Twenty minutes (about 2 songs) into Wednesday's set, chatter sparked up across the Canopy Club. For everyone who'd quieted down after Viva Voce, there was someone else rolling their eyes, conversing and/or texting a friend about Gears of War 3. (The kid in front of me did the latter for about 20 minutes.) Add heat (like Double Door in August) and a bit of a muddy sound to divided attention and it became frustrating to a person there solely to hear music. But despite problems in the crowd, what was happening on the stage was exactly what's expected from Explosions in the Sky at this point.

explosions in the sky_06.JPG

Explosions in the Sky (photo by Rory O'Connor)

The instrumental post-rock band build from melodic guitars to beautiful cacophonies filled with effects, then bring it down a few notches before amping it up again. The instrumentation is spot-on, even when they veer from studio versions. Though they write, record and perform as a democracy, Munaf Rayani is where eyes become focused during their performances. He swings his guitar, kneels and sits, bends over with the guitar hung low and appears to get completely lost within the crescendos that the band's perfected over the years. During "Catastrophe and the Cure" he drops the guitar to add some percussion. And, if he's so inclined, he will pound the life out of that guitar, whether it's on the ground or as high above his head as his arms will reach. By late in the show, the band was drawing heavily from standout albums The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place and All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone. (The recognition applause for "Your Hand in Mine" was quite boisterous.) And by the 90-minute mark when they were clicking on all gears and had finally reignited the crowd (except for a few outliers), they hit their peak and called it a night. In a world where too many bands overextend their stays, Explosions in the Sky leave their audiences agape and wanting more.

[Gapers Block will return to Champaign this weekend for more coverage from Pygmalion Music Festival.]

GB store
GB store

Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

GB store


Featured Series


Transmission on Flickr

Join the Transmission Flickr Pool.

About Transmission

Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Sarah Brooks,
Transmission staff inbox:



Transmission Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15