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Song Rockets in Flight

It starts slow, sometimes painfully slow — oftentimes it can take the entire length of a mainstream pop song for the thing to rev up — then there’s this explosion (forgive me) of driving beats cut by clashing guitars, and it’s so aurally epic it sounds like the instrumental-only version of the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. And that’s just one song. 

Each Explosions in the Sky song plays out like a story; most even seem to follow that triangular plot diagram you learned about in middle school, complete with climax and falling action. But Explosions sticks exclusively to notes instead of words to weave a narrative and evoke emotion. 

Guitarists Munaf Rayani, Mark Smith and Michael James (who sometimes sports a bass), along with drummer Chris Hrasky, formed Explosions in the Sky in Texas. But don’t expect them to sound like some stereotypical Lone Star quartet — practitioners of mariachi and country pop they are not. Their songs have been described as “cathartic mini-symphonies,” and structurally they’re similar, though it would be a mistake to take that description too seriously. It’s probably best you don’t show up Wednesday at McDonald Theatre in your Sunday best. Or do, and be the coolest hipster there, though suits and ball gowns might prove a tad constricting for this plugged-in rock “symphony.” 

Explosions’ first album, How Strange, Innocence, was released in 2000, and in 2004 the band scored the soundtrack for the film Friday Night Lights. Since then, its music has been featured in a number of movies and TV shows, including One Tree Hill and Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story. 

Despite the complete absence of lyrics, Explosions’ enthusiastic live show has gained notoriety for its emotive qualities. Rayani, Smith, James and Hrasky deftly sidestep any void left by the lack of lyrics and open their music to an infinite number of personalized interpretations. 

Explosions in the Sky play 8 pm Wednesday, April 11, at the McDonald Theatre; $20 adv., $25 door. — Natalie Horner