WEEK OF 9/27/2019
God is an Astronaut
God is an Astronaut / all 📷 : John Barnard
I probably talk too much about the bands I was super into during college, but it’s only because those few years were jam-packed with different genres and artists that shaped my adult life. A lot of the bands were immediate in their impacts, grabbing the listener’s attention and shaking them for the next 3-4 minutes. This varied from pop mutants Of Montreal to offbeat rockers Queens of the Stone Age. Both attacked you with abrupt ferocity. On the other side of the spectrum were the bands that taught me the gains one can make from slow, iterative escalation. My old bandmate/roommate once put it best – “I’m just more of a Bach guy. I like repetitions that vary slightly and slowly build to a bursting crescendo.” Comparing classical music isn’t actually all that far off from a band that had massive influence on my musical tastes: Irish rockers God is an Astronaut. Eschewing vocals, the five piece relies entirely on building mood. Using varying power, pace, and dynamics, these guys are masters of their craft – making a 90-minute set feel like a trip to the sun and back.
With a set drawing heavily from the 2005 record that introduced me to their brand of post-rock, All is Violent, All is Bright and latest album Epitaph, God is an Astronaut were not shy about turning up to 11 or drowning the venue with lights and smoke, the latter of which gave way to my first concert fire alarm experience. Fans and band alike weren’t concerned as the siren blared. It only added to the double bass and blistering guitar finale mood of “Suicide by Star.” As singer/guitarist Torsten Kinsella crooned with wordless falsetto, Lloyd Hanney furiously pounded away while smokey lights flailed like octopus tentacles and Thalia Hall’s security measures pleaded for submission.
I took a decent amount of notes during the performance, and planned on crafting some overwrought comparisons to fluff this piece up a bit. Like when I crouched as I moved from stage left to right, passed in front of the three-foot subwoofer on the ground and felt like the guy from the Maxell ad, but the moment above encapsulated everything I love about this band.
God is an Astronaut can be at one moment fragile, like when performing tracks off the latest record – a tribute to band member/brothers Torsten and Niels’ tragic loss of their 7 year old cousin – and the next dizzying with cinema-ready explosions – like with fan favorite “Echoes.” As I age, I tend to see more subdued shows in dusty back rooms, but nights like this remind me that swelling tension is unbeatable. Can’t wait to see them on the next tour.