Sound Tribe Sector 9, House of Blues, Chicago, IL- 2/11
As the cool February weekend descended on the downtown streets of the Windy City, the deep, glowing blue aura of the House of Blues foretold the sonic and psychedelic winds that Sound Tribe Sector 9 would weave into the warm night of their show.
The crowd was raucous from the beginning of the evening, with opening act Iswhat?! providing a refreshing blend of jazz, blues, and hip-hop whose diversity was matched only by the crowd itself. Lead vocalist/beatboxer Napoleon's emotionally charged lyrics were given colorful life by the endless improvisations of Jack Walker's saxophone and Matthew Anderson's thumping upright bass. They leaked innovation and skill, and by the time their set had ended, the mood had already been set with the seeds of expression and emotion filling the air.
As STS9 came on, the air bled excitement and the music took control. A mix of old and new material, the first set featured Zach Velmer's relentless drumming fueling fast-paced compositions such as "Mischief of a Sleepwalker" and "Thread."
Normally a smooth-sounding trance, "A Gift for Gaia" reached a thundering climax. David Murphy provided resonant bass in interludes from Artifact, including the electronic driven "GLOgli." The room pounded and the groove was so heavy, it was close to stifling.
The opening bass line of "Tap-In" opened set two and as its signature raging flow raced on, while Hunter Brown's guitar explored the entire space the HOB had to offer. "Ramone and Emiglio," another STS9 staple, echoed the familiar overdub of "here we are, here and now" as the last notes trickled away, reminding everyone of the moment we were experiencing from beginning to end. Winding down the show, David Phipps eerie keyboards highlighted the creepy, yet beautiful "Twilight," which seemed to relax the crowd after nearly three hours of heart-stopping sounds.
Following the show, the sweaty mass poured out onto Chicago's still-busy streets, still euphoric, as the band's sound only seems to be growing, promoting the peace and unity that the music gracefully demands.