Sound Tribe Sector 9, Marquee Theatre, Tempe, AZ 4/12
Lots of Tai Chi going on before the first set. Quasi-religious rituals taking place. Rituals before the Ritual? Genetic opened the show and he spun his one-man band magic using the vaunted theatrics of the extremely flexible and trendy Apple Computer layers of house, techno and bass and drums genuflected and lept around the Marquee Theatre as everyone grooved while waiting…
Then at around 10pm, the dry ice fogged its way through the middle part of the stage and expanded outwards. Anticipation grew. Tai Chi exercises ended. Couples who were slumbering against the wall of the vast all-black interior of the Marquee rose slowly and for the first and last time of the night stood without moving.
STS9 is a band that has shaped a musical tone that has coalesced over nearly a decade. Whereas some bands create a lyrical ego and slog it around ad nauseum, these five musicians have carefully metamorphosized into a tight orb of flexible heaven.
The first set began with a rush of green-textured dry ice, a very chic Chris Kuroda-type light show piercing the air in gyroscopic directions, and the mind-bending jam of "Blumood" with its frantically accelerating tempo linked to the absolute brilliance of the drummer-spaz, rhythm-king theatrics of the incomparable Zack Velmer. "Native" had a bass-n-drums intro; low, cool keys; shift into soft electric lullaby guitar plucks sweet melody, see saw moody poem excellent vibe: Big Sur, California mountains close by, floating on cascading purple rain lights. "Some Sing" featured the excellent David Phipps on keys, Apple and other electronica as STS9 weaved a hip hop-momentum, emotional torrent of hellion bliss. The set ended on yet another exalted note with "From Now On" as the guitar prelude bled into Riff Melancholia going through the metaphysical cycles of group mood changes. Glow Stick Mayhem ensued as the "Harry Hood"-fallout continues eight years after the Great Went…the set ended in the orgasmic stratosphere with a rotating trance lick that had to be experienced to be grasped a Lennonesque 21st Century stroll through "She’s So Heavy"-riffery only added more mouth-foaming hyperbole to this masterpiece of a set closer. If you ever thought drums-percussion-bass-lead guitar-keyboards linked with the pearly gate technologia of Apple Computers was boring and repetitive brothas and sistahs, you ain’t seen the STS9. Organic is an easy and tired word; the best way to describe their sound is an eternal race towards collapsing inevitables. And, oh yeah…with a trip so seductive that the light man is continually racing to keep time with the STS9 sound mosaic.
And that was just the 1st Set…
"F-Word" opened the second half with a jitterbug Floydian Ummagumma "...Groovin’ With a Pict…" category-defying glow. Cool red lighting enhanced the Mood Daydream. The highpoint of the show followed. "And Some Are Angels." Don’t do what I did, especially if you’re a new writer. I had introduced myself to the soundman at the set break and we had a nice, little chat. So…immediately after "And Some…" I ran over to Ryan and asked the name of the song. Fortunately, he was (is) cool about the whole thing. Yet I did it a second time, later on…again, don’t do this at a show: very hmmm…eccentric and out of the ordinary; which is exactly what the second set resembled. STS9 created a bizarre, funky, extraordinary portrait of audio sculptures that didn’t resemble anything else I had experienced recently…and they made even the most seasoned literary nut do something dumb like race over to Ryan, the Sound Guru, and blurt out: "Whaddafokwazthat??!!" "And Some Are Angels" never excessive, every nuanced note sizzling; great percussion, again. "Peoples" featured the trippy R&B soul strut laced with green lighting and female voice samples experimented with lately as described in the current Mike Greenhaus piece – all to grand and perfect effect. "Peoples" sounded like the Marquee Theatre had huge headphones wrapped around its exterior with the interior feeling its subliminal tape loops. "Open E" had lithe throbbing bird calls straight out of the 22nd Century. Time was moving forward and we were all being swept in its vast clock-melting currents. Glogli" ended the 2nd Set with a cool, moody, side-steppin’, groovy sonic short story filled with a Page-No Quarter-Live-Solo from ’73 and once again…wait for it…Kick Ass Drums from Velmer. The Apple Computers came out in full force at this point as the Rise and Rise of the STS9 Empire resembled some sort of weird triumphant band of Alexander’s finest entering Egypt. Keys waltz this mix downwards, as Phipps steadies the ride back to Earth Proper. The 2nd set ended. I looked around at the euphoric masses. Tai Chi began again. Hey, we had an encore coming up. Baraka was played in a wonderfully synchronistic nod to the great Arizona acid jazz band of the same name all of the members were in attendance on this evening. Thoughtful motif – patient journey-forward jam – hyperspace-asunder in a tension-and-release tapestry straight out of nowhere…yesh.
What did the crowd think of the show as we exited? I hadn't heard this unique sound since the Grateful Dead Family Reunion weekend at Alpine Valley in August of 2002. The collective crowd exiting the Marquee let out a huge, mammoth roar that circled over and over again in a swirling universe of pure unadulterated joy. Between roars, there was laughter and the sense that we had attended some strange kind of momentous occasion.