When New Times sat down with STS9's David Phipps last week, the moral of the interview was that great music comes from a combination of talent and intention. The band's goal, as Phipps put it, is to make music that makes people feel like "this is the best life ever." On Friday, STS9, along with DJ Morale of San Francisco, performed for a combined four hours, spreading their cosmic sonic debris on a packed Revolution Live crowd, fully engaged in reciprocating that "best life ever" attitude.
The whole scene downtown is heavy in the depravity department. Parking in the six dollar lot, across from the eight dollar lot, and diagonal from the metered parking garage downtown, the side street outside of Off The Hookah is lit with the cleansing hellfire of production lamps capturing God knows what else other than the "dressed enough" bottoms of cocktail waitresses.
As the night finally drew back into focus, leaving the booty circus past peripheral, a hip character picked up a lazy jog heading from the same six-dollar parking deck. He resembled Adam Levine in stature and appearance -- though Adam Levine wouldn't be parking his own car. The character was wearing a tank top with the phrase "Part Wolf" scrawled across the chest. Suddenly he's a contender for "hipster of the evening" award.
An hour after doors opened at Revolution -- a place where they will never actually open the doors when they say they will and no one will ever have a real problem with that -- about ten o'clock, the same character took the stage. The Maroon 5 doppelganger's got a name of his own though, DJ Morale. He bopped around behind a table on a stage covered in Tribe's gear, spinning the sounds of Weezer's Blue Album, Radiohead and Atoms for Peace, Alt J and, by God, Blind Melon.
And boy, it isn't anything like actually listening to those albums. Morale took this mix of alternative tunes and lays them to bass tracks so heavy not one person in the room was standing still. The sound was undeniable, even for the folks posted up against the rails and especially for those in the cushy VIP seats.
Out of New York by way of San Francisco, Morale is masterful at choosing the music integral to the last great sound movement and introducing them to the latest scope of electronic and house funk. What translates is a humbling realization that no one is above this movement. The sound was too pliable and too fluent to definitively reject.
The same commentary can easily be applied to STS9 themselves.
In most cases, the big suspenseful moment comes when the lights are cut completely and everyone starts howling in anticipation of whatever band is about to take the stage. This wasn't so much the scene for Revolution that night, as all it took was a shift in lighting to capture everyone's attention. The stage faded to an ephemeral blue light, and the band took to their respective instruments to initiate the first set before greeting the crowd or even looking at them.
The really great thing about STS9, is they fluctuate between funky jazz and electro-rock, which makes the feel of their shows a bit unpredictable. They set out with "Really What?" -- a jazzy, bass heavy tune. Harmless enough. And then the mellow blue and green stage lights unleashed to match "Abcees" in an explosion worthy of Chris Kuroda.
Bands in the jam and electronic scene are starting to really pride themselves on the light shows they provide to match the sound of the live experience and STS9 knows how to get competitive in that respect. Though Revolution may have been too small to rig their most elaborate light display (other shows on the tour got a different set up), even the more scaled down representation of their show was enough to make the audience a bit dumb at times. A girl with glow sticks in her hair was caught standing slack jawed toward stage right, just letting the light consume her, and it seemed that everyone in the audience took a moment like this: The uncontrollable dancing came to a halt and the eyes widened to salute the illuminating madness.
The jazz route was temporarily abandoned in favor of post-rock dance driven tunes that are sample heavy. STS9 is doing this more and more these days, which shows some evolution of sound that strays away from repetitive instrumental to more rhythmic vocal samples, setting them apart from the typical drum and bass.
Behind the frontmen on the electronic and stringed equipment was a layer of noise that was as captivating as the light show, thanks to the forceful percussive efforts of Zach Velmer and Jeffree Lerner. Just as with the light show, it took a minute for it to set in, for the ears to really get it, but when they did, the realization that what makes this band so different is that they are actually making those danceable groove sounds live on stage, and that those beats aren't coming from a box. It was enough to stop and stare.
The two percussion men didn't stop moving as long as they were on stage. And in the second set, the energy exponentially increased. Arms were flying animal style behind the drum kit, and the congas revealed they are the secret to that exaggerated snare rap.
At this point, folks were either exhausted and holding up the walls the of the place, or exhausted and leading by example that being tired is not an excuse to stand still. A stream of favorites poured from the stage during second set. From walking around the room, it was easy to see this transition from songs like "What is Love," which starts at a very tolerable tempo and explodes into a possessive beast, uprooting even the most established wallflower.
The energy built, and the jam times were running longer as the band moveed into "Glogli" and "Move My Peeps." It sounded like each song was going to be the last. But it continued on in that way up until "20-12," when the stage lights came back to that original blue tint with which the evening began.
The rumors of a horn section accompanying them on stage like the Chicago, crowd witnessed was just that of lore. And given the scaled down light show, maybe America's Backyard would have provided more room to accommodate these things?
Closing with the appropriate "When the Dust Settles," the band offered up about ten more minutes of jam before they took off. And the lights!
Either way, Sound Tribe Sector 9 killed it. They offered up a talented DJ to get the blood in the room moving, and matched, then exceeded, DJ Morale's energy, making the whole room feel like some psychedelic space hippie birthday dance party.
"Let's make music that makes me feel like... This is the best life ever."
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