Review and photos by Elgin Smith
I will admit that I felt a little out of place without some glow sticks at Tuesday's Sound Tribe Sector 9 show in Lawrence. The group's combination of electronica and jam-band styles attracts those who enjoy brandishing them, and last night's audience was an interesting stoner-meets-raver experience, a mix of two types of people you might not think would have a whole lot in common. Judging by what I saw last night, however, they certainly do agree on Sound Tribe Sector 9.
With a sell-out crowd packed like sardines into Liberty Hall, STS9 opened the show with "Abcees." The spacey, echo-heavy tones sounded good but not great. Having learned more about the group from friends and on the Web than by actually hearing their material, I wasn't thrilled from the start. However, the grooves soon got a little more solid with "F Word", and the crowd's appreciation was obvious. After a couple selections that were on the more techno side of the band's repertoire, the funk arrived with "Ramone & Emiglio." This was the first time the band really impressed me, with guitar and bass lines interwoven from the get-go. Because every member of the band except the drummer comes equipped with his own laptop and midi keyboard (besides his regular instrument), I had to wonder if the band relied more on programming than live playing. This track definitely convinced me otherwise.
The energy subsided a bit with the next couple of songs but picked up again with the funkiest jam of the night. The appropriately titled "Heavy" was probably my favorite of the show, feeling like a mishmash of Daft Punk and Jean-Luc Ponty's "Cosmic Messenger" while maintaining a similar STS9 sound to the other numbers. The band's stage show, which was visually stunning all night, was almost too much on this one. Those massive, cannon-looking spotlights pretty much blinded me for the next few minutes. Thankfully, I was able to get my sight back in time to see the band's closer, "Lo Swaga."
STS9 seems like a band that would be more than willing to provide an encore, but the crowd probably got more than it bargained for. After coming back onstage for a couple more numbers, including the funky bass and robotic synth of "Lion," the band retreated again. Almost two hours into a solid show, they came back for a second encore. It seemed more like a cool-down for the band, though, with the quiet sounds of "Bataka." I had a feeling the crowd wanted to end the evening on a tidal wave of pulsing rhythm, rather than a new-age piece that sounded more like John Tesh, but their cheers after the finale let the band know they appreciated it regardless.
Critic's Notebook: After seeing this STS9 show, I still don't really consider myself a huge fan of the band. I do, however, respect the original approach they have to their music. The combination of electronic beats with extended, jam-style rhythms and solos is something that any open-minded music fan, not just the expected stoners or ravers, should check out sometime.
Oh Little Brain
New New 4 U U
Ramone & Emiglio
Move My Peeps