Sound Tribe Sector 9 Three Night Electro Extravaganza
September 4th, 2008, Boulder Theater
Family. Joyfulness. Community. Gettin' Down! These five words completely detail, although briefly, the majority of my experiences from the past Sound Tribe Sector 9 weekend.
Thursday started with a burst, instead of a bang. Arigato to open grabbed many's attention and people quickly filed into spots they would more than likely stay in for most of the set. With the vocal sample right in the beginning, Arigato is a recognizable song for even new fans. Rarely do I feel this song is boring, I always get down and am forced to listen intently to how they spin the song each time around. This night I felt as though the synth lines were replaced by actual "Beam Me Up Scotty" type of sounds. Were there lasers waiting to take me to the mothership I could conceivably have wondered. Instead it should be more along the lines of "Beam Me Up Yoko" With all the vocal samples there is a certain Japanese NASA feel to the song, obviously the title makes sense. The slow groove moves seamlessly into Monkey Music. Which builds and builds and builds and drops. Drops into a beautiful Ramone and Emiglio tease!
This whole show was full of jams. Full of risks from what is a lot of improvisation. Some risks were blunders sure. Improv jams are as Christmas gifts to me, you never know what is coming on the inside of that neatly wrapped package, but almost always you get at least one gift you want. And then some of the packages aren't so neatly wrapped, maybe with some brown grocery bags but still it's a gift and you smile politely and say thank you. I felt that way because even though many of the jams seemed a bit off kilter and even off key, the builds and drops were enjoyable and engaging.
Even though Phipps was laying on heavily the synthy sounding keys, there seemed immense time spent playing the very realistic piano sounds. Murphy appeared to be putting a lot of intention into his performance and was getting down with not only the crowd but other members of the band. Velmer of course was mesmerizing to many in attendance. Watch the crowd in front of Velmer sometimes and you will notice their gaze is transfixed on him, almost as if in a percussive trance! Hunter during Grow was nearly flawless, grabbing the main hook line perfectly. My only complaint is Grow felt really slow. Lerner the whole way through, as usual, added just what was needed from the percussions he brought along, usually helping to control the tempo seamlessly in those between jams.
Right as F. Word started my friend grabbed me and said, "This is my chance, I've never been anywhere close to the stage at a Tribe show, come up with me since you wanted to take some pictures!" Not wanting to be that girl who just pushes her way straight up front, I relented and followed her straight to the front left of the stage, a few feet behind Phipps. Standing that close to the band was something else. Normally I settle in happily, fairly far in the back with a large group of friends.
F. Word lagged until the very end but going straight into Peoples had the crowd gettin down all sorts of dirty! Mmmm Peoples. Great song done well this night, certainly not best ever but good version for certain. Generally I feel there is a harder, jumpy edge to this song; I didn't feel that this night. Granted at almost 12 minutes it also didn't keep everyone interested.
Ending with a Surreality> EB with an old friend rapper invited to join in, Scotty. I don't dig rap generally so even though it was latent in the encore, honestly it wasn't that bad. I've definitely heard worse rappers trying to get down with Sound Tribe. St. Andrew's Hall in 2004 I left the Sound Tribe Sector 9 show before set break because of all the rappers, just not my thing. This time I stayed through the whole song.
This night was filled with so many close friends, all of whom I am fortunate were able to make it to the show. Being Boulder has been my home for over four years, I feel fortunate to have venues like the Boulder Theater to have some of my most cherished musical experiences at. Not to mention I knew I had two nights at Red Rocks to look forward to.
Walking back to the Yellow House with the ROYGBIV crew (see group photo), I grabbed another hoodie and decided to trek over to the late night show at the Fox Theater. Most of my friends were most excited to hear STS9 play that weekend. My friend Backpack, who is as well an STS9 fan-boy, was absolutely most excited to see the rare appearance of the Eliot Lipp Live Band at the Fox Theater, featuring Eliot Lipp, Alex Botwin of Pnuma Trio on bass and Lane Shaw of Pnuma Trio on drums. Opening the show this night was Flying Lotus and Pnuma Trio.
Flying Lotus was dark, loud, repetitive and murky, to the point where I didn't enjoy what I was hearing and left several times to venture outside. Pnuma Trio was really good, but again I just have a hard time getting into how their keyboardist fits into their sound. I've said it once, I'll say it over and over that Lane is one of my favorite drummers. To try to put the airy, almost too classical sounding keys alongside him just does not work for me. That being said, please their new CD is still the heat, give it a chance and check it out. Dominic from The Motet and David Murphy from STS9 both sat in for one song during the Pnuma Trio set.
The Eliot Lipp Band certainly did not disappoint and best part was that most of the crowd stayed til they took the stage which had to be roughly 3:30am. Now I've seen some bright light rigs in my day, but wow wee the lights they had set up at the Fox this night were BRIGHT! I posed a question to my friend "Am I getting old, or are the lights getting brighter?" Best part was there was a large display of gigantic crystals in the front middle of the stage which kept reflecting all the colored lights behind the band.
Eliot Lipp I feel can lay down some of the sickest drum and bass beats to add to his perfectly timed synth parts. I wondered before the show what would happen with Alex and Lane, if there would be a clashing of sorts. There certainly was no clashing, but rather it left Eliot to focus even more intently on what he was working on, freeing up his creative space. Alex and Lane fit in seemingly very comfortably. When I've seen Eliot Lipp live in the past, I always thought he was one of the hardest working DJ's, always fiddling with this or that knob or pushing this or that button. Even with two others backing up his sound, he still seemed very hard at work and concentrated to fill our audio realm as fully as possible.
Exiting the Fox I was very very tired and looked forward to crawling into bed. "Woah, two more nights huh?" I said out loud. "Yep, two more nights!" they replied.
September 5th, 2008, Red Rocks Ampitheater
Please forgive my review from the get go if it is less focused on the music of this evening. I am blessed to be the mother of an amazing four year old boy, Judah. He actually enjoys STS9's music and was awaiting the Friday Red Rocks show for months. For the two weeks prior he would go to school and to friend's houses reminding them he gets to see "Sound Tribe Nectar 9 at Red Rocks!" With coordinating outfits all ready, we arrived with many friends at Red Rocks early so he could experience the whole night.
Parking in the south lot, we first ventured over to the Worland Warriors Bus, where DJ Blueberry Muffin was spinning. Spinning on top of the bus no less to a sizeable crowd below sure impressed Judah. Making our way through the crowd without being stopped every few people proved difficult. Every group of more than two people wanted to stop high five and pound it out with Judah before moving along. Judah was delighted to stop and confidently tell everyone about his excitement for the evening.
Now Red Rocks has a policy that generally everyone aged 2 and up has to pay for a full priced ticket for admission into that night's show. Although I had previously purchased a ticket for myself for the evening, I had forgotten to buy one for my son. All night Judah walked around with his finger proudly in the air asking nicely "Anyone have my extra, please?" Thankfully we were all able to secure tickets and hurried in, catching the end of Talib Kweli.
All parents please know that even in some of the back sections of Red Rocks the music is loud for young ears and could easily be damaging. Please protect them with earplugs every time! Even though Judah does not enjoy wearing his, he understands it is for the best and knows it is just too loud to enjoy the music if he were not wearing them.
As STS9 took the stage I looked all around me. Every angle I saw another face of someone who I can proudly call family. I've found to connect with my son it is important for me to share moments where I feel intense times of joy, and being at Red Rocks with so many people I cherish is certainly joyful. Add on top of that I am able to get down with the get down with everyone to one of my favorite bands, added joy points! To look over at Judah, see him boogieing with all my close friends was almost too much for me, I truly felt blessed. Both of us could not have felt more welcome and more loved by the community this night. This show was not even half sold out, which made it easier for me to navigate the crowd with Judah and find space for us.
Mindfullness and respect from everyone around us that a four year old was in their midst went on throughout the night. The most common comment was "I wish my mom would have taken me to Red Rocks when I was four!" Friends kept taking turns holding Judah on their shoulders so he could see the stage and music being created.
To a mother's delight, Judah immediately recognized Somesing, from when we listened to it recently at breakfast and was very excited! He even had a special dance for this song all planned out. The dance I thought made him look as though he was being stung by a jellyfish. He grabbed a friend's hand who was not dancing and said loudly "Come on let's dance!" His energy certainly permeated throughout most around us, making for a jubilant bunch.
During The Rabble, Judah and I started making our way further towards the top. As there was more room to move up top and so he could see the beautiful view of Denver below. He was impressed and commented that the houses look "like little stars on the ground." From that angle, they certainly do.
Dancing all the way until set break, Judah promptly fell asleep in Row 41 as Flying Lotus started. Quickly, friends started to gather around, some to help create a bit of a barrier to make sure Judah was not disturbed in his sleeping state. It was sweet how people were protective of him and nice for me to have others to dance with while Judah rested. Oddly enough, he slept rather comfortably, not waking until Instantly, GLOgli and Rent, three highlights musically of the Friday show for me. He woke right up, looked at me, said "Mama, time to dance right?" I said, "Oh yeah little man!" And dance we did!
Other highlights were One a Day with it's incredibly twitchy hook. Not the best Lo Swaga, but I still enjoy the hell outta this song, sorry Lowdown kids, I know how many of you feel about this song, and I just disagree. Admit it, when they do it right, they get everyone moving with Lo Swaga. Plus again it is a fairly commonly played live song so more recognizable for the newbies.
All in all, this night was musically my least favorite, but while I say that I have to admit the focus on this night was less on the music than it was on the community. People were skeptical about taking a four year old to an "adult" show at Red Rocks, but I was strong in my conviction to take Judah. The scene, the people, and the music did not disappoint. Everyone was very conscious, welcoming and friendly, many taking the time to introduce themselves and meet Judah and find out why he was there.
On our way back to Boulder, Judah and I stopped at my favorite gas station in Golden. Usually, the cashier will give me a free doughnut. Tonight he was so excited to see my young companion that he gave us not one but two free hot dogs and a whole box of doughnut holes for free! Can you imagine the look on both of our faces when he said we could have them for free, smiles from ear to ear. As we sat eating we talked about the show and Judah asked "Mama, when can we go see Sound Tribe again?" I replied with a sigh, "Let's hope soon."
Tucking Judah into bed, I got right back into the car and drove down to the Gothic Theater in Denver for the late night show. I arrived just as Simon Posford was taking the stage. The show was very sold out and there were no tickets to be had. Thankfully a close friend of mine who is a live painter was able to get me inside for the second half of Posford's show. It appeared as though a sizeable number of the crowd had left already to go home and sleep from the long day, night and early morning. Posford was in the midst of putting on a great show. Those still there at this hour were free to get their freak on! And freak they did....right up until curfew when hopefully everyone was able to get home safely. Many party buses were available throughout the weekend for those not wanting or not able to drive themselves.
September 6, 2008, Red Rocks Ampitheater
Perhaps from pushing my body to its limit the two days prior, but Saturday I woke up thinking I would be unable to attend that night's show. Coughing, sneezing and just wanting to sleep I thought seriously I might not make it. Pumping myself full of vitamins and some nutritious food I made the trek to Morrison. Upon arrival the Will Call and Ticket Purchase lines were out of control! There seemed to be more people in line than in the lots. Without even batting an eye, knowing if I didn't do what I did next I would miss the first few songs, I cut the line and obtained my photo pass for the night. I couldn't think of missing my opportunity to take photos up close for the first time at Red Rocks.
Parking the car in the south lot it was noticeably very empty. People later spoke of security parking people in the north lots and on the lower roads, perhaps to keep people from partying too hardy in the south lot, I'm not certain.
Peaceblaster, the newest STS9 album released this summer, was guaranteed to be featured more these three nights. Six songs from Peaceblaster were played Saturday night, showcasing how some of these new and sometimes very dark songs sound like live. Although still very shadowy and ominous at times, I enjoyed all six much more live versus their studio counterparts. However, that being said, a 15 minute Shock Doctrine was just silly, far too extended of a version.
Saturday also saw many friends of mine attend their first STS9 show. It is always a pleasure to take someone to either their first show of whatever band we are seeing. The theme of the night was sparkles and everyone jumped on the bandwagon and wore their sparkliest outfits, save for our friend who was Elvis. Many I suppose find our love of dressing up and getting into themes/costumes absurd, but I can say this, if it makes even a few people smile for even a minute, we've met our goal. Plus, admit it, we look good doing it!
Closing the weekend out with a Baraka created a mixed reaction from me. Yes, I love this song; however it is too slow of a weekend closer for me. I wanted one last song to rage to before bidding adieu to the five-some.
Wow, I'm really hungry I thought as we all exited Red Rocks. Next stop was most definitely the Denver Diner. Although I can enjoy Bassnectar, I've seen him enough to know it was ok to miss part of his set to nourish my body. Eggs, sausage, crispy hashbrowns and a plate of biscuits and gravy that was the size of the table did me very nicely. With full tummy we made way to the Gothic Theater.
Waiting anxiously I was ecstatic to see the lineup for the Conspirator show. Brownstein and Magner from Disco Biscuits were joined onstage by David Murphy of STS9 and to my surprise Lane Shaw of Pnuma Trio. What a show! I've seen Conspirator several times, of course with a different lineup in the past, and was never impressed. I always felt as though I was trapped in a Zelda game.
This show blew me away from beat one and I couldn't stop dancing no matter how tired my body was trying to tell me I was. Talk about high quality untz untz dance music, this was it, and better yet it was being created live right in front of our faces. At the end they took a few minutes to put together a completely improvisational track, which I loved every second of!
Many people were too tired to even stand at this show and thus were sitting anywhere they could which led to flow of traffic issues inside the Gothic and just in general I felt very crowded and too hot. After all, again it was a sold out show. Euphonic Conceptions hit another home run with their late night lineups.
Stagnant hot air from so many people inside and easy access to water was issues that could have been addressed more thoughtfully. Eventually I found a pocket near one of the side doors where a breeze was being let in, allowing me to lower my body temp a little so I could keep dancing into the wee hours of the morning.
I certainly won't miss another Conspirator or Disco Biscuits show for that matter anytime they come to Colorado! This Conspirator show blew me away. At first I'll admit I was a little bummed that the very special guest was Bassnectar, but once Conspirator started I didn't care in the slightest.
Making the drive back to Boulder, I thought to myself how fortunate I am to have access to the music and the community here in Colorado. Thank you to everyone who was part of this weekend! Namaste.