STS9 | Orpheum Theatre | Madison, WI | 4/12/2013 | Review
After kicking off their highly anticipated 2013 Spring Tour in Minneapolis the previous night, the ever evolving, genre defying electronic group Sound Tribe Sector 9 continued onwards to Madison to display their talents in front of a packed house at the Orpheum Theatre. Joining them on the tour was classically trained instrumentalist and bass producer Russ Liquid, who stimulated the crowd by combining heavy west coast electronic music with the melodic and refreshing sounds of saxophone, trumpet, and flute. Together these unique and talented performers put together an unforgettable night of sounds, lights, and memories that instilled in the minds of their fans forever.
As eager fans flooded to the front of the dance floor, STS9 took center stage and did not waste anytime getting started, diving head first into “Scheme Reprise,” a heavier, slower version of their classic tune. Seeing as reprises are usually saved for the end of a show, it was a compelling start to set one, and the crowd knew they were in for a unique and breathtaking display of sound. The LED-visual backdrop began to take shape as pyramid images of clockwork gears and psychedelic images flooded the stage with light. Truly a sight to behold, the choreographed lighting sequences masterminded by longtime lighting director Saxton Waller, rival some of the biggest productions in the electronic and jam scene today. After the melodic opening, STS9 quickly transitioned into the driving, fast-paced beat of “20-12”, a newer addition the band’s repertoire. This change of pace quickly energized the crowd, and we all assumed our positions in preparation to be launched full throttle into hyperspace. As the balcony began to shake, the Orpheum Theatre grew louder and louder until the opening chords of “Hidden Hand, Hidden Fist” sent the energy level over the top.
As the band settled into the first set, bassist David Murphy announced that they would like to invite a few friends to perform with them. Accompanied by two fellow musicians, opening act Russ Liquid returned to the stage to provide the horns for the reggae-infused “King Pharaoh’s Tomb” and fan favorite “Abcee’s”. The horn section provided STS9 with a soulful and uplifting tone that drove the emphasis away from the electronic realm, and into a blissful mixture of jazz, funk, and rock. Many fans agree that seeing the group accompanied with a full horn section adds a new element of style to an already diverse mix of music. After the horns left the stage, STS9 continued their reign of destruction by performing an impressive version of “EHM” to close out the first set. The band left the stage to an enormous round of applause from their devoted fans, however the night had only just begun.
After a precise 30-minute set break, STS9 wasted little time getting back into their groove, opening the second set with “Really What?” and transitioning fluidly into a slower paced version of “When the Dust Settles,” the title track of their most recent EP. Once again, lighting director Saxton Waller took the performance to the next level by displaying geometric patterns combined with blissful nature scenery on top of sweeping beams of light to create a mind numbing sensory overload foreign to even the most experienced fans. One of the highlights of the night came early in the second set when once again, Russ Liquid and friends joined the band onstage to perform a energy fueled version of “2001 (Also Sprach Zarathustra).” The enthused crowd reacted by reaching towards the sky and praising the horn section as they led us through the triumphant chorus. The communication between the band and the horn section was well rehearsed and on point. The lively rendition of this classic tune was met with tremendous applause, and the horns proceeded to stay on stage for one final performance of “Empires”.
With all the Daft Punk hype recently, it seemed only fitting that midway through the second set fans were treated a driving rendition of their classic tune “Robot Rock”. Frontman David Murphy paved the way by providing a grooving bass line that sent the crowd ablaze. As the sweeping lights and lasers set the dance floor on fire, we were all reminded why people travel for this band. It was a perfect song choice for the electro-rock group, and fit well into the already heavy hitting set list.
The remainder of the night was filled with fan favorites and classic tunes that captured the image some of the earlier years of Sound Tribe. Older tunes such as “Grow” displayed their extensive jam history, and kept the balance between electronic and rock in tact. The show as a whole displayed the band’s versatility and willingness to step outside of their comfort zone. Bending genres and incorporate multiple layers of melodies to create a sound completely unique is what sets Sound Tribe Sector 9 apart from all other touring electro-rock acts. STS9 has captured such a wide variety of people who enjoy their music, that hippies and ravers alike can unite under one roof and dance the night away together.