After a long wait amidst the cancelled shows last summer and the departure of original bass player David “Murph” Murphy, STS9 came back to Red Rocks Amphitheater with retribution. For our patience and gratitude throughout the year, the band rewarded us with 7 hours, and 58 tracks of the most diverse music a fan could ask for. STS9 played 3 sets each night with a short set from the Lazy Americanz (presented by The J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League) as they performed their legendary “in the round” set. Lazy Americanz is a four-man band comprised of a Grammy Award-winning production team. This was a weekend completely full of acoustic and electric music sets. The addition of new bass player, was one of the smoothest transitions that I have ever heard after a band that has been the same for about 16 years changed an integral part of their sound. Rocklin was gentle, forceful, slappy, jazzy, and funky as hell exactly when she needed to be.
The first “axe the cables” acoustic set began with a David Axelrod cover called “The Human Abstract” that was a debut for the band. The dark piano instrumental anthem “Pianoir,” which is no stranger to Red Rocks since they played it in 2007 when they were here came next, and by the time they finished the light and jazzy “Baraka” and “Crystal Instrument,” they were already infusing songs together. The theme and sound continued to carry the beautiful acoustic first set, and then the sun went down.
The second set opened with a voice dictating,
“There’s nowhere you’re supposed to be. There’s nothing you’re supposed to do. There’s nowhere you’re supposed to go. And you’ll find that you’re in an eternal here and now. That’s your way of discovering who you are. Of how the universe works and what man’s place in it is. I want you to do something that expresses you. No more playing games with me. I want to see youuuuuuuuuu!”
And on that “youuuuuuuuu,” drummer Zach Velmer slammed down the first note of a two set dance party. That was “Totem,” and right afterwards, they played an untitled song that they debuted. The serious slapping and funk came next when they played “Wika Chikana,” “F Word,” and “Gobnugget.” “Gobnugget” was probably my favorite song of this set. It sounded like Stevie Wonder on acid. These three perpetuated a bobbing from the crowd that appeared like collectively everyone was one thing moving in the same direction. Lighting engineer, Saxton Waller, brought his artistic magic and changed his style quite a bit for these shows, which fit perfectly into the new theme happening throughout the band. Waller has been providing amazing light shows for STS9 and other events for years now, and his creativity is on the cutting edge of lighting technology. I had the pleasure of hanging out with him and seeing some of the art work that he did as a five year old. Once one sees the vision and creativity at such a young age incorporating triangles into their art, it is easy to see how the creative process develops. “Vapors” went into “Only Light Remains,” which was another first time played song. Thus far in the show for those counting, that is the third debut of the night. “Ramone & Emiglio” was fun with what I call the Vegas synth towards the end. And to close the set, STS9 played a “Moon Socket” sandwich with “Rent” acting as the bread.
The third and final stanza commenced with a voice again giving philosophical advice to the mostly young beautiful crowd. “I guess what interests me is what interests everybody else, what feels realllllll (echo),” and off again into “Click Lang Echo > Inspire Strikes Back.” From here on out was my favorite part of the show. There was even a “Baba O’Reilly” piano tease, which I’m not sure if that is official or not, but I heard it for sure. The smooth intensity that Rocklin brings into this already well-oiled machine is extravagant. The entire rest of the set: “20-12,” “Golden Gate,” “Four Year Puma,” “EHM,” “Frequencies Peace 2 > Frequencies Peace 3,” and “World Go Round,” was an instrumental dance party infused with jams and voices echoing off of the rocks making history. It was a history making weekend for the band from hot’ lanta. And after all of the music, they still had time for a three song encore, which consisted of “Luma Daylight > Tokyo, and Firewall.” The band came out for a bow, and the appreciative crowd left extremely satisfied. This is a band that is not afraid to evolve, and that is what all of the bands that survive the test of time thrive on. The only constant is change, so being able to go with the flow is what separates the men from the boys. STS9 is about to embark on a fall tour that is not to be missed.