September 15, 2008

STS9 Red Rocks

We're pleased to welcome Andy Smith back to KyndMusic with his report from STS9 at Red Rocks in Colorado during his move out to Seattle, WA. We wish him the best of luck in the Pacific Northwest and hope for more of his contributions from the Seattle scene.

Sept 5th, 2008

I stumbled out of the car, wet misty fog greeting my flushed face, and scanned the parking lot of Friday nights STS9 show at the great Red Rocks. Skipping around me were the usual amalgamation of stylish tribe heads, but off on the horizon I spotted something that caught my eye. Perched on top of school buses, a group of people with sunglasses the size of Texas were already getting down. Dancing and popping, a sizable crowd was taking in the DJ set from the kids with The Basic Fund.

This group of philanthropic visionaries provides transportation to shows all over Colorado's front range. Each person riding in the bus pays a small fee to travel safely to and from the show, with optional after parties. With the money generated, The Basic Fund provides insurance for artists in need. As this tribe of beat-loving mammals grows ever bigger, it is nice to see some taking the honorable approach, turning our love of music into something helpful and representing the lot. Check out The Basic Funds at

"RRRRRKKKCX". The sound quality was poor as it burped out of the PA from atop the school buses. I was earnestly trying to hear what was being spun, but that became totally hopeless as I whipped around to hear what was making that terrible scraping sound. Not to worry, it was only my old buddy Alex Hull and his friend Josh. These two were dragging recycling bins around the lot, moving them as crowd dynamics changed, always trying to maximize usage. They had contacted and were not afraid to get down and dirty. Their stained gloves provided a slimy handshake as I complimented them on the clean parking lot. To have real faces validating that yes, these cans and bottles are actually getting recycled brings it on home. I saw them later at the show and I noticed they were getting down just a little bit harder than everybody else.

Finally, it was time to make the march up to the amphitheater to see the show. On the way up the steep incline I bombarded my friends with factoids I had learned after a brief Wikipedia search of Red Rocks. Some the choice nuggets included the fact that Red Rocks has been open for shows since 1947 and hosted a fest of lanterns all the way back in 1908. The most conversational tidbit I learned concerned a Jethro Tull concert on June 10th, 1971. During what is now know as "The Riot at Red Rocks", tear gas used to break up ticket-less fans inadvertently drifted into the paying audience. What followed was a 5 year ban on rock shows at the amphitheater. Fortunately the ban was long dead and my friends and I mused about what kind of show we were going to see: rock, jam, electronic?

What we initially heard was none of the above. For it was Hip-Hop and the silky flows of Talib Kweli and his DJ High-Tec that greeted us. Talib, shinning in his blue jacket like the pleiades, his hands flowing with his verse like he was molding clay. For just two guys, they really got the crowd moving. Fortunately I was able to get close to the stage. Talib's stamina and breath control allowed for clean delivery of complex lyrics. They were using their noodle and their muscle. It was so nice to hear some lyrics and mingle before the instrumental heavy weight took the stage. With the current trajectory of STS9, it would not have surprised me if they had come flying into Red Rocks in an inky black stealth bomber and were transported to the stage using technology from the future, peaceblasting everything in their path. This sleek enigmatic stage presence allows for total focus and that is what we got Friday night at Red Rocks. Slipping past the Sector Inspector and gangs of vibing folk, my ears finally tuned in during the opening of Somesing. That effervescent into, like spacy ping-pong balls, gets me every time. The more I listen to that intro, the more I hear something like it in a new song, EHM. While different, they both exude that professional production that makes listening to STS9 such a treat. Somesing gave way to Water Song. Everybody could hear the rain and it coincided so nicely with the foggy precipitation that hovered in the amphitheater. It was downright chilly on Friday night. The natural fog blob swirled together with the fog machines coming from the stage, allowing Saxton's light fantastic to reach out even farther. While STS9's summer light rig was tight while touring with Umphrey's McGee, the set-up at Red Rocks held everyone's attention. The kaleidoscopic cartwheels, the whirling cones, the stacked layers, the LED UFO landing zone above the band, truly this was a visual feast. I asked Saxton recently how he got into lighting. He simply responded "By watching Kuroda". Referring to Phish's Chris Kuroda and his revered history behind the light-board. The second set went by in a blur. My buddy Sticky was especially pleased with the Equinox opener. One a Day held down the dance groove and Instantly took us farther. Instantly has become a song for Hunter Brown to show his triggering ability. As the breakdown gets stronger and more intense, he seems to weave the words Time and Instantly into one. This linguistic merger is ripe with opportunity for listener transportation. To close the set Rent was played. Easily one of the most danceable songs that Tribe does, I had not heard it played that well since Baltimore. A solid, full evening of STS9. While not as raucous as Saturday night, I enjoyed the smaller crowd and room to dance. They enocred with Empires. This was the first time I had really appreciated the cocoon of bass the song provides. With a highly unusual finish, the band soaked our souls in deep, almost sub-sonic bass. Casually waving bye as the sound still hit us in the chest. Definitely one of the most unorthodox endings to a STS9 show I have ever heard. I was lost in the wonderful museum at the venue during most of the Flying Lotus set-break and as a result I was not able to enjoy his set, but I heard it was fun. Set-up in the middle of the crowd, I heard it was almost like a raffle tent. I was nearly foolish enough to purchase a $7.25 can of Fat Tire. I heard rumors about a no-fly zone over Red Rocks because of the flashing lights, although this has yet to be confirmed. Rarely has a band been able to incorporate new material as seamlessly as STS9. Their new album PeaceBlaster is played strongly at nearly all of their shows. While more glitchy, dark, and unforgiving, the material speaks to the future of the band. With a documentary movie on the horizon, Re:Generation, STS9 continues to flesh out their organization to encompass much more than music. Their home page now provides updates from their sister page and is a honest source of information. The future is bright for Sound Tribe and I look forward to watching, listening, and dancing where they go next. Their triumphant residence at Red Rocks put a glowing period on my summer, I really hope they do it again next year.

by Andy Smith

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