STS9 Blows Away The Windy City
By: Ryan Timmons
In the ever expanding and evolving cloud of wonderment that is the modern music scene, few artists can compare to the awe inspiring performances put on by Sound Tribe Sector 9. STS9 has been a key player in the scene since the early 2000’s, their stage productions continually amaze and inspire the crowd at every performance. Having a truly original sound, encompassing every genre from funk to jazz, electronic to rock and roll, all the way to hip-hop and blues. This genre bending ensemble blends everything together into their own unique foray into the art of music, presenting a live performance that is nigh impossible to miss.
STS9 runs their own record label, 1320 Records, which showcases other groups and artists such as Big Gigantic, The Polish Ambassador, Future Rock, and several more notable artists. They have released 11 albums since 2001, including two albums of remixes of their music made by other artists. In working closely with Conscious Alliance and other non-profit organizations, they have raised tens of thousands of dollars for various charities and food drives at many shows and festivals all over the nation.
On March 16th 2013, STS9 landed their interstellar live production at the Congress Theater in Chicago. The shakedown upon entry was surprisingly not aggressive, and the security seemed relatively relaxed. Unfortunately, the balcony was not open for the duration of the show. This, however, presented a much more intimate environment for the evening and did not impact the quality of the spectacle.
The opening act, Maserati, played an aggressive Livetronica set. Their stage presence and overall intensity was spot-on. Playing an hour long with seamless transitions from song to song, they set the tone for what was to come. The crowd seemed to enjoy the opening act immensely, and dancing seemed to be a mandatory action throughout the duration of their performance. Definitely keep an eye and an ear out for these guys in the future.
One could not help but stare at the stage before STS9’s performance. Indeed, a couple of days before hand it was made known that STS9 would be performing a good portion of their Great Cycle Spectacles production. To those of us that have seen this event before, knowing full well what to expect, the familiar sight of the giant LED pyramid in the background brought forth unreal feelings of excitement and anticipation. The Great Cycle Spectacles sets that STS9 has been known for since the production’s inception in early 2012 is testament to the group’s love of visual art, in which they flawlessly blend their musical talents with it to produce an experience that will be burned into the audiences eyes, ears, and mind for the rest of their time on Earth.
The band began their blistering performance with unrelenting and utterly complete precision, showering the crowd with nothing short of complete musical love as Saxton Waller blessed the crowd with a light show that will be engraved in the minds of those present for the rest of time. The LED pyramid displayed images of sacred geometry, tributes to human accomplishment, and a plethora of psychedelia throughout the evening. Coupled with a whirling storm of lights above the stage, the visual setting encompassed the venue and wrapped it up in a storm of energy and amazement. With eyes glued front and center to the production on the stage, the crowd of souls was whipped into a non-stop frenzy of vining energy that one does not simply come across at every show. Every foot was grooving uncontrollably throughout the evening, every soul was in an elated state of dancing, and every body heaved as the band pressed on in what many long-time fans claimed to be one of the very best shows that they had ever seen.
The first set definitely set the tone for the evening with fan favorites as “F Word”, “March”, a very aggressive “EHM”, “What Is Love”, and a myriad of other favorites. The spectacle of the first set alone had many weak in the knees after dancing to the lightning precision tunes, the set break was a welcomed reprieve for everyone to catch their breath and collect themselves.
Gracing the crowd with a full horn ensemble for the first half of the second set, the band spun the crowd into a fury of even more unrelenting energy and full blown controlled chaos. In the intoxicating medley of the horn ensemble, they belted out a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” that sent everyone in the building into a frenzy of joy, more dancing, and a level of positive energy that was absolutely out of this world. It was truly refreshing to see the band unsheathe a full horn ensemble and still play as flawlessly with a band of STS9’s caliber.
The second set went on to include fan favorites such as “Inspire”, “20-12”, “Hidden Hand Hidden Fist”, “Unquestionable Supremacy of Nature”, before finally finishing up the set with the most raging version of “Rent” that I’ve ever seen live before. The resounding cheers and applause from the hungry crowd was enough to bring on an Encore within mere moments of the ending of the set. Greeting the crowd and showering them with praise, the band played two more tracks. After pulling off a great performance of “Vapors” and “Kamuy”, it was finally and unfortunately time to call it an evening. Time to get some rest and get ready for the second installment of STS9’s exalted return to the Windy City.
After bringing the storm of unrelenting audio and visual supremacy back to Chicago for the first night of the run, the band returned once again to the House of Blues for another mind-blowing experience. The anticipation of an unbelievable St. Patrick’s Day performance in Chicago had been building since the announcement of the tour, and tonight was the night that so many had been waiting for. March 17th, 2013 will be a date in which many will cherish for the rest of their lives after this experience.
The House Of Blues is always a stellar venue to see a show. With a much smaller floor and two balconies stacked atop each other, the venue is an infinitely more intimate setting to see a group. The security, as always, was relaxed and non aggressive. The sound and lighting was one hundred percent on point. The decorations of sculpted wood resonate with the infinite energy of artistic expression, and the whole venue is just an enormous pool of great energy. With an amazing crowd to fill it with, again, this venue is THE place to be when acts like STS9 make their appearance in the city of Chicago.
Sans the spectacle of the great pyramid, instead STS9 opted for another treat for night two. Gifting the crowd with a special bit of Axe The Cables, an acoustic venture into their material, STS9 graced the stage and performed acoustic versions of “South of Here”, “Song 2”, and “RE :Stereo”. Indeed, the Axe The Cables bit of the set was an interesting and unforgettable change of pace from the action packed spectacle of the first night. With the same grace as they perform their “regular” sets, they belted out their acoustic variety with every bit of passion and dedication.
Without missing a beat, the band transitioned back into their ground breaking progressive musical prowess. Pouring out a splendid mixture of material into the insatiable crowd with their aforementioned lightning precise musical transitions. The lights in the much smaller venue took on a life of their own as they danced around the walls, the ceiling, and the thousands of smiling faces in the crowd. The infamous bowing floor on the main dance floor heaved mightily beneath the feet of hundreds of fans packed onto the floor throughout the evening, and the balconies seemed to sway to-and-fro to the beat of the ever flowering musical adventure that is an STS9 show.
After set break the band heated the show up to the boiling point with some widely known and fan cherished material. “Simulator”, “Grow”, “Scheme”, “Moon Socket”, “Circus”, and an encore including “Wika Chikana” were streamed through the speakers into the ever wanting ears of the crowd. Sound Tribe had done it once again.
The two-night run in Chicago went off in every way imaginable. STS9 delivered yet another progressively more amazing performance than the one before. Unleashing The Great Cycle Spectacles and Axe The Cables back to back in the same city night after night was testament to the range of artistic ability that the band embodies, and furthermore screams volumes of the city of Chicago.
The crowd, the energy, and the performances all came together in an amazing stew of awesomeness that went on for two unforgettable nights. STS9 is a group that should never be missed when they are ever playing in a close proximity. Countless positive connections, uncountable high-fives, and thousands of tired legs later, what everyone had been waiting months for came to pass seemingly in the blink of an eye. The statement “time flies when you are having fun” has never rang more true. Thank you STS9, thank you Silver Wrapper, and thank each and every one of you wonderful people who ventured out. Ray John!
Congress Theater Setlist
Kabuki, March, F. Word, EHM, Warrior, Vibyl, Bigs, What Is Love
Be Nice*, Revolution 1993*, Thriller*, King Pharaoh’s Tomb*, Awesome (Remix), TUSON, Inspire Strikes Back, 20-12, Hidden Hand Hidden Fist, Rent
Encore: Vapors, Kamuy
* With Horns
House of Blues Setlist
Set I: South of Here*, Re Stereo*, Song 2*, Beyond Right Now, Arigato, And Some Are Angels, Grizzly, Music Us, When The Dust Settles, Equinox*
Set II: ABCees, Ramone & Emiglio, Simulator, Grow, Blu Mood, Moon Socket, Scheme Reprise, Circus
Encore: Wika Chikana, Looking Back on Earth
* Axe The Cables