Best Of Both Worlds: STS9 In Colorado
- By Chris Rossborough
- Published on June 19, 2012
There are a few things that music lovers in the mile-high state of Colorado can count on each summer: bluebird skies, starry nights and at least one appearance by livetronica heavyweights, STS9.
The band’s June 16 show at the famed Mecca of live music, Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado, was the tenth consecutive year the band has graced the stage. The quintet first opened for String Cheese Incident in 2003, eventually headlining from 2006 onward and selling out two nights in 2011.
[FIND tour dates, downloads and news on STS9's official website.]
The 2012 incarnation of STS9 has been primarily invested in their Great Cycle Spectacles shows, a series of one-of-a-kind performances celebrating the end and beginning of the Mayan calendar. The amped-up lighting set-up in addition to the brand new music that pays homage their roots, the return of old-favorites and a conceptual setlist makes for an inimitable experience.
After canceling their Re:Generation festival, the group surprised the Colorado faithful by adding an acoustic “Axe the Cables” set to the showing of the “#ReGeneration” documentary – a film they created the soundtrack for – at the Boulder Theater on Sunday. With tickets only $10.00, the show sold out within hours.
On The Rocks
Set I: Vapors, Simulator > Moonsockets, Really Wut?, Abcees, Shock Doctrine > Hidden Hand, Hidden Fist > When The Dust Settles > Arigato > New Song I > Empires, 20-12
Set II: T.W.E.L.V.E. > Inspire Strikes Back> Peaceblaster ‘08 > Evasive Maneuvers, Looking Back On Earth > EHM > New Song II > The Unquestionable Supremacy of Nature, March > Scheme > Rent
Encore: New Song III
One thing that was immediately apparent as the stage crew began preparing for STS9 to take the stage was that no expense had been spared on production value for this event. This was clearly the largest lighting rig the band had ever used at Red Rocks, and the crowd was eager to see what lighting designer Saxton Waller had in store.
Additionally, keyboardist David Phipps’ gear had been moved to the front of the stage, now parallel to bassist David Murphy and guitarist Hunter Brown.
Finally, the lights went dim and the alien voice that has become signature of these Great Cycle Spectacles greeted the sold-out crowd. After blasting through one of their new synth-heavy track in “Vapors,” the boys jumped right into “Simulator,” which made its debut the last time they hit Red Rocks in September 2011. In the past year this song has evolved from into a funky fan-favorite and had many in attendance cheering as they gyrated to the interstellar beats.
A solid segue into “Moonsockets” kept the dance party going as Saxton blew the masses away with his stellar light direction. The lights would remain a consistent highlight, accentuating each song with beautifully timed color schemes that spotlight each musician and add further depth to the overall vibe.
The dichotomous “Really Wut?” followed, and the crowd roared with approval. This song really exemplifies STS9’s innate ability to create intricate soundscapes, blending beautiful melodies with a breakdown drum and bass section and tying it all together with some groovy synth action at the end.
Next up was a reworked version of the dub-inspired “Abcees,” which debuted at The Hangout back in May. One of STS9’s most “tribal” tracks, the second half had been dropped for a double-time beat with more emphasis on synths and bass than the original version.
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Next up was one of the more interesting segments of the show, featuring a number of unique segues that flowed seamlessly, combining several of their more typical banger tracks into one. Beginning with the first half of “Shock Doctrine,” the boys quickly slid right into “Hidden Hand, Hidden Fist,” followed by the second half of the title track off their most recent EP, “When the Dust Settles.”
Not known for segueing different songs very often, the creative setlist direction showed that they wanted to do something special for the day-glo laden crowd.
The first half of “Arigato” was up next before they launched into the second half of “Empires.” The latter is one of the more underrated songs in the band’s catalog with some graceful guitar playing from Hunter.
The beautiful and appropriate, yet often played “20-12” closed out the first set, sending a magnificent energy throughout the amphitheater.
The second set opener would see the bust-out of the night in T.W.E.L.V.E., a song many die-hard fans have been clamoring for the return of since it’s disappearance years ago. Although reworked slightly to embrace the newer sounds of STS9, the song was warmly received and shows a willingness to adapt by the band.
Following a bouncy “Inspire Strikes Back” and energetic renditions of “Peaceblaster ’08” and “Evasive Maneuvers,” STS9 began their second major segue section of the night.
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Blasting through the psychedelically spacey reworked “Looking Back on Earth” into the explosive “EHM” garnered a feverish reception from the Sound Tribe faithful. As the familiar abrasive bass of “EHM” subsided, the boys suddenly dropped into another brand new song.
Featuring a sexy hip-hop-esque beat, vocal samples and synths galore, this new fire had everyone looking at each other in bewilderment, enjoying the beats.
The dance party raged on through another segue into “The Unquestionable Supremacy of Nature” and two newly reworked versions of “March” and “Scheme.”
The second set closer, “Rent,” had the natural amphitheater shaking, as the crowd moved ecstatically as one in a harmonious frenzy.
After a short encore break, the band returned, thanked the nearly 10,000 people in attendance and immediately launched into yet another brand new song. The fresh tune was dark and heavy on synths/bass, evident of the recent more electronic direction STS9 has taken. An odd choice for an encore but a solid end to the show.
Between reworked songs, new tracks, creative segues and cutting edge production, the show was another chapter in STS9’s storied history with the venue. However, the song selection contained few surprises and many oft-played songs. Luckily, the short but sweet acoustic set at the Boulder Theater would nearly make up for it.
Set: Equinox, ROYGBIV > Dance, From Now On, Lo Swaga, Kamuy
If Saturday provided the rage-tastic, dance party set of bangers, Sunday would show a mellower side to STS9, as they stripped down their elaborate set-up to perform an intimate and (mostly) acoustic “Axe the Cables” set.
The energy in the theater was even more electric than the night before, as those fans lucky enough to obtain tickets came from near and far to witness this special occurrence.
As STS9 took the stage, the crowd roared with appreciation, grateful for the previous nights’ energetic set and giddy with excitement for what was to come.
When the opening notes of “Equinox” rang out, the music slowly enveloped the theater in an aura of splendor. Saxton complemented the beautiful melodies with subtle, tasteful lighting, perfect for the intimate feel of the show.
After an uplifting cover of Boards of Canada’s “Roygbiv” that had everyone in attendance grinning from ear to ear, the boys flawlessly slid through a segue into “Dance,” reminiscent of their 2011 Re:Generation Festival acoustic.
[FIND complete lineups, ticketing information and analysis of all your favorite festivals via our 2012 Festival Guide.]
As the crowd recognized the tune, they jumped to their feet excitedly, unable to sit through the classic track.
Next up was a gorgeous rendition of “From Now On,” a song that really shows the depth that STS9 is capable of, and a Lo Swaga, a song really shines in an acoustic setting.
Throughout the set, Murph was frequently on the mic thanking the crowd, and all five of them seemed to be vibing off each other. The energy that this band is able to harness and turn into beautiful music is truly a sight to behold.
To close out this amazing set, the band launched into an inspired “Kamuy,” one which featured a special solo mid-song by percussionist Jeffree Lerner and drummer Zach Velmer. These two are the force that drives STS9, and in this intimate setting were able to put their drumming chops on display. It was a great way to end the intimate evening.
Overall, this extraordinary set was the icing on the cake for an amazing weekend in Colorado. It takes extraordinary range for a band to be able to play a heavy set like they did on Saturday and an entirely different one on Sunday.
STS9 has been in a constant state of evolution ever since their inception fifteen years ago, and continue to show why – love ‘em or hate ‘em – they are the foremost pioneers of electronic rock.
STS9’s next performances will be at Electric Forest on June 29 and 30 in Rothbury, Michigan, alongside String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, Thievery Corporation and Big Gigantic. For more information on the festival, visit Electric Forest’s official website or our 2012 Festival Guide.
For a complete list of STS9’s summer tour dates, check out their official website.