Photo by: aLIVE Coverage
The Scene: As the winds of autumn began to blow across the Rockies, Sound Tribe Sector 9 invaded Red Rocks Amphitheater on Friday evening for the 11th consecutive year and 15th time as a headliner. Sometimes cool winds bring positive change and this time the futuristic sound innovators brought along Alana Rocklin on bass guitar replacing David Murphy after his departure from the band earlier this year. It’s been a whirlwind ride for STS9 since they reunited in March after a short hiatus. From creating legendary memories at Electric Forest, to a recent sweaty club show at House of Blues in Chicago, the group has new life and a fresher sound after getting stuck in a bit of a mundane funk over the last few years. That’s not to say last year’s Red Rocks run wasn’t special, it’s just good to see STS9 back in the driver’s seat and kicking their sets into another gear. With a rare acoustic “Axe The Cables” set to kick off each night, Colorado was ready to dance under the moonlight. Although the weather was cool and rainy when we arrived on Friday evening, the youngish crowd was amped in the waning weeks of the summer concert season.
Set 1 – Axed: The first “Axe The Cables” show took place on December 29th 2009 at Gates Opera Hall in Denver. The show was recorded and released as a live album in 2010. STS9 has performed several “Axe” sets since the debut but Friday was Alana’s first acoustic show with the band and several classics from the 2009 show were performed. They kicked off the set shortly after sunset with, “Lo Swaga” and “Kamuy,” both songs flowed through the rocks like butter and drummer Zach Velmer tore it up like a wild man. A jazzy cover of Freddie Hubbard’s “Red Clay” came pouring out next before the band descended into more classics with “Native End,” “ReEmergence” and the unquestionable highlight of the set: a silky rendition of “986 Ft. Tall Trees.” I was thoroughly impressed watching STS9 jam with the cables unplugged and I wish I could have witnessed the madness that went down on night two.
Sets 2-3: After the plugging the cables back in and shifting to a normal stage setup, Sound Tribe returned with a booming rendition of “The Unquestionable Supremacy of Nature.” “Walk to the Light” is a brand new track and definitely the most popish sound I’ve heard from STS9. This drew ire from some of the veteran fans in the crowd even as Velmer manufactured a stellar drum and bass soundscape throughout the song. “Grow” in the latter moments of the night’s second set was fantastic as usual and always seems to bring the crowd closer to the sky.
The biggest failure of the night was a special “In the Round Set” from Lazy Americanz during the break between sets two and three. Although the concept was good, the sound was terribly off throughout the 15-minute performance and the crowd didn’t respond well to hearing a raging Electronic concert in the middle of what should have been a routine “catch your breath” moment.
Kicking off the third set with “Scheme Reprise” ballooned the crowd energy to the proper level. This song has been grossly overplayed throughout the summer tour but seems to be a good piece for Alana to master at this early juncture in her Tribe tenure. The rest of the final set was solid with a fun twist through “Evasive Maneuvers,” “Move My Peeps” and “Monkey Music.” Two Reggae-toned tracks, “King Pharaoh’s Tomb” and the more upbeat “Abcees” ended the performance on night one.
Although the conclusion of the final set was exotic and took my brain to a jungle locale, the highlight of Friday’s show came in the encore as the band exited the stage, returned to a loud roar and then dropped stealthily into “Somesing.” This is a personal favorite that rarely gets played in the live realm. The packed crowd went absolutely insane, bouncing and jumping excitedly as the first wonky synthesizer notes rang out. I know I expelled all my remaining energy during this song and it was certainly one of the more special moments of the summer.
Although diehard fans might disagree, I feel as though STS9 has progressed to a much better place with Alana Rocklin dominating on bass. The band seems to be more on point and having more fun in the process.
STS9 – Red Rocks Amphitheatre – 9/5/14:
Set 1(Acoustic): Lo Swaga, Kamuy, Red Clay*, Glen Tells Kango, Native End >ReEmergence, Tap In, 986 Ft Tall Trees, The Unquestionable Supremacy of Nature
Set 2: The Unquestionable Supremacy of Nature, Blu Mood, T.W.E.L.V.E, Walk To The Light**, Grow, New Dawn New Day > Surreality >EB, March
Set 3: Scheme Reprise, Evasive Maneuvers, Move My Peeps > Monkey Music, When The Dust Settles, What Is Love?, King Pharoah’s Tomb, ABCees
Encore: Somesing, South of Here
Stage Presence: B+
Set/Light Show: A