Photos by Kit Chalberg
The Scene: The line into The Fillmore was buzzing with anticipation as thousands gathered to witness STS9’s first stop on “The Great Cycle Spectacles” tour. The theme of these shows revolves around the significance of “20-12“ as both the end and beginning of the Mayan calendar which some people believe to predict an apocalypse at the end of this year. Both STS9’s website and Facebook page stated that the show would start at 8pm sharp, and that “you don’t want to miss a minute.” I got into the sparsely filled venue around 7:30, and wondered how in the hell everyone else was going to make it in by 8. Security was tight, and the line was wrapped around the block. As the 8pm kick off time arrived, the half-filled venue expected the spectacle to begin, but STS9 must have meant Mayan Standard Time when they said 8pm MST.
The line was not moving very quickly and someone must have decided to push back the start time until more people could make it through the doors. It felt like waiting at an airport gate during the holidays, wondering when your delayed flight home was going to board. Anticipation built to a greater level as we waited for the other 2,000 or so people to slowly file in. Kids were running onto the floor as if they had been penned up for days. The crowd was young and full of people from all over the country, who converged to take place in this thematic night with STS9. At little after 8:30 we finally got what we all came for, and the spectacle truly began.
STS9: I will admit, this was my first time seeing “tribe,” and I didn’t know if I was going to believe the hype. The show started off with an introduction by a computer generated intergalactic voice telling us the significance of “20-12,” and the Mayan Calendar. The voice spoke of the fate of the world and its inhabitants as 7,000 eyes were fixed on the images and icons that flashed on a screen taking up the entire back of the stage. I started wondering if we had all been lured into the Fillmore by some kind of Alien race, and if rocket boosters were going to unfold from the sides of the building as we were taken into the skies.
We were definitely taken on a journey, and even though I am sure a majority of the audiences minds were in another galaxy, our physical bodies remained in Denver. Once the band took the stage, the room went mad as smiles and pupils widened. They kicked the night off with “20-12” and “Vapors,” and the rumble of the woofers was fueled by the intense bass playing of David Murphy. I immediately started to believe the STS9 hype! It was complete sensory overload for songs like “Circus” and “Arigato,” as fingers touched strings, buttons, samplers, keys, and sticks all the while striking the right chord with the audience. This is what I expected from STS9, an onslaught of sounds and visuals that could make someone’s mind explode . . . but the whole night wasn’t that way.
The first set closed out with a softly lit stage and Hunter Brown switching to an acoustic guitar for “The Fog” and “Kamuy.” There were peaks and valleys to the entire set, and I got to see many sides of this band. I initially may have underestimated the level of musicianship these guys possess, not knowing where the electronic sounds stops and the instrument playing begins, but seeing them live allowed me to distinguish between the two. The computer generated voice returned, and the trance was briefly broken as we waited for the start of the second set.
STS9 definitely evokes a range of emotion, and during the set break I got to really take the scene in. The atmosphere was very communal and celebratory. Faces were plastered with grins both chemically induced and not. The Fillmore became an alternate reality, an escape and a refuge. When you come to a STS9 show you check your conditioned mind at the door and just tap in to the primal and tribal energy. Even though I felt like an older chaperone at a high school dance at times, there was a deep sense of connection and interdependence throughout the entire crowd.
We were eased back into the music with “Scheme,” but attained lift-off as the drums beat for “The Spectacle.” The crowd was bouncing, swaying, and pulsating as one organism as we were stripped of rational thought and guided by rhythmic sounds. Watching the audience react to the different songs was like watching little kids open gifts on Christmas. Just like a child hoping for a certain gift and exploding when it is identified, the audience treated the songs the same way. “Moonsocket” seemed to be one gift everyone was hoping for based on the massive explosion of energy!
After “Economic Hit Man” we were guided by a synthesized voice once again, before the band came out for an encore. The energy was unreal and STS9 closed out the night with “F Word” and “Aimlessly.” Once the music stopped, it was like stepping off a Merry-Go-Round to find your bearings and reconnect with solid ground.
I had heard about STS9 shows from friends for years, and am so glad I finally decided to experience one for myself. While I was blown away by how well instruments and synthesized sounds were blended together, the imagery on the stage screen and light show were instruments in their own right as they contributing to the artistic creation as much as the sounds. It was intense, and at times overwhelming, as 3,500 bodies took part in this serotonin and consciousness raising experience, but as you looked around, there was a feeling of being wrapped in an intergalactic blanket of love.
Set 1: Intro > 20-12, Vapors, Looking Back on Earth, Breathe In > Circus, The Rabble, Simulator, Arigato, Kamuy > Drums > The Fog* > Kamuy*
Set 2: Scheme > Rent, Abcees, The Spectacle, Grizzly > Moonsocket, New Song, EHM
Encore: F. Word, Aimlessly
Stage Presence: B
Set/Light show: A+