After a rough week for many of us, STS9 prepared to rejuvenate the masses as they descended upon New York City for a show at Terminal 5. I've personally seen 15-20 STS9 sets over the years, but hadn't seen them since 2014, when they played their first NYC show with bassist Alana Rocklin at Playstation Theater.
STS9, or "Tribe," is the quintessential live-tronica band. With their galaxy oriented thematic elements and signature instrumental style, STS9 has enjoyed almost 20 years of genre defying releases that have carefully curated their unique identity as a live band that heavily incorporates electronic elements into their music. Now one of the most prolific touring acts in the world, they consistently bring the heat, and this past weekend's show at Terminal 5 exemplified their incredible musicianship and unmatched professionalism. Being a band with no live vocals (some live vocal sampling) is an increasingly challenging venture in today's world, with attention spans of the Internet generation swiftly shortening. Prioritizing collective rhythm over individual solo-ing, STS9's futuristic cocktail of rock, jazz, funk, psychadelia defies classification and manifests in a live music experience that will captivate you with beautiful intensity and melody. STS9 pulls it all off with help from their intentional energy and vibe, staggering stage production and hopeful message for the future.
'"The Universe Inside” is STS9’s first full length release in over 7 years, conceptualized around the “Golden Records,” special messages sent into space by NASA in the 70s. This album is a testament to the life and originality STS9 continuously breathes into their thematic exploration of space and time, and the consistently positive message to humanity. Alana Rocklin shines on her first release with the band, bringing her own style to the deep, brooding basslines that have become an essential part of this band’s sound. They played several cuts at Terminal 5, opening with "World Go Round," then "Totem" which has been featured in set lists over the years, "Get Loud," and "Worry No More." These songs feature more vocal samples than Tribe is usually accustomed to, giving the show a more retro, 80's inspired feel, which the crowd welcomed with pleasure.
Tribe eased into their second set with the atmospheric melodies and guitar hooks of “Vapours,” a personal favorite. An especially memorable highlight was Kamuy into Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” back into Kamuy. Percussion/chimes extraordinaire Jeffree Lerner whipped out a solid bango solo and was soon joined by drummer Zach Velmer as they concocted a dark, housey dance party. It was an excellent showcase for Velmer’s drum pad skills and really showed how an electronic soundscape could be built with no backing tracks. The first encore served up a delicious “Gobnugget” and the second had us floored with “Looking Back on Earth” into an intense, techno-tinged rendition of “Inspire Strikes Back.”
STS9 is largely unmatched in the jamtronica scene, and they deserve it. Very few have been able to carve such an identifiable niche in both jam and electronic music culture. Their vision is as interesting as it is inspiring; and only instrumentalists as talented as these could truly bring it to life. It is a continuous pleasure to attempt to describe and promote this band to others. As expected, I was thoroughly reminded throughout the night why STS9 is one of my favorite bands of all time.