STS9 produces calculated show, fails to impress

Posted on Apr 28 2017 - 11:10am by Austin Hille

Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9) have been rocking stages with their melting pot of musical tastes for about 20 years now.  Having toured with some of the biggest names of all time across multiple genres, their live shows have become somewhat of a standard within the industry.

Some things get better with age, although I am not convinced that is the case with the set STS9 put on last night at The Lyric Oxford. While I have never experienced an STS9 show before, the performance I saw last night was not as incredible as expected.

This is by no means a negative review. The show last night was an incredible display of musical prowess. The musicians that make up the group have spent years perfecting their craft, and it shows.

Each artist contributed to the show equally and uniquely. From a mixing standpoint as well, the mic-ing of all the instruments was exceptional. No section sounded over or under extended, even more subtle instruments such as the hand drums and shakers.

It was also incredible to see the stamina of each member. Much of the show was the group simply sustaining fairly complex beats and pattern for extended periods of time. This is especially true for the group’s drummer, Zach Velmer, who drove the entirety of the show.

Blood, sweat, and tears does not adequately describe the toils Velmer must feel every time he puts on a show, but to my recollection, he did not fault the entirety of the performance.

This was accompanied by a more than exceptional light show that was wired into each song that the band played. With each dip and dive that each of the songs took, their was an adequate light spectacle that signified it.

This included disco balls, lasers, as well as strobes and every other light you could possibly imagine. While I have had the pleasure of seeing many acts with exceptional light shows, perhaps no act has had such tight and coordinated lights. Trippy isn’t quite the word to describe it, but simply calculated.

So there were many positives to be had, but it was hard to overlook the one major flaw that ran through the entirety of the show. The best part of intense instrumental shows is the constant dips and dives that the music takes. The unpredictability of the show, and ultimately the mindblowing nature of the musician’s ability to be tuned in to the changing landscape as the show goes on.

That atmosphere was not present. At many times, the show just edged on monotony, commonly extending a beat or rhythm for minutes at a time without changing the groove enough to keep the audience keyed in or entertained.

It was just boring at times. There really is no other way to put it lightly, and to be honest, I don’t really want to.

The show almost felt like 50 percent mindblowing instrumentation and 50 percent just waiting for something to happen. In this era where instrumental jam bands reign supreme, it is key to master this ability to keep the audience keyed in, and they did not achieve that last night.

In my experience, Umphrey’s Mcgee, The Floozies, and even Tycho have demonstrated an ability to do this. STS9 put on one heck of a show, but its was just good. Not great.