STS9 – NYE 2013 Denver – T.W.E.L.V.E. Review & Photos

Given a multitude of choices by the music gods (a common occurrence in Denver and the surrounding area), what should have been a relatively easy decision was almost impossibly hard. Thankfully the options were presented early and the biggest two acts, Sound Tribe Sector 9 and String Cheese Incident, were each running three consecutive nights. This gave people the opportunity to see their favorite act as well as spend time with friends at their choice event for an evening. With amazing friends heading to STS9 and only a two block walk from my apartment to The Fillmore, I made an easy decision for a STS9 New Years Eve.

A lightly talked about issue, but for anybody who was in Mexico a week prior, definitely something on their minds was “how is Tribe going to fare after the not-so-delightful [last set] at Mayan Holidaze?” Although everybody (myself, the band, and their fans included) knows that regardless of how any last performance went, it wouldn’t stop anybody from attending the next one. There is always that huge hope of catching the next best set, or even hearing that song that hasn’t been played in seven years. In this case, any and all of those insecure notions quickly diminished just a few songs into Night 1, Set 1.

Where it did seem to fall short was the fact that they didn’t splendor up the ballroom with engaging decor and interactive art deco that could have easily been applied to their theme and performance. However mind expanding Saxon’s visuals were (are they ever not?), it just doesn’t compare to live performers and atmospheric setting within a venue. After hearing the performances one might say, what is there to actually complain about? Well if you aren’t used to a NYE spectacle like New York City every year and you never saw what String Cheese was doing 20 minutes down Highway 36, you might not have a damn thing to complain about. However, for me, someone who was not at Holidaze (who didn’t have the unfortunate experience of seeing those bands without a full visual production aspect) this seemed like a typical Tribe visual experience. But more on that later.

Night 1 started off beautifully with “Breathe In,” yet many of us found ourselves wondering where the second half of the song went. Little did we know, it would be used to close out the evening. Keenly producing an effect that STS9 has been purposeful in their practice of late: Letting everything come full circle and treating the evolving earth and our practices as cyclical. If you remember back to the beginning of 2012 [1.13.12, 1.14.12] Sound Tribe started their year with Coloradans at The Fillmore, right where they chose to end it! Donned T.W.E.L.V.E. -Time Within Evolving Living Vehicle Earth– the band navigated 2012 with precision and ease. To me, this is a perfect moniker for a spectacle event like this in the world today. A sold out NYE show promised a packed Fillmore Auditorium, almost 4,000 deep. And yet another cycle completed, this also marked a decade’s time since Tribe has been rocking The Fillmore’s stage.

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Night 1 – 12/29/12 {Download via 1320 Records} Set 1: Breathe In (1st part) > Monkey Music > R&E (piano ending only), Mobsters > Surreality > EB, Empires, Be Nice, We’ll Meet in Our Dreams, Tokyo, Freq 2>3 Set 2: Really Wut?, Music Us, Evasive Maneuvers > Kamuy, Sympathy for The Devil (Rolling Stones), King Pharaoh’s Tomb, F. Word, Grow, Moonsockets, So it Goes > Pulse E: Somesing, Breathe In (2nd part)

The version of “Be Nice” was relatively standard but a great song nonetheless, and it acted as the beginning of the culmination of Set 1, which in turn led to the overly stoked crowd itching themselves through the set break. Next, “WMiOD,” which is not a highly reputed song, caught my memory because when that pace starts to pick up and Zach Velmer sort of takes the lead reigns and shuffles into a drum and bass beat, I get mooooving! The crowd feeds off the hardcore energy from Zach, who himself is a rhythmic machine, and gets bobbing up and down together but shuffling side to side, hardly in unison. Quite a spectacle to watch, it’s moments like this that are the most important and most coveted parts of live music – the crowd and the performer feeding off each others energy.

Up next was “Tokyo,” which is a prestigious song given its versatility and overall well roundedness that anybody can appreciate even if they aren’t into the band or similar music. Despite all that, I got a feeling as though something was left out or missing. Now, after the fact once I’m able to listen to the soundboards, I realized it was cut 2-3 minutes shorter than normal. I’d be more understanding if it quickly transitioned into the next track, but they literally ended the song and re-grouped for the final song of Set 1, “Frequencies 2 > 3.” Nevertheless, the hand percussion and Murph’s bass held this song down, keeping it flowing and very engaging. That allowed for Hunter Brown (guitar) and David Phipps (who thankfully brought his entire rig of keyboards/synths) to shine. This was followed by a concise, quick and tight ending; an effective way to wrap it all up and cut the lights until Set 2.

Whether you were at the show or just gawking over the setlist, I think you can agree it was an absolutely stellar first night which saw revived smiling faces, ogling over the old school funkiness Tribe was clearly going to bring us all night long. Come set break though, having a fenced in area for smokers about half the size of what it should be for a venue of that magnitude usually causes problems. However, it was apparent how dedicated people were to that first set because I had never seen such a back up of people trying to get a breath of fresh air or smoke a cigarette. Nobody took a break during that first hour and a half and there was an undisclosed notion that there wouldn’t be many appropriate times to take one during the second set either. The vibe was sheer joy and despite the bitter cold, exhales turned into glowing smiles influenced by amazing music, great company, and psychedelic purity. That first set almost felt as though people had been waiting on it for years! Although the smiles were wide and the dancing feet were slightly settled, the thought of “has Tribe already put their next 2 nights in jeopardy by blowing their load on the first one?” was being passed around. Either way we were happy, and at that very moment you couldn’t take that away from anybody who attended that night. Ending only a short time into Sunday, there was lots of partying to be done and the first of many late nights to be had. Night 2 was next and despite the small skepticism in the air, for now it was time to bask in the glory that Sound Tribe had just provided 4,000 of its dedicated fans.

Night 2 – 12/30/12 {Download via 1320 Records} Set 1: (Pulse), MOD, Golden Gate, When The Dust Settles, NIN > Tooth, Blu Mood, Circus, Hidden Hand Hidden Fist >Rent Set 2: Metameme, Beyond Right Now, Scheme Reprise, Robot Rock (Daft Punk), Inspire Strikes Back (2nd half), Move My Peeps, Shock Doctrine, Instantly, What is Love?, (Pulse) E: Equinox > Open E  

Relief was a somewhat widespread feeling amongst this crowd, as again the band had blown the expectations set by Holidaze out of the water. I did receive a few mixed reviews about Night 2, but I think overall it was a stellar performance. The energy was up and the collective mood was high, as some of the favorite “heavier” and slightly more electronic tracks were just what I wanted to hear. Listening for years to RE:Gen Deerfields ’07, I have grown enamored of the “NIN > Tooth” segue, but surprisingly had never seen it live for myself. On Sunday the 30th my lust was quenched. Now unlike your typical fan of a band like this, who wishes for certain songs they haven’t heard in awhile or tries to predict set lists, I only realize I am hearing something that I’ve been waiting to hear as it’s being played. Years worth of STS9 shows, desire, and patiently waiting and I think I have finally seen every STS9 original that I could possibly hope for personally.

Another track which I hadn’t seen before that caught me off guard was “King Pharaoh’s Tomb.” As my personal energy was neutral at this moment in time, it seemed amazing that something as simple as a two track segue procured the energy and excitement in me that kept me groovin’ through the rest of the evening. And if that wasn’t enough, simply taking a step back and looking at the situation I was in would have proved just as beneficial. There I was, with a vast majority of my friends and family, with Sound Tribe, on the night before NYE 2013. I found myself switching off between dancing with my eyes closed and swaying with my mouth gaped in awe, everything spiced up by Saxon’s wizardry.

Night 3 – NYE – 12/31/12 {Download via 1320 Records} Set 1: Musical Story Yes, 20-12, Arigato, Scheme, Grizzly, Vapors, Simulator, ABCees Set 2: End Titles (new track), Revolution 1993 (Jamiroquai), 2013 NYE COUNTDOWN / Auld Lang Syne, Celebration (Kool and the Gang), Kaya, Awesome (Bloody Beetroots feat. Cool Kids) > The Unquestionable Supremacy of Nature (12:15am), GLOgli (12:24), The Walk (The Cure), Looking Back on Earth, EHM, March E: T.W.E.L.V.E., Wika Chikana

New Year’s Eve was upon us, the one some thought might never happen due to the end of humanity. However there we were, ready to rage. At some point within the three nights even Murph exclaimed something to the extent of, “We’re so glad the world didn’t end! So we can continue to play music for all of you!!!!!” I was happy with “Arigato” although I’ve previously heard that song performed with a higher level of “hyphy-ness” to it. Two songs later was the track “Grizzly” which I had never realized featured samples from the band Grizzly Bear and their song “Two Weeks.” Having a gut feeling that set break was almost upon us, it made “ABCees” (a personal top choice) that much more enjoyable. Sure enough, that song closed it out and the room was spirited.

After that the crowd tried to relax itself for a moment before the end-all, but the anticipation was just too wild. Blended with the fact that everybody and their extended crew wanted to be as close to the stage as possible, it was an easy recipe for anxious jitters. After assessing the situation, poppin’ a squat on the floor seemed like the most proper way to handle all of this. With absolutely no regard for the stickiness or empty beer and cup cemetery beneath our asses we enjoyed the final few minutes we had off of our feet, and forgone the annoying push towards the front once the music starts. Seeing the band trickle on stage we shot up once we heard Murph say, “y’all ready to pick it back up in here… Denver?!?” What came next was an amazing surprise announcement, “bringing out our friends Super Collider Horns to help us out here for a little while. Y’all welcome them to the stage!” They opened up the 2nd set with a never before played track, “End Titles.” I didn’t even realize at first whether it was brand new or a cover but later confirmed with a friend (and forever fan) that it was indeed a track never heard before. Something quite memorable to take home with us once we had time to decompress and think about what we witnessed over the past three nights. And to accompany this release and add some flavor to the finale of our NYE run a horn section tooted their way to cheers, as there is hardly anything better than having a horn or string section accompany some of your favorite music. It’s simply the best!

The unreleased track however, wasn’t the most talked about part of Set 2. The horns and “Celebration” (post midnight countdown) was what all the chatter was about through the end of the show. Even more so than the fact that they opened up with a never before heard song, a rare occurrence in itself which you hardly get so lucky. I feel as though “End Titles” did not really demand the audiences attention. Not until we were two minutes into the STS9 debut of Jamiroquai’s “Revolution 1993” (which sounded ridiculously tight), did I realize that I was listening to something previously unheard of from Sound Tribe. I foresee that “End Titles” will grow with time and hopefully flourish into a piece of beauty on its own without the assistance/cover up of the unheard “Revolution 1993” immediately following it.

Mountain Time’s NYE celebration was next up. We told ourselves “this was it,” and situated ourselves to be adjacent with the person we wanted to share that special moment with. As we kissed and toasted for the midnight countdown we then shook hands and exchanged smiles, prepared and adjusted our dancing shoes and rage gear and prepared for the last part of our evening. To keep the pace up and the party going the band rocked the Bloody Beetroots party anthem, “Awesome,” which flowed into “TUSON.” A random happy memory from that song was halfway into the track when Murph yelled: “Screeammm if you’re lovin’ your life tonight!!! C’Mon. WOOOOOO!!!” The rest of the tracks played out well, and sort of followed along in similar suit to what we’re used to. Including the consistently used cover, The Cure‘s “The Walk.” Look at the setlist and you can probably get a good feel as to how the rest of the night played out and the conclusion that Tribe put on their cyclical 2012.

I can easily say I had an amazing time with family and friends and we all stayed healthy and vibrant throughout the process, pure blessings. Despite all of that, there were some parts of me that felt let down. Taking into consideration that I have never been to a Tribe New Years before, nor have I ever really investigated into what exactly they entail. I now realize they didn’t stray (in the least bit) from what they’ve always done. I can imagine that if you are a fan that goes to every New Years you are clearly accustomed to their provided experience and are perfectly content. So after speaking to all sorts of different people I have come to understand that Tribe has never been a band known to cause grand spectacles like the band playing 20 minutes down the highway. For me though, you should never be completely predictable, which I guess to most STS9 fans lies completely within the set list. That and a horn accompaniment for a couple of tracks was enough performance fortitude to warrant the $85 ticket price. However in my eyes, I expected a little more. This was New Years Eve! 2013! Wrapping up a year that saw popularity in electronic music (and sub-genres thereof) soar, as well as performances by music acts stepped up to unprecedented levels. I would have liked for them to align our yearning souls even more so with the music by forcing us to jump aboard the Evolving Living Vehicle Earth. It hardly felt like the ride of a lifetime and more like things were standing still while we waited for Murph to occasionally share his 2-cents. “Auld Lang Syne” felt like one of the absolute worst songs I have ever heard played for the strike of midnight and the celebration thereafter. Hardly celebratory in nature, the flashing “2013” on the screens didn’t do it for me either. Hopefully navigating the inside of your neighbor’s mouth proved more memorable.

But let’s give credit where credit is due. Saxton Waller is an incredible visual wizard, and overall the on stage light show was superb. In terms of balance, what more could you ask for? To our pleasure, enormous LED screens expanded the entire width of The Fillmore stage, enhanced with thoughtful visuals, strobes, and a large assortment of ROYGBIV beams facing every direction. A good visualizer, just like instrumentalist, not only knows where to put the note but more importantly knows where to put the rests. It almost felt like a clinic, you could bring a workshop there and tell them to watch closely because that’s how you work visual stage production to perfection! It’s a huge task to keep the electric sheep happy. Walk around a show and ask each person what their visual stimulation preference is for shows and you will get loads of different answers all night. There are so many options and ideas out there, and the crowd knows that the sky’s the limit. So Saxton had it down perfectly, even though the entire production team did not. An almost $100 ticket (which has grown to almost become the standard rate for NYE) should create a serious amount of revenue for one show (the price was obviously cheaper purchased as a 3 day conjunction), but in turn create a little more activity beside a giant [open canvas] standing room with one way to stare.

Overall, I feel heavily refreshed with those three nights that Sound Tribe Sector 9 gave me this year at The Fillmore. I got to see tons of great people and meet new friends as well. Smiles were abundant and the music was tight. Everyone looked so so beautiful out there. Oh my goodness. I am sure we will all see each other once again at SnowBall!! I am ready and I’m pretty sure Tribe will be too after their month and a half off! Let’s Keep it Movin’! 20-13 y’all! WOOOOOO! Much Love Y’all. Thanks for Reading.


DizzyG. The Masta of DizzAstA

[cincopa A0HAnF7Jscre]

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