Umphrey’s McGee 08/31/2013 Bank of America Pavilion Boston, MA
Set: Plunger > Walletsworth, Crucial Taunt, The Pequod, The Linear > Glory > Deeper, Divisions > Soul Food II > Divisions, No Diablo, White Pickle >Regulate*, Mulche’s Odyssey
STS9 8/31/2013 Bank of America Pavilion Boston, MA
Set: Hubble, Simulator, Abcees, Circus, Kaya, GLOgli > Grow, Rent, Aimlessly, Inspire Strikes Back
Encore: The Rabble, Sympathy for the Devil*
Notes: * w/ Jake, Brendan, Andy, & Ryan from Umphrey’s McGee
**Disclaimer ::: Even though I was almost equally as excited to see Umphrey’s McGee that night, and they undoubtedly played one of the best shows I’d ever heard from them (including a couple of classics, “Divisions” and “Mulche’s Odyssey” and a dope “Regulate” with David Phipps and JeffreeLerner), I was there to cover STS9. I don’t know if I’m qualified to accurately review most of the songs in their canon yet, but I can say they definitely set the bar high for Tribe that night. ::: Disclaimer**
I’m gonna preface this review by saying that Sound Tribe Sector 9 and Boston have a special place in my heart. It was in 2007 at the Avalon in Boston that I was introduced to not only STS9 and Bassnectar, but to a vast melange of culture that has changed my life and fueled my drive. Despite that fact, for many of the years since then, word around the Baystate is that Tribe doesn’t throw down here quite like they do elsewhere. I chalk it up to not only the earlier time zone but the stupid early start times for the shows in this city. But I digress, I was butterflies-in-my-stomach-introspective about finally seeing one of those “for life” acts that I hadn’t caught live in nearly three years.
“Boston how we feeling out there tonight?!,” STS9 bassist David Murphy said in a familiar holler, “Y’all make some noise for Umphery’s Mcgee one time for doing it so right up here tonight. Killing it! We’re so happy you’re here with us tonight, lets enjoy ourselves.” After much anticipation, Hunter Brown’s opening riff for “Hubble” had my skin tingling. I had literally been waiting years to see Sound Tribe Sector Nine again. At first, I think the rhythm section struggled to get warmed up. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the sharp tone of Zach Velmer’s snare hits and the initial transitions were nothing special, but there was some nice improvisation around the mellowed half-time melody nonetheless. I connected to how much I missed the fucking field day my ears have listening and watching the band build a song live, pin pointing each member’s contribution.
During “Simulator,” you could begin to hear the crowd becoming more boisterous as that magnetic Tribe aura began to flood the area beneath the big top. I had never heard this newer track, so I was listening close with a squint in my eye, letting it settle into my mind. Definitely a playful tune with a catchy melody that reminds me of an Indobox or newer Lotus song. Halfway through, the band hits their first really successful and syncopated transition. I must admit, I’ve never been that excited to see the guitarist and the bassist of a band strictly tapping their MIDI keyboards at the same time, especially after they open the song with some energizing progressions and echo chamber bass lines. Despite my visible preference, it was entertaining to watch Murph grooving hard into his keyboard stand with a new vigor I haven’t seen from of him in nearly five years. I think I would have enjoyed the song even more if it was an octave down.
Fifteen minutes into their set, and I was beginning to sweat. Until they pump out a couple of massive tunes done dirty, I prematurely begin to speculate about what the word will be between this show and their next Boston appearance. David Phipps then proceeded to try out all kinds of things out on his keyboards (high teleporter-esque repeating chimes, some sort of crispy static crackle). Of course, it would be the intro for “Abcees,” one of their more solid experimental tunes. Phipps was out front slaying the crowd with sustained synth blades, an expanding hiss built higher and higher. The Anthony B vocal samples exclaiming, “Your player days are over” and “Put the gloves down and surrender” dominated the song’s beginning as Phipps and the band surrounded it with a cloud of panning and crescendoing sounds. I thought the mid-song breakdown was somewhat anti-climactic, despite a lot of effort. Things undoubtedly picked up as they repeated the Nina Simone “O Lordy” sample and through the end of the jam. Zach and Jefferee had officially shook off the rust and the keys playing was fierce and confident.
“Circus” brought some of that sonic serenity that Tribe is known for with songs like “By the Morning Sun” and “Somesing.” Beautiful tones exited the band’s instruments with just the right amount of restraint and bravado. Hunter and Murph made it sound easy, while Phipps was able to experiment a little when he wasn’t going with the traditional piano effect. I found myself feeling as though I would be content with the band playing forty more minutes of this jam. Murph and Zach did the rhythm section dance via bass and snare for the funk groove that was the opening for “Kaya.” Phipps put up a nearly sitar sounding synth line, playfully climbing the keyboard and building alongside the rest of the band. Things got really good once the second breakdown lowered the song to a valley where Jeffree’s hands on bongos became the focal point. Definitely one of the best jams of the night, as all the cues and fills were striking hot.
They quickly upped the pace with a phantasm-themed “GLOgli” that would officially kick off one of the best runs I’ve ever seen them play. Part “Sunrise” by Simply Red, part Ghostbusters theme song. (1:50) A beautiful and melodic solo from Hunter brought us quietly into some of that fatty dissonant STS9 primo shit. Then we got some bouncy dungeon-on-Super Mario Bros-style arpeggios. Lots of industrial, almost NIN-like effects take us into outro that lingers and takes us hard into an equally eerie but significantly slower “Grow.” At this point, Tribe fans throughout the Bank of America Pavilion began to realize that the band has put together a special set list for the night. I love how they manage to keep things pounding and bumping, and yet, I can awkwardly take a random seat, close my eyes and ride the groove like Barry White is trying to get in my pants.
If anyone was wondering why Jeffree Lerner is the percussionist of Tribe, they obviously haven’t seen him solo from “Grow” and into “Rent.” Once the other components entered, however, I was less impressed. They couldn’t manage to find the groove at first, as it was all a little abrasive. It’s always strange to listen to a vital layer of an STS9 song played with a different tone or synth patch than what you are used to as a fan – it almost feels blasphemous. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the electronic bass line being used (kind of lifeless and rigid) and felt like it was overpowering the rest of the band. The guitar riffs weren’t quite as prominent as I’d always remembered. Either way, “Rent” is without a doubt a banger and threw me into a couple of flashbacks from the past snatch.
Then came quite possibly the most recognizable melody of my adult life, the dum dum dum dum of “Aimlessly” moved toward us at a creep crawl. I figure the band could knock this song out of the pavilion with one arm tied behind their back. Of course, I couldn’t help but wander about the venue, as the song suggests, humming obnoxiously loud. The mellowed bridge featured a lot of variation and glee and did its job to bring the audience to a cymbal crashing, triumphant apex. There was no need for the band to settle into the groove with “Inspire Strikes Back.” Right from the start, the various parts were sprinting out the gate and pounding the rhythm into our chests. Although some of Murph and Phipps’ improv was not so tight, when it was on it made for some exciting new sounds.
The band encored with a compelling take on “The Rabble.” Phipps’ classical pianist style in the first few bars helped to reign in the melody a bit, as his vaudeville staccato playing does later in the song. (5:22) I thought that the final build of the song was representative of the night, energized and impressive. As it blipped and squealed its way to a close, Murph asked, “Would y’all please help us welcome from Umphrey’s McGee, Jake, Brenden and Farag to help us out on this next track?”
Before the show, I had been listening to STS9’s three day run from last New Years Eve in Denver. Their cover of The Rolling Stone’s “Sympathy for the Devil” the first night really stood out to me as a deviation from the ordinary for Tribe. I was literally hopping and skipping from shooting photos with Gleb between the subs in front of the stage and to the center aisle behind the soundboard when I heard the familiar line, “Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste.” Brenden Bayliss really does Mick Jagger justice on the vocals without trying to sound like anything but himself. Great control and range – I was impressed! The highlight might have been Murph and Jake Cinninger getting in close and strumming towards one another. The percussion and background “woo woos” of Jefferee, Andy Farag and a headlamp sporting Ryan Stasik was pretty killer too. I think that particular UM and Tribe on stage collaboration might have been a first for me. Here’s to hoping they form a full on side project with all the members of both bands combined.
After all the times Murph so graciously thanked the Boston crowd for coming out and doing their thing, I gotta put it up and give it up to STS9 and extend a special thanks to the band for helping to renew my respect and love by not only playing an unpredictable show but for doing it in Boston!
Ranchsauce, signing off.