STS9 | 02.02.08

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Lotus had done a stellar job of warming us up, but I'm sure any member of Sound Tribe's ever-multiplying fan base will agree that nothing, really, prepares you for your first of their live shows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lotus photo by Joanna Kleine 

 

 

 

w/ Lotus

The Pageant, St. Louis   

"No blow allowed!" we were all jokingly warned by a fellow show-goer entering the Pageant on Saturday, February 2 , ready for some feel-good electronic grooves promised by bands Lotus from Philadelphia and Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9) that evening. Many awaiting entry were obviously on a second wind, having participated in Mardi Gras festivities earlier in the day. The beads and indecipherable speech evidently prompted some to be reminded that drugs and glow sticks weren't allowed in. It was clear that all present were geared up for a good time, and the vibe once inside was bright and carefree. Admittedly this was my first time seeing both bands, and being that STS9 consistently sells out the Pageant and that I have a healthy collection of both bands' music, I was looking forward to the live experience.

When Jesse Miller of Lotus walked onstage with his bass guitar I thought to myself "that thing is just as big as he is."  Then the notes began bursting off his fingers. It was if his bass was pulling him around the stage and his hands (with fingers positioned just so), were the only thing capable of taming it.  With an instantaneous symmetry among the five men, (Steve Clemens on drums, Luke Miller on guitar and keys, Chuck Morris on additional percussion and Mike Rempel on guitar), the "Lotus vibes" had been released.  

Hitting on tracks such as "Livingston Storm," "Spiritualize," and "Tip of the Tongue" from all five of their albums, Lotus affirmed itself as a come-as-you-are band exploding with raw yet paced and coordinated talent. Influenced by groups such as The Orb and Talking Heads, Lotus executes the intricate musical plots in each of their songs with great ease, and the sophistication of their sound seems to go beyond their eight years together. 

The transition in tones from upbeat guitar jams to heavy, complex club mixes is made effortlessly and the concentration on their music is evidenced by little to no acknowledgement of the perpetually cheering dancers that make up their audience; but I'll sacrifice the "How ya'll doin' tonight Saint Louis?" for such beautiful musical intelligence any day of the week. Funky dance beats journeying along side elegant contemporary electronica pulsated through the Pageant and I, also, couldn't get enough - a surprise when you consider the fact that Lotus was formed (possibly out of spite) at a Mennonite college where dancing was prohibited as late as the 80s.    

The solidarity of the band, with no one outshining the other, is what gives Lotus its strength.  Any one member could offer up a full-on musical assault at any moment, they're all just that talented; but they don't. It's easy to feel the unity as they create new compositions, seemingly striving to work it to that next level, if it's possible that there is one. That type of opportunity for realization only comes with the dynamic of the live show, each musician on their edge, sweating, working their hardest, trying to find the progression they're capable of, next to four of their friends and fellow master musicians.  It's a beautiful thing.

After catching our breath, blotting our foreheads a bit and commiserating on the temperature difference between outside and inside that forced us to wear clothes not conducive to the epic dance party that had already ensued, STS9, who have been said by Remix magazine to have made electronic music relevant again, confidently loaded the stage.      

The excitement at this show was combustible with the mood being set from the gate with the intense, fast-paced "Moon Socket."  Lotus had done a stellar job of warming us up, but I'm sure any member of Sound Tribe's ever-multiplying fan base will agree that nothing, really, prepares you for your first of their live shows. I didn't expect it to be a pretty as it was, both musically and visually, or to be as moved as I was emotionally. Amplifier has said that STS9 is "proof positive that technology and soul can work together,"and that's accurate as far as I'm concerned; there is great depth and heart in their music. 

The piano in "Big Little Scenario" was soft and delicate, and the light, high flutters of the guitar in unison with an identical bass line in "Pianoir" brought a smile of contentment to  my face. STS9, a staple in the Bonnaroo, Vegoose and Lollapalooza music festivals, (among a few others, including their own Re:Generation music festival held in North Carolina), brought the calculated funk next with "Aimlessly" and "Peoples" before breaking from their first set. 

They opened the second set with the ambient lounge track "Kamuy," a sound that normally I'm not a fan of, but they sold it and I was eager to buy it. The gorgeous beats of "1103" kicked the dancing back into high gear and "Somesing" and "Orbital" drew us in closer, listening with amazement to their superior experimentation and sampling capabilities, (virtues that have drawn acts such as Digable Planets, De La Soul and G. Love and Special Sauce to collaborate on stage with STS9). Their encore, "EHM" verged on hip-hop style beats and was a perfect way to draw the party to a close. The show as a whole was dynamic and almost over-stimulating, in a good way - the type of show that made it difficult to fall asleep, even though my legs were painfully fatigued from dancing. It's no a mystery why STS9 sells out shows across the nation. | Joanna Kleine       

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