|Words by B.Getz
STS9 (Sound Tribe Sector Nine) :: 04.29 :: Borgata Music Box :: Atlantic City, NJ
I remember a noodling Hunter Brown, head bowed over his guitar as the notes registered high above the swirling throngs at the Georgia Theatre. Twas the Spring of ’98, and Sector Nine was the hottest jamband down South after the mighty Widespread Panic. They had yet to establish their own sound and were still taking solos, vamping off into wah-wah funk, and emulating the acid-funk of their Green Mountain forefathers. Sure, they may not have admitted it, but the years of 97-99 were all about the funk in jamband land, whether it was the Phish or the Greyboys. Back then, Sector 9 wasn’t yet a Sound Tribe, but the seeds were being sewn.So much has transpired since those days… Sound Tribe has defined a sound, developed a genre, created a scene, an ethos, and a way of life. They have a devout following, an air of righteousness, a calming tranquility, and have emblazoned a trail marrying intense, spirited instrumentation with today’s ever-evolving technologies. The players manipulate the sonics thru Apple computers and progressive live software to deliver mind-numbing séances of drum-and-bass, down-tempo, and acidic jazzy overtones. Their incredible pairing with the Zen Master of atmospheric drum-and-bass, the forefather LTJ Bukem, solidified their arrival, their niche, and their rep as one of the baddest trailblazers in the game, surpassing the jamband tag.
A recent tour stop betrayed the utmost in irony – Atlantic City, New Jersey being the antithesis of all things Sound Tribe. The band, and unfortunately the audience too, were kinda outta their element, so to say. Atlantic City used to be a classy destination; it thrived in the post-Depression era as a vacation spot for ballers of all kinds, organized crime cats mingled with politicians and big-wigs. At least that’s how Uncle Junior (and my grandparents) remember it. Decades later, Vegas took the people from AC, and AC brought in Casinos of their own. The city was never the same, wrought with outsiders, gamblers, thieves, and later, crackheads and crooked politicians. The surrounding seashore enclaves grew and sprawled, but Atlantic City was left behind, until recently. Spurred by the Vegas-styled casino Borgata, the city has seen a growth and revitalization, with Showboat’s ‘House of Blues’ and Tropicana’s ‘The Quarter’ bringing a new millennium vibe to the once-dormant seashore city. Nowadays, it’s fashionable to rock AC. The Duo and Mule ushered in this new era last summer with the first show at the HOB, and now STS9 was here to rock The Music Box, the smaller club for live music at the Borgata.
Unfortunately, the show wasn’t much to speak of, or write about.
The band was given an 11 p.m. curfew, and fans trickled in curiously little by little – this writer, a bit late himself. The band seemed to stop and go and had trouble really finding that place that STS9 goes – the realm of seismic waltzes in frenzied time signatures, the timeless euphoric melodies melted into futuristic sound-scapes with thunderous bottom-end. Sure, there were moments of Tribe madness, but it seemed they just weren’t totally in sync. Most people in the room were eagerly trying to delve into the magic, but as it came and went, so did the crowd and its inspiration. The night began with a standard “Big Little Thing,” and immediately following, they dropped the “F Word.” Other highlights came later in their single long set, such as the piano-melody lead on “By the Morning Sun.” “Tokyo” gave way to “Dem Be,” but the band didn’t really pick up steam again until the Hunter Brown’s Paul Reed Smith tones resurrected the classic STS9 track “Circus.” The playing throughout this show was serviceable, but not the mind-blowing ecstasy we have come to expect from the Tribe. That sonic skull-fuck was never to arise at the Music Box, though skin-bashing wunderkind Zach Velmer did induce a bit of that frenzied, jungle-drum madness late in the gig during the polyrhythmic juggernaut “Aimlessly.” To the dismay of the 9 massive that was now getting their groove on full bore with relentless dancing and incredible energy, this was to be the end of the show. Sure, the band reappeared for a charged and firing double encore of “This, Us” and “Open E,” but it was too late. The curfew was approaching.
Looking back on the night, it wasn’t a bad show – just a little short. Amidst a grueling, lengthy tour, sometimes even the best bands don’t have it together at every show. If this was one’s virgin Sound Tribe experience, the fan would certainly have been impressed. However, for those who have experienced the STS9 magic, their patented endless bouts of blissful sonic euphoria, four-to-the-floor jungle cacophony, and their opiate-like down-tempo grooves, well Atlantic City’s show was just a sampler, a taste, a tidbit, and the tip of a enchanted iceberg.
JamBase | Atlantic City
[Published on: 5/23/06]
- ALBUM REVIEW: THE ROOTS: HOMEGROWN VOL 1 AND 2 (’05 GEFFEN) (B.Getz on JamBase)
- ILLADELPH: LEGENDARY ROOTS CREW – 2006 Game Theory Feature (B.Getz on JamBase)