STS9/Bassnectar | 08.16.08 | Berkeley

Words by: Anni M. Svilar | Images by: Dave Vann

Sound Tribe Sector 9/Bassnectar :: 08.16.08 :: Greek Theatre :: Berkeley, CA


STS9 :: 08.16 :: Berkeley, CA
As musicians, Sound Tribe Sector 9 and Bassnectar are both obsessed with sound. They have made careers out of live instruments mixed with sounds a computer can make, or a drum and a scratched record, all aided by a big sound system. The people who follow them are their sound chasers; loyal in a cultish jam band sort of way. I have a friend who literally hurts his head from shaking it too hard at every Bassnectar show. Saturday night, the show was a sandwich, with STS9 headlining and Bassnectar holding down the set break at Berkeley's Greek Theatre.

STS9 has been doing their thang since 1998. They were the ones toying with computers and electronic music long before it was the dime a dozen thing it is today. I hear that this will be Bassnectar's (Lorin Ashton) eleventh time at Burning Man. When I first saw STS9 they had enormous crystals lining the stage; I had one in my pocket - we were studying the Mayan Calendar right along with them. At The Greek Saturday night, there was none of that. I read an interview where STS9 percussionist Jeffree Lerner is quoted saying that computers are the new crystals. Times obviously change.

STS9 and Bassnectar both tap into what's happening now in their respective scenes. The scenes themselves keep attracting young followers because both crews utilize current trends and ground-breaking gear. Tech-smart STS9 already has Saturday's show available for download online. Neither act is satisfied playing what they know works; both venture and both get criticized for that venturing. I respect that. That's called being an artist.

Brown & Lerner :: STS9 :: 08.16 :: Berkeley, CA
At this show, STS9 had texture. Their new album, Peaceblaster (review here), brings a much needed edge to their music. Under the powerful August full moon, there were differing opinions all around me. Some people seemed to be having the time of their life, others were caught up in the fact that for Tribe's first set and Bassnectar's portion, the show wasn't loud enough. Agreed, but even still, I was dancing.

Sound Tribe Sector 9 is Lerner, David Murphy (bass), Hunter Brown (guitar), David Phipps (keyboards) and Zach Velmer (drums). The Tribe's thing is to move musically as one cohesive unit. They can share their toys in the sandbox, it's a fair set-up – almost everyone has a computer to play with, all members take an equal amount of solos. They are serious and experienced enough musicians to throw even the un-intoxicated portion of the audience out of their minds if they want to. Their light show is phenomenal; including lightning strips of white, then firefly green strings, followed by rainbows of colors flashing before your eyes. There were certainly euphoric moments, especially during the second set when the momentum picked up. Highlights included the harder driving "The Unquestionable Supremacy of Nature" and "Peaceblaster '68" into "Peaceblaster '08".

What went missing Saturday night was collaboration. Saturday would have been a perfect night for Bassnectar and STS9 to play together, and many of us were hoping they would. Bassnectar's big sounds and high energy would've been a nice compliment to STS9 and I think could've brought the show to a higher level.

Bassnectar :: 08.16 :: Berkeley, CA
Lorin Ashton is also hands-down my favorite DJ to watch perform. Nobody wanted him to leave the stage when set break was over. He was asked twice by security to end his set. Bassnectar is a mix-up of musical tastes, but also a performance and spectacle. Starting with two local guest MCs, Seasonz and Kyrian (whose hat consisted of a woman's thong), he opened with a stomp and clap that is reminiscent of cheers from audiences on bleachers at a high school football game. A three-piece screen flashed shots of what looked like people from the 1940s doing the running man, merging into classic images from well-known commercials that have left their impression on pop culture, such as a Dove commercial when in a little over a minute an otherwise normal looking woman is turned into a model. What these images were trying to say to us Saturday night is left up for interpretation, but so is any Bassnectar show, where he gives the audience a plethora of sounds along with visual kaleidoscopes and sometimes unexpected guests or strange throwback surprises like light hints of what sounded like a mixed up Nine Inch Nails track.

Whether his Samson hair is pulled back in a bun or waving for Delilah, Bassnectar brings energy to every performance. He is a good example of what a DJ should be - he sings along, he visibly counts beats, he is having as much fun up there as you are in the stands. The man moves, moves, moves, and his music is a hybrid containing anything from jazz, old school hip-hop, electronica, dub, mid-tempo electronica, big emotions, people's voices, mashing beats and swing. He is that long haired hippie, that hard artist, a big brother, an average guy sitting next to you in class, a magician and a mind controller, all at the same time. What Bassnectar has cultivated is an underground scene that is huge and, at this point, well known, but at the same time, he's maintained the pulse and coolness of a cult scene that still feels hidden.

A good testament to any show is to look around the crowd afterwards and note the number of smiles, dazed looks, and sweat – this show had all that. Sound Tribe Sector 9 is at the beginning of their West Coast tour (dates available here) and Bassnectar is at the beginning of his national tour (dates here) playing with different meshes of folks across the country. It will prove to be a worthwhile circus of sound wherever they go.

Sound Tribe Sector 9 :: 08.16.08 :: Berkeley, CA
Set One: Metameme, Aimlessly > Surreality > EB > Aimlessly, Beyond Right Now > Luma Daylight, Be Nice, Shock Doctrine
Set Two: Empires, New Soma, Hidden Hand, Hidden Fist, Rent, The Unquestionable Supremacy of Nature, Once A Day, Peaceblaster '68 > Peaceblaster '08, Inspire Strikes Back
Encore: EHM

Watch our interview with STS9 on JamBaseTV.

And check out JamBase's recent exclusive feature/interview with STS9 here.

Continue reading for more images from The Greek ...


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