STS9 | 01.26 - 01.27.09 | Colorado

Words & Images by: Tk Kayembe

Sound Tribe Sector 9/Big Gigantic/Lazer Sword :: 01.26.09 :: The Bluebird Theater :: Denver, CO

Sound Tribe Sector 9/Big Gigantic/Lazer Sword :: 01.27.09 ::: The Fox Theatre ::: Boulder, CO

STS9 by Tk Kayembe
For their 3-night Colorado Live PA run, Sound Tribe Sector 9 teamed up with SF crunksters Lazer Sword and local rowdy boys Big Gigantic to get the party started.

Big Gigantic surfaced a few short months ago with enough force to split the Colorado Flatirons right down the middle. Dominic Lalli, of Boulder-based afro-jazz/funk-tronic group The Motet, decided to branch out from his role as the ultimate super-jammer to create his own special blend of dance floor tunes equipped with bubbly synth chords, freshly sequenced drumbeats and rich horns. This special "get off your ass and dance" music is accented live as Dom plays live synth, live sax, and is accompanied by heavy live drums provided by a relentless beat machine known around these parts as Jeremy Salken.

The finely tuned instrument that is Big Gigantic proves that (band) size doesn't matter - they create a lavish soundscape as a duo one would expect from a large band. Dom writes songs thick as concrete; never simple jams or diminutive ideas looped and stretched to fit a certain time length. His arrangements are full, thought out and well planned, yet still allow him plenty of room to improvise on his already stellar ideas live. Dazzling first timers seems to be a skill Big Gigantic has mastered early on in their career, as I continually had people approach me, awestruck, asking who these guys were, what their story was, and where they could find their music.

Big Gigantic by Tk Kayembe
As Dom and Salken played, the crowd watched eagerly, like kiddies on Christmas morning, as the two unwrapped their sound track after track for the anxiously awaiting attendees. The dance floor surged with people caught in the maniacal hysteria of the "dust off your Kicks and dance" tune "Stand Up," and the thick synth bass of "Game Charger." The ground opened up once again into a slam dancing moshpit as Dom finished off their Tuesday night set with a dubstep track from producer Zero 9. After laying down their brilliant combination of jazzy hooks, beautiful melodies and muck-smeared bass, the boys waved goodnight and headed backstage as the roars from the pit continued long after they had disappeared.

If you hear gunshots ringing out during the show, there's no need for alarm. (Hopefully) it's just LL from Lazer Sword spraying sound from his MPD over the glitchy grooves being laid down by his musical counterpart, Lando Kal. I realized the following about the members of Lazer Sword: the two hate genre classification. Lando seems to always be adorned with gifts from an '80s time capsule - typically a fresh vintage sweater and toothbrush clean hi-tops; and LL always rocks a low slung cap and a focused eye on his shifting Ableton screen. Creepy basslines and high BPM drums lead off a typical LS track before ghetto-blasted hip-hop a capella sneaks in, perfectly dressing it up. Straight out of San Francisco, the duet have been peddling their dance floor diamonds all over clubs in the U.S. and in Europe, hopefully with plans to land their spBASSship back in Colorado soon.

It is my opinion that the purpose of a PA set from a collective like Sound Tribe Sector 9 is for an instrument-wielding band to create full-bodied pieces of music with limited materials. This gives the group time to focus on different aspects of their songs and allows tracks to be twirked and remixed on the fly. While I would not necessarily consider myself an STS9 fan, I must admit their PA sets were impressive. Since the emphasis wasn't on their instrumentation during the PA runs, I suppose it was easier for me to get into it. I feel many of Tribe's shows these days have become overpopulated by kids so spun out and dumbstruck by the overwhelming light show they've no time to realize they're being fed the same corny, repetitive riffs over and over again. Those judgments aside, I honestly did enjoy the performances. The final night in Boulder felt like the most special night of the run, as the band's energy matched that of the crowd as they pushed through old material and new, testing the audience's excitement levels, unselfishly satisfying their needs. Tribe also packed more of a complete setup in Boulder, choosing the Fox Theatre as the venue to unleash the additions of live guitar and bass for more on-the-spot jamming.

Lazer Sword by Tk Kayembe
Because they chose smaller venues for their PA sets, Tribe didn't bring their typical colossal light setup. Instead, they kept it smart and simple. Wide black netting encompassed the perimeter of the tables upon which their laptops were situated. Fastened to the net was a grid of tiny lights no larger than safety blinkers bikers attach to spokes on their wheels. These lights were synched up to others onstage and a similar apparatus was suspended behind the drummer like a phosphorescent rectangle hanging sideways.

Opening their shows at a funk friendly 90 BPM, Sound Tribe steadily built momentum as the sets progressed. Their transitions felt exciting and waveless, as if I was riding the back car in a gentle electro-lounge rollercoaster. While there would assuredly be plenty of text in the overlapping center space of a Venn diagram comparing songs played at the Bluebird Theater and at the Fox Theatre, the foursome still rocked the crowd as if they were performing the tracks for the first time. Issuing favorites from their new album PeaceBlaster, as well as popular pleasers including "One A Day," the hyphy hit "The Unquestionable Supremacy of Nature" and a live refix of "Aimlessly."

From the moment the first notes rang from Dom's sax to the final cymbal crash on Zach Velmer's drum kit, the STS9 PA sets were an overall concertgoer's dream. The different acts perfectly complimented each other and displayed an array of different electro-influenced musical stylings that everybody in the audience was able to groove to. The two nights blur together, linking as one beautiful memory. This run was one surely one for the history books, a perfectly planned show where Tribe pandered to their fans by giving them a taste of the familiar, while allowing them discover new favorites along the way.

Continue reading for a conversation with Big Gigantic...

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