STS9 | 07.25.09 | Red Rocks

Words by: Justin Gillett | Images by: Michael J. Mullady

STS9 - Day Out of Time :: 07.25.09 :: Red Rocks Amphitheatre :: Morrison, CO

Day Out of Time :: 07.25.09 :: Red Rocks Amphitheatre
For multiple cultures around the world, time has been a thing not measured by clocks or the passing of days but by the seasons and changes in nature that dictate how all living-things interact. For several of these non-Western world civilizations, both past and present, the 13-moon calendar is used to help determine the specific stage of a season. This measurement of time sets the year into 13 months of 28 days and 52 weeks of seven days, thus creating a 364-day year. The 365th day, considered "The Day Out of Time," is not a day of the week, month or year but a day that's outside the understanding of the time spectrum. This unique day, which coincides with the astrological rising of stars and planets, is observed by many as an opportunity to celebrate life, art and culture. The Day Out of Time falls on July 25 and is the last day of the year for the 13-moon calendar. The day is a new year's event of sorts and is celebrated by over 90 countries around the world.

It's no wonder Sound Tribe Sector 9 decided to play their annual Red Rocks show on this illustrious day. To capitalize on the celebration, STS9 invited some musical friends to play this special event at the fabled amphitheater on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains. The combination of natural energy, emitted from the monolithic red rock pillars, combined with music and astrological timing was something to truly appreciate. People turned out in flocks to witness this spectacle and be a part of something that was bigger than an ordinary concert experience. The weather of the day was formidable, with on and off rain bursts. As concertgoers started showing up at Red Rocks, congregating in the lower parking lots to get their pre-show party on, the communal excitement of the day's festivities could be felt throughout the crowd. Occasionally the heady residents of the lot would burst into rowdy applause and cheers in anticipation of the music that was about to come. The lot scene was full of debauchery, as usual, with seedy characters sporting guilty looking grins as they roamed through the parked cars. Even though the music started at 4:15 p.m. many choose to spend as much time in the lot as possible, soaking up the unique vibe that's so characteristic of the Red Rocks lot. But for serious music lovers, the lot was abandoned in favor of the dual stage music venue inside.

The Album Leaf

Day Out of Time :: 07.25 :: Red Rocks
Performing on the main stage during the soft light of late afternoon, The Album Leaf was able to capitalize off the fading sun and play a set that worked perfectly with the crowd. Their soft, ethereal rock worked as a nice introduction to the intensity of some of the bands/producers/DJs to come. Coming from the shores of San Diego, the five-piece post-rock outfit has been around since 1998 playing a signature brand of ambient rock that's soothing yet somehow hard hitting. The musicianship of many of the band members was quite impressive. Sometimes drummer Timothy Reece would ditch his trap kit in favor of a keyboard. This switch in instruments added a more distinct, low profile sound that lacked a persistent driving force. This switch-up let the band concentrate on subtle musical arrangements and delicate solos. It's interesting that The Album Leaf does not have more notoriety within their respective sub-genre. They're a band that plays like they're at the top of their game yet they have no real prominence or a strong following. Even though the band didn't do a lot of singing, when they did it seemed to take away from the overall construction of their songs. If they stuck to their instruments and concentrated solely on the musical constructions the band might command more respect with potential new followers.


Daedelus :: Day Out of Time :: 07.25.09 :: Red Rocks
At the top of Red Rocks, a smaller second stage was set up to accommodate musicians (mainly producers) that might not need as much room as the main stage bands. Playing to a clearly enthused crowd, the great showman/musician Daedelus, dressed in some Victorian-era coach-driver's-suit, worked a Monome with impressive skill. As one of the leading innovators of this unique futuristic instrument, Daedelus has mastered the flashing board. His theatrical hand movements, as he ran his fingers across the switchboard, along with his unique 19th century costume, made Daedelus look like an eccentric composer reminiscent of Beethoven or Mozart. However, Daedelus' musical prowess does not lie in the rich orchestration of chamber instruments, but rather in the layering of electronic beats and noises emitted from his Monome. For his set at Red Rocks, Daedelus choose to play an all-out electro jam. There were no distinct build-ups or climaxes, just an unrelenting progression that seemed to be as pleasurable for the crowd as it was for the artist himself.

The Pnuma Trio

The Pnuma Trio :: Day Out of Time :: 07.25.09 :: Red Rocks
One of the more interesting and forward/futuristic sounding bands to emerge from the jamtronica scene, The Pnuma Trio showed the Red Rocks crowd that they truly are some preeminent up and comers. Comprised of Alex Botwin on bass guitar, Ben Hazelgrove on keyboards and Lane Shaw on drums, Pnuma definitely has the talent that's necessary to establish a band in the diverse musical community that they typically plays in. While Botwin's bass lines worked the groove, Shaw played his drums neck-deep in the pocket of songs on his simple four-piece jazz kit. To lend his part to the songs, Hazelgrove would add leading musical tones on his keyboard station. Even though the band lacks a guitar player, the strong musicianship of all members, especially Hazelgrove, make up for the lack of a guitar slinger. With the release of their most recent album, Character (JamBase review here), the Tennessee-based band has made a strong impression on electronica listeners. The time since Character's release has definitely given Pnuma the chance to master many songs off the album. The seamless transitions and communal musical direction that the trio displayed with their set at Red Rocks was ample evidence of a band that's obviously growing into its own unique sound.

Flying Lotus

As the sun started to seriously fade, Flying Lotus took command of the smaller stage. Visually giddy with his wide-mouthed grin, Flying Lotus, aka Steven Ellison, busted out some serious, bass-intensive songs that kept the crowd dancing throughout the duration of his set. His sample heavy brand of electronic music was retro sounding yet clearly modern. The California producer made waves with his unique staple of multi-genre music, and the wide variety of styles he crossed while performing was impressive. And though some of his sounds seemed to conflict, it all fit in the confines of the music. The heavy bass that permeated his set overpowered a lot of subtle sounds that Ellison set up, but the bottom end definitely worked to an advantage for the producer overall, forcing everyone in close proximity to dance and move to the bass thuds.

Pretty Lights

Pretty Lights :: Day Out of Time :: 07.25.09 :: Red Rocks
For Derek Vincent Smith, the mastermind behind Pretty Lights, playing the main stage at Red Rocks must have been a sort of homecoming. Smith, who hales from Fort Collins, CO, has emerged this past year as one of the most talented producers willing to take risks on stage. Playing with live drummer Cory Eberhard, the duo displays unabashed talent when performing live, and their set at Red Rocks saw Smith and Eberhard rocking at the pinnacle of their game. Almost simultaneously as Pretty Lights took the stage, intense rain started to fall from the sky. The rain was not a light drizzle, and the large drops persisted throughout the duration of the set. But that didn't deter the crowd from dancing in the open spigot of falling rain. The water definitely seemed to rile up the crowd. The audience was clearly relishing the bombastic blast of Pretty Lights' brand of sample and drum heavy music. For Smith and Eberhard, this past year has been nothing short of amazing. Emerging onto the electro circuit, seemingly out of nowhere, Pretty Lights has been touring the country consistently, hitting up summer festivals and smaller clubs. Pretty Lights, for many, seems to represent the future of electronic music. All of the band's albums are available for free on the group's website, which eliminates the need for any sort of tie to a major record label. By doing this, Smith and Eberhard basically have the freedom to do almost anything they want to. By cutting out any sort of revenue intake from albums, though, Pretty Lights has been forced to hone its live show and tour as frequently as possible - a trend the industry is undoubtedly progressing toward. For a year as intense as Pretty Lights has had, the group's show at Red Rocks was definitely a capstone performance. They played with such conviction and nuance that all in attendance could only marvel at the tonal constructions and dance uncontrollably to the lush music.

Sound Tribe Sector 9

STS9 :: Day Out of Time :: 07.25.09 :: Red Rocks
Almost as fast as the torrential downpour stared, it ceased as the members of STS9 took the stage. The band hasn't had much of a summer tour; they've managed to play a few festivals and that's about it. But, the lack of touring seems to work well for the Tribe. At Red Rocks the band cherished the hell out of the songs they played. STS9's signature electronica sound has led the group to new musical boundaries that are consistently crossed whenever the band performs. The group has long been identified with the "jam scene" but their sound is anything but jammy. STS9 is a group that's been together long enough to know the intricacies of their songs inside and out and still adds fresh layers to tunes that might seem tired.

The chemistry between the members of STS9 is astonishing, especially between bassist David Murphy and drummer Zach Velmer. Their on stage musical dialogue at Red Rocks proved without a doubt that their collaboration is consistently some of the most impressive within the confines of any band. With STS9 occasionally playing PA Sets (constructing songs with laptops) it's refreshing to see the members actually playing instruments, especially keyboardist David Phipps. The mastery and ingenuity Phipps displayed while behind his work station at Red Rocks once again highlighted a musician that is not hesitant to experiment with new things and further progress the band's musical diversity.

STS9 :: Day Out of Time :: 07.25.09 :: Red Rocks
To further enhance the crescendos and peaks of the concert, an impressive light show, a staple of the band's live performances, was set up to add to the group's overall appeal and heighten the experience. The sweeping, flashing, rotating illumination was well managed and mesmerizing. However, STS9 can't simply be written off as an electro band with an amazing light show. They're a group of musicians playing at the top of their game. The seemingly endless build-ups of many of STS9's songs might turn some listeners off but are constructed in such a way that showcases everyone's musical talents. While some listeners might point to the apparent lack of pervasive guitar, what Hunter Brown displayed at this show revealed a more talented player than some people give him credit for. STS9's performance saw each musician displaying a respect for each other that's impressive for a group that's been around for as long as this band. Not nearly enough can be said about the role percussionist Jeffree Lerner plays in the group's musical mix. The deep pocket that Lerner plays in might not be flashy or showy but without his seemingly undercover role the band's sound would likely run astray and become frail.

As the music continued and the night wore on, it was clear that the band was starting to conclude their set. There was not to be a third set (as many in the lot claimed there would be) - two was enough. As STS9 closed it was clear the band was proud of their performance and what they were able to accomplish with the entire Day Out of Time celebration.

STS9 :: 07.25.09 :: Red Rocks Amphitheatre :: Morrison, CO
Set 1: Tap-In, Beyond Right Now, Empires, The New Soma, F. Word, Dem Be, Arigato, Heavy
Set 2: Twilight (sample), Hidden Hand, Hidden Fist, Rent, What Is Love?, Be Nice, Jebez, The Unquestionable Supremacy of Nature, Atlas, From Now On
Encore: Roygbiv, EHM

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