North Coast Music Festival 2011, Saturday: STS9
Sound Tribe Sector 9, or STS9, headlined the mainstage Saturday night at North Coast Music Festival. The five-piece Atlanta band have developed into something of a touring juggernaut over the last ten years, having built a devoted following performing on the festival and jam band circuit. They brought their instrumental, electronic tinged grooves to Union Park Saturday night, playing to a damp and excited crowd.
Hunter Brown (guitar) and David Murphy (bass) switched off taking the lead on songs, most of which ran north of fifteen minutes. Brown and Murphy add loops of reverb-heavy guitar or pounding bass lines over pulsing rhythms created by Zach Velmer (drums), David Phipps (keyboard/laptop) and Jeffree Lerner (auxiliary percussion). The combination of live and recorded sounds meshed together in a reasonably organic way, with samples and beats complementing the bass, drums and guitars. Some of STS9's creations sounded akin to as if Kid A-era Radiohead mated with Phish. Members worked together to conjure intriguing sonic textures, with only the occasional distracting funk bass solo.
The band is getting back into the swing of festivals and touring following a brief hiatus forced by health issues on Brown’s part. Their time spent playing together live showed. They flexed their chops and cranked out the crowd-pleasing space symphonies one would expect from the most popular of the electronic jam bands booked at North Coast. Not every instrumental techno band can build enough credibility and cross-over appeal to open for Jay-Z.
The allotted hour and a half represented a relatively short set for STS9, who played a four-hour marathon jam at Bonnaroo earlier this summer. The two songs they played to end the night, off their new EP "When the Dust Settles," were full of ’80s keyboard melodies, computer-modulated vocal samples and prominent bongo accompaniment. The crowd matched the band’s energy, bringing out full force noodle-dancing and hand waving. With the Chicago skyline providing a fitting backdrop, STS9 brought day two of North Coast to a close. So far, Saturday has stood tall as the most musically adventurous day of the festival. As bands like Sound Tribe System 9 demonstrate, the old divisions between rock, rap, electronic and live music have for most part disappeared, at least at North Coast.