Santa Cruz’s STS9 took 1,200 strong in the South Shore Room at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe on Thursday night down a galactic rabbit hole of dance that was a thing of beauty.
The five-piece instrumental jamtronica act has long been a staple in live music and jam communities for its transcendent music that seamlessly splices together house, dub, drum and bass, psychedelic rock, trance and other assorted elements into dynamic grooves.
Hunter Brown (guitar/Midi keyboard), Alana Rocklin (bass guitar), Jeffree Lerner (percussion/handsonic), David Phipps (keyboards), and Zach Velmer (drums) have honed a sound that prefers the group over the individual, the rhythm over the solo, and to dive into a sold-out STS9 show was quite the experience in tapping into a communal dance spirit.
If there was any type of singular purpose among the exuberant fans, it was dancing until their bodies couldn’t smile any harder. From the very first crystalline piano notes and seductive bounce of “Poseidon,” the crowd was picking up exactly what STSP was laying down and couldn’t have been more hyped for the next 2.5 hours of interstellar vibes. Gold jumpsuits, sequined hats, body lights and neon face paint created a shimmering mosaic of individuals radiating from the sonic nectar flowing through them.
The course of the night was always held in very capable hands, as STS9 works its shows like DJs leading acid house and techno raves in Berlin in the early 1990s. There’s always continuity and purpose in the group’s direction and Brown, Lerner, and Phipps’ abilities to layer so many different bioluminescent guitar riffs and twinkling snythesizers over Rocklin’s entrancing bass and Velmer’s clockwork drumming gives the band a wide range of textures with whitch to play.
“Metameme” was a deep pocket of halogenic warmth driven by a looping synthesizer that wobbled like a wheel on an off-kilter axis. The woozy R&B groove of the opening measures was kicked into hyperspace by Velmer’s drum ‘n’ bass beat and the intuitive crowd picked up its pace accordingly. “Squares and Cubes” was a monster jam that was highlighted by an unrelenting section of crunchy trip-hop. What STS9 did so well was building the crowd up to the point of dance exhaustion on surging electronic riffs before mellowing it all out into a calming wave of deep bass and dub.
The show was a steady current of musical vignettes that streamed by like a kaleidoscopic parade, only stopping for a short break in between sets. You could float in and out of songs as your body and mind desired, getting lost in either the hypnotic groove, the astonishing light show, the mass of bodies or everything at once. The teeming melodic house of “New Dawn, New Day” was punctuated by iridescent strobes and sprinkling shatters of light and “Inspire Strikes Back” felt like a pulsing trip underneath the Northern Lights.
An STS9 show has all the elements that make up just about any live concert: lights, music and a crowd of people. It is amazing how such simple a combination can create such profound experiences and STS9’s show was one of those more memorable experiences in South Lake in a while.