Words By Coleman Schwartz
Photos By J. Scott Shrader (J. Scott Shrader Photography)
STS9’s long-anticipated return to the Pacific Northwest took the band up to Seattle for a Saturday night throwdown. After stellar performances the previous two evenings in Portland and Eugene, fans were eager to see if the band could continue their upward trend in the Emerald City. The show had originally been booked at Showbox Market, an 1,100-capacity venue in the heart of downtown Seattle. After a quick sellout, the decision was made to expand the capacity by moving the event to Showbox SODO, an 1,800-capacity venue in Seattle’s industrial district. This move was met with ample backlash from fans, who expressed concern about SODO’s location, acoustics and low ceilings.
Luckily for the fans, the band and their crew went the extra mile to ensure that these potential issues were mitigated (aside from location). Lighting Director Saxton Waller did have to use a smaller rig than for previous shows on the run, due to low ceilings near the stage, but he skillfully setup his onstage disco balls to extend the show vertically. His performance, as usual, was beyond impressive. The room was mixed outstandingly, and I never encountered the poor acoustics that had everyone so worried before the show.
“MOD” contained a tight improv section, spurred on by frenetic drumming from Zach Velmer. This man has boundless energy and a clear love for his work, as evidenced by the smile plastered to his face. The band’s jamming doesn’t involve a lot of solos, focusing instead on great full-band interplay with Velmer acting as the glue holding them together. They next went into “Shock Doctrine,” which absolutely blew my mind. This song features extensive electronic contributions from Phipps, Brown and percussionist Jeffree Lerner (master of both the handsonic and the chimes), and served as an amazing juxtaposition to the more typical jam-rock sound of “MOD.” It was so impressive to see a band navigate both ends of the spectrum with this type of efficacy.
My first highlight of the second set was definitely banger track “EHM.” This song features heavy synthesizer wailing from Phipps over neat ambient samples. It is an adventure in dynamics, ranging from relaxing ambient music to something you might expect to hear in a packed-out nightclub. The “Hidden Hand Hidden Fist,” that followed featured a driving jam that was propelled along by Rocklin and Phipps, with Brown taking a backseat. The band used the next song, “March” to get extremely trancey. Velmer kicked up the tempo and allowed the band’s electronic side to run wild, as the crowd moved along.
“Mischief of a Sleepwalker” saw the band return to a guitar-based sound, at least initially. The song eventually worked its way into a spellbinding downtempo electronic jam that was fleshed out over a few minutes, before they worked their way back to complete “Mischief.” “Scheme” followed, which reminded me of break music and pushed the energy level over the top. The set-closing “Inspire Strikes Back” saw Rocklin put on an absolute clinic. She is one of the most talented bassists I have ever seen, with her perfect pocket playing and phrasing. As the band finished the song, the crowd screamed for more. The band rewarded us for our enthusiasm with not one, but two encores.
Set One: Vapors, Only Light Remains, Tap-In, MOD > Modular (Improv) > MOD, Shock Doctrine, Blu Mood, Totem > Fame*
Set Two: Glogli, EHM, Hidden Hand Hidden Fist, March, Mischief of a Sleepwalker, Scheme, Inspire Strikes Back
Encore: Poseidon, When the Dust Settles Reprise
*David Bowie cover
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