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Wednesday, February 8

STS9 Brings the Heat to Chicago for Two Nights of Old Favorites and New Sounds to Help Ward Off the Cold. By: Michael Wallentin Photos by: Aaron Bradley

STS9 Brings the Heat to Chicago for Two Nights of Old Favorites and New Sounds to Help Ward Off the Cold. 

As February 3rd and 4th approached, they were already dates much anticipated in the early months of 2017. As the holidays were in full swing at the end of last year, STS9 dropped the great news of a long extensive tour. This included two-nights in Chicago, where photographer Aaron Bradley and I were excited to be able to attend. For almost a decade, the band has played to continuously sold out crowds in the city. We knew here at Grateful Music that with a band like this, anything was possible. Without surprise, the band had answered with an arsenal of top-tier material, old and new alike. They blew the roof of the Aragon Ballroom for their two-night run on the north-side of Chicago. Here’s our recap!

February 3rd, 2017

Set 1 : Supercluster, Tap in, Metameme, Crystal Instrument (frequencies jam), Give & Take, Mischief of a Sleepwalker, Arigato, Click Lang Echo, Kamuy. 

Set 2 : Modular Maneuvers > Rent, World Go Round, The Rabble > Call Jam > Dance > Open E > Inspire Strikes Back 

Encore : Havona Ascent, Sun Moon Stars. 
The first night was definitely a preparation for the second, however it wasn’t short of energy, or highlights. The band proved right off the bat that they could still bring the heat to any crowd, in any room. Opening with a jaw dropping ‘Supercluster‘ the rockets were primed for orbit. The lift-off was clean, and smooth through both ‘Tap In‘ and ‘Metameme’. Between the two songs, was an excellent segue that built a very strong collective tie to bring them together. A beautiful ‘Crystal Instrument’ was setting a romantic pace for that bit of the set. ‘Mischief of a Sleepwalker‘ arose as a surprise to me, and held that spot for much of the show. For the first set ‘Arigato‘ had the crowd in awe, the set had definitely reached a peak at that moment, especially through ‘Kamuy‘. The first set was definitely a crowd pleasing tease to say the least. We were all wondering what would the band bring to the table for the following set. 

To start the second set, percussion was on point, and the boogie shoes were out for the highflying pairing of ‘Modular Maneuvers’ and ‘Rent’. To note, ‘Rent’ has been a long standing favorite of mine. The band lost a bit of fluidity coming out of the jams, although the energy was still there. The band seemed to catch their wind, and the crowd again, as they broke into ‘The Rabble’. Which went into a whimsical jam, cascading itself into a ‘Call Jam’. After toying with the idea, the band exploded, as did the room, as ‘Dance’ made its way into the air. After the fantastic epic, we all took a much need breather for a few moments. 

To end the second set, I think the band had their mind set on the way they wanted to walk out of that building. There was nothing stopping them from showing Chicago, and for the most part the world, what they are still made of. Before too long ‘Open E’ came through the speakers, and we were in for a treat. This version was worth every bit of attention it deserved, soaring higher and higher, until it settled back into its roots. For what seemed like a sure end to the set, the band drove and twisted its' way into the hands of ‘Inspire Strikes Back’ which would indeed be the end of the set. Excellently placed as a final stand for what had made its way to be an excellent night on paper and in the room. Applause wasn't lacking for the entire night, but as both nights brought encores, the room was deafening. Perhaps louder than the band itself was when they were playing. “Havona Ascent’ was a beautiful choice and another reason STS9 has the following they do. Between that, and ‘Sun Moon Stars’ we were all left that night with a bit of a lighter feeling. Night one was a definite success. 
February 4th, 2017
Set 1 : Vapors> Move My Peeps > Kaya > Looking Back on Earth > Walk to the Light, Hidden Hand Hidden Fist, Get Loud > King Pharaohs Tomb

Set 2 : Economic Hitman, STS9, When the Dust Settles > Peoples, Water Song, Worry No More > Breathe In > Out of This World > Scheme 

Encore : Blu Mood > Potamus > Blue Mood 

As I said, the first night was most definitely a preparation for the second night. Once the band locked into the room the night before, the fireworks went off. Any fan of this band knew after the show ended, they had witnessed a glorious night of musical gifts from the band. It was one of the best sets, in my opinion, most people have ever seen from the Tribe, and certainly one for my books. To start the night, they blew the roof off with a seamless exposition of ‘Vapors’, ‘Move My Peeps’, ‘Kaya’, ‘Looking Back on Earth’, and ‘Walk to the Light’. The band was on absolute fire. The crowd was completely entangled in what was a flawless performance. We reacted as any band deserved, with enormous applause, and continuous praise for the band. 
The set didn’t end there by any means either. Entering into ‘Hidden Hand Hidden Fist’, another of my favorites, the band showed how easily they could take over a room. They were mixing new and old material effortlessly across an expanse of improvisational expertise. The band was masterfully bringing the crowd up and out of themselves before ending the first set with an excellent bang. ‘King Pharaoh's Tomb’ was the absolute icing on the cake for one of the best sets I have ever seen the band play. 

As the second set began, the tethering of the psychedelia that is the roots of the STS9 sound was in full effect. Especially with the inclusion of hype songs such as ‘When the Dust Settles’, which were aimed to please, as well as to show how much fun the band is having playing together. Highlights of the second set must include ‘Peoples’ and ‘Water Song’,my absolute favorite portion of the night, up to that moment. The room was in complete tune with the band at this point, getting their message across in every way. An honorable mention would also have to be given to the huge ‘Breathe In’ that was ‘Out of this World’. Pun intended. Not only was the night great in it's own right, the band had gifted us a beautiful farewell, in the form of the tunes ‘Blu Mood’, and ‘Potamus’. Something I was not expecting in the least. In Chicago, STS9 once again proved their brilliance.  

Words by: Michael Wallentin
Photos by: Aaron Bradley
Edited by: Greg Heffelfinger

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