This is relevant, because Sound Tribe plays at least once a year in Lawrence, usually in the Fall. Their show at the Pageant in St. Louis every Spring is something true STS9 fans from all around travel to see. There were even more of my friends there this year, and I hope everyone I know reads this so they’ll come next year!
Sound Tribe always chooses some great songs for their concerts. Not every song is what one might consider ideal for dancing, but every set includes a variety of drum-thumping party hits, bass-pounding house jams, spacey electronic numbers, and the indescribable STS9 sound that anyone who has seen them live can understand. Among the popular numbers Sound Tribe played last night were Equinox, EHM, and Tooth.
I’m not sure I’ve ever heard EHM at a concert in person, but if I had, there is no way it was as good as the version STS9 played last night. They rocked out the bass and drums that make this hit so viciously epic and took the electronic-styling to a whole new level. Whatever people’s personal preferences may be, among some moderately mellower songs, EHM stood out as the climax of the concert, and with good reason.
The crowd was mostly appreciative fans. “Sound Tribe kids” – the youths in flat-billed baseball hats worn at awkward, supposedly fashionable angles, wearing colorful, patterned hoodies – know how to have a good time and show their love. Everyone familiar with STS9 screamed with joy when each song started, immediately recognizing the intros.
The key to having a great experience at an STS9 show (because Sound Tribe shows are always more than just concerts, they’re adventures) is having or finding good company. Going with a whole car full of friends, or finding friendlies at the show to dance with means more personal space and a comfort zone, in what is otherwise a butt-to-gut, swimming-against-the-stream, sardine can. But being packed in with other fans, hooting and hollering, waving and dancing, is part of the STS9 experience. However, friends make it all much more memorable.
From start to finish Sound Tribe played with passion and energy that is as contagious as it is addictive. The band started at about 10, took a short set break at 11, but…then they only played until 11:30 before leaving the stage…
For about ten minutes the crowd patiently clapped and cheered for the encore. Finally the band came back out, took a bow, and urged the crowd to keep cheering before they played their first song. The encore was two songs, which slowly built toward their dance-able climaxes. But no one stayed to cheer for a second encore. The band finished 2 songs, and left the stage again, and as one the crowd turned and started cramming together around the doors. At midnight. So early.
Before that, the band had asked the audience to cheer more, several times. The first time it seemed like they were just feeling the crowd’s energy. The second time Murph waved; he came off as insecure But by the third time they begged; they were starting to look desperate.
The Pageant is a large venue, comparable to Liberty Hall here in Lawrence. But aside from that, this place has nothing good going for it. When you’re entering, you’re patted down by an old lady, your I.D. and your face are scrutinized by a grumpy looking man, and then another grumpy looking man plants a stamp on your hand. Any outside drinks, even an unopened bottle of water, has to stay outside. Anyone who pauses in the aisles of the venue are ordered to move it or lose it by men in gray t-shirts. The bar is kept in a fenced-off area with guards at the two entrances. Only people stamped as 21 can pass in, and no drinks are allowed out of it, unless the drinker wants to go up to the balcony on the second floor. The roomy upstairs area of rows of theater seats is also reserved for the 21 and older folks.
The band played The Unquestionable Supremacy of Nature, but, from early on, I noticed the main melody of the song was missing. Anyone familiar with the song can recognized the tenor voices of keyboard synthesizers whose sound gradually moves from electronic guitar, to synthy keys, to bird-like flutes and more were turned WAY down. The bass, drums, and other percussion played the song as usual, with the remixed variations of a rap song played on queue, but that main part of the song, the part that really MAKES the song, was turned down so much, as if it was being played off of one of the band member’s laptops. You could only make out bits of it when the bass, drums, percussion, and other parts were simultaneously silent or at a quiet lull.
I’m definitely not the only one that noticed. The whole crowd appeared to lose their spunk every time the song rang painfully empty, missing that key, lead part.
I would be more upset, except that I’ve seen this happen before, at lots of shows, and heard it in recordings from live performances. It feels terrible to complain about my favorite band, but the idea that the fans are paying good money to hear my favorite band mess up a great song is just too frustrating.
Overall, this concert was even better than some of the shows I’ve seen at festivals. But it was not the best. The version of EHM, the great crowd, and my great friends are what I’ll remember in the long run. But the Pageant isn’t really a great venue. And the band totally messed up The Unquestionable Supremacy of Nature, and they came off as rather desperate, demanding the crowd cheer so much, when they stopped playing at midnight… Altogether, a mixed review for a mixed show…
Sound Tribe is playing a second night in St. Louis. They will also be playing at Wakarusa this summer in Arkansas. The festival may still keep the name it got from the Wakarusa river outside of Lawrence, but the festival grounds in the Arkansas Ozark National Forest is much better. Don’t miss a Sound Tribe show on account of a lame venue or a messed up song. There’s hardly a live concert available that compares.