STS9 w/ The Polish Ambassador @ House of Blues 10.20.11

by Suzie Conway (Communications) and Leslie Fowle (English), published October 26th 2011

photos by Leslie Fowle

An assault of the senses was delivered via STS9 at the House of Blues. STS9’s brand of instrumental electronica is truly best experienced in a live setting. A giant dance floor, a roaring sea of flashing lights and more than a few drunk and disorderly patrons seem to enhance the music rather than hinder it.

The action started off with a set from The Polish Ambassador, a DJ out of California. He got the crowd revved up early with a twisted remix of the hip-hop classic “Regulate” by Warren G and Nate Dogg. Mixing everything from Sublime sing-along classic “What I Got” to not-so-classic sing-along “Milkshake” by Kelis, he showed his variety and adeptness at gauging the mood of the audience. Soon after the end of his set, a supremely stoked audience awaited the arrival of STS9.

Fresh out the gate, STS9 delivered strong beats and riffs. But for most of the performance, the stage was awash in a sea of lasers (blazers, tasers and all kinds of azers!) that masked the faces of the STS9ers. Strong tracks included arguably their biggest hit, “Hidden Hand, Hidden Fist.” The slow crescendo of guitars and synths alike melded together for an all-encompassing wall of awesome. “Shock Doctrine” also electrified the crowd, inciting plenty of arm swaying and hand clapping that kept the crowd moving long after its conclusion.

But while this performance was spectacular for the eyes and ears, the routine of pairing smooth guitars, pounding bongos and pulsating lights grew old. The trouble with a heavily improvised jam performance is the lack of being able to stop. A change in mood or atmosphere would have kept the creative juices flowing, but STS9 kept to this schtick for a solid three hours. While the songs were technically strong and inspired the audience to dance, they seemed to fall into a rut towards the end of the set.

STS9 benefits and falters under their trademark light show. While it transforms the music from laid-back jam sessions to a crashing wave of rock, spotlights and lasers seem to take precedence over guitars and drums. While those under certain hallucinogenic drugs probably wouldn’t mind the onslaught of visual stimuli, those paying closer attention would find something lacking.

Not to STS9’s fault, none of their songs really distinguish themselves from one another. There’s not a hit single, nor a charismatic front man to reenergize the audience. It’s just the same music and lights—which can worked for the first two hours. But after awhile, it left us wanting more. It’s clear the band is talented and capable of diversity, but they seem to stay in their comfort zone too often. It would have been far more fascinating if they ventured elsewhere musically every now and then.

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