Take Us to Funkytown: Sound Tribe Sector 9 Fall Tour 2014 Hits Pittsburgh
Sound Tribe Sector 9 rolled into Pittsburgh last week with their newest addition, bassist Alana Rocklin, in tow to perform at Stage AE. The funk-filled dance party that went down in the Steel City this past Friday left only one impression: it’s a whole new era for Tribe.
Luke the Knife, the side project of Lotus guitarist and keyboardist Luke Miller, started the night off right with a set of upbeat nu-disco heavy on the funk. Though the venue did not fill up until Tribe took the stage, LtK’s set had a decent-sized gathering of fans cutting a rug to remixes both new and old, including one of his earliest re-rubs – his take on Lykke Li’s “Follow Rivers.” He closed his set on the highest of notes with a reworked version of Lotus song “Tip of the Tongue,” doing the fan-favorite original justice. This may have been the first time LtK has ever remixed a song of Miller’s main gig – at the very least it was the first time I’ve seen it happen in the dozen-or-so shows of his I’ve managed to catch.
By the time Tribe emerged from the darkness the first floor was packed and the crowd was abuzz with anticipation. For many, it would be the first time seeing the group perform with its new bassist and after a ridiculously stellar two-night performance at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado expectations were high.
The band certainly didn’t disappoint. For one, the light show was phenomenal. Credit is surely due to lighting designer Saxton Waller, who orchestrated gorgeously geometric and perfectly timed displays that were stellar to say the least. Particularly notable were the numerous disco balls lining the lighting rigs hanging over the band – Waller hit the disco balls with his lights at just the right times, resulting in a colorful explosion that was at times almost too much for the brain to handle.
Funk was the name of the game that night – Luke the Knife’s funky disco tunes were a perfect match for Tribe’s funk-heavy grooves. The energy remained high throughout both sets. One particularly memorable sequence came when Tribe played a hauntingly sexy version of “Vibyl” before seamlessly transitioning into new song “Only Light Remains,” which hit the crowd like a high speed locomotive of funk. The ambient classic piano jam that went into Tribe’s classic “Circus” ended the first set with a bang, taking the sea of fans to a magical music kingdom that made you feel like you were under water at times. When a song makes you feel like you’ve entered another world like that you know the musicians are doing it right. As a music fan I live for those moments.
The highlight of the night, however, came with the encore. I am a fan of Tribe, but there have been many times I’ve felt their songs have ended prematurely or would have been better with a segue and I’ve been left wishing the music would have continued. I even had a few of these moments during the show in Pittsburgh (though not as often as when I’ve seen the band perform with former bassist David Murphy). There were none of these moments during the encore. The encore Tribe gave Pittsburgh is how I wish every moment of live Tribe would be. The crowd collectively lost it when the group reemerged and started off with “Music Us” which featured a killer classical piano jam. Alana Rocklin then stole my heart forever by breaking out her standing bass for “Dance” and segued into “Crystal Instrument,” which really was taken up a notch by the sexy strut of Rocklin’s acoustic grooves. She then switched back to the electric bass while the band continued playing to transition into “World Go Round Reprise” and then went back into the end of “Crystal Instrument” with electric bass. My jaw was on the floor.
If I had any question as to whether I would like the newest manifestation of Sound Tribe Sector 9, the band’s show in Pittsburgh left me with no doubts. I liked Tribe before, but this? I love it. I love everything about it. Alana Rocklin, you are my hero. The future is looking bright for STS9 and if you know what’s good for you you’ll check out their current tour when it hits your town.