The teams seemed to be about even. On one side of the Art Deco Wiltern Theatre stood 1,000 E-tarded electronica kids in Ed Hardy shirts, dark sunglasses and black high top sneakers with bright flourescant shoelaces. On the opposite side, 1,000 dirty E-tarded wooks in patchwork pants and hooded sweatshirts, declaring their favorite microbrews and waiting in anticipation. Somehwhere between my pal (who has requested to only be known as Nun Bukkake) and I stood wondering who would preveil. The lights went down, the PA fired up and the two sides charged each other in what is perhaps the most dangerous and deadly WALL OF DEATH in recorded history. Ok, that’s a lie; we were actually in line at the main lobby bar watching a bald Asian-American gentleman confiscate fake ID’s left and right when the S(ATL)anta Cruz rockers hit the stage on Friday night. How could we not? It was Friday night at the start of a three day weekend, we had free tickets and at $10 a drink, I was just grateful to be in Koreatown instead of Downtown as it had been way to long since I’d been inside the greatest 2,000+ seat theatre in Southern California.
With The Nun a few miles away watching some silly Werewolf movie, I showed up solo midway through the opening set by Nalepa Dub Orchestra. Watching the 11 piece act perform four songs, felt as if my brain had split in half, spread apart 50 feet and charged each other WALL OF DEATH style. Now, I will admit, I know nothing about electronic music, and generally need to be far from sober to enjoy such melodies. Listening to NDO, I felt that many of the beats/sounds/grooves/loops/computer-riffs/whateverthefuckyoucallem were solid, but the songs didn’t really seem to go anywhere. Lead by conductor/mad science collector Steve Nalepa, the musical pieces were great at building up, but there was never that epic release needed to satisfy the listener. It was also noticable that some of the musicians were not really comfortable with the themselves and their place in the music. In looking around the internet and not seeing much on this act, I have to assume they are just getting their start. While outside of my norm, I view the music as a nice place to visit. However, my biggest complaint was with how the band looked. The outfits either need to be all the same, or all different. Why do some have bowties and some don’t? Why is everyone in black except the one gal with the fiddle? Do members dress based of rank within the band? It’s clear Nalepa has a fire and passion for his music and, with additional performances, his Orchestra will become a well-oiled machine. But for the love of God y’all — your outfits were distracting and it would have come off so much better if you were dressed the same.
At the hype of my hippie days, I never managed to see STS9. I had a live recording or two and thought they were okay, but just never really had the drive to see them. In the months since Festival 8, I have started to pay attention/re-examine the “jamband” scene. Seeing a tweet by the Wiltern offering five free pairs of tickets, I decided to give the contest a shot. I am very glad I did, as STS9’s show was really freakin good. I didn’t know a single song title of the instrumental band nor did I recognize one song, and yet it didn’t matter. Within minutes of finding our spot in the middle of the floor, I found myself slipping back into my old ways. Eyes entrapped in the lights, dancing like the uncoordinated white boy I am (commonly called Noodle Dancing), and avoiding those well-educated, gay, Jewish gnome types who dance with pelvic thrusts and always give me that look that screams “I am tripping hard on E and mutual masturbation with straight men excites me”. Not that there is anything wrong with any of those things; it had just been a while since I felt such feelings. As great as Festival 8 was, it is a lot easier to get lost in an intimate venue like The Wiltern compared to a large polo field. Thankfully for me on this Friday night, getting lost was exactly what my mind needed.
STS9’s two hour set managed to stimulate multiple senses. While there is a strong electronica/house vibe inherit in the music, make no mistake STS9 is a rock band putting on a rock show. The two man rhythm section along with bassist David Murphy, created such a fat low-end groove that worked well for both wailing guitar riffs or well placed samples/loops. With a video screen assaulting your eyes with various images and phrases off and on all night, I never once found myself bored or understimulated. In fact, while sounding unique and original (at least to my ears), certain songs reminded me of bands I love. Thoughts of Ghostland Observatory, Dandy Warhols and Coheed & Cambria were all triggered on the packed theatre floor.
While the 1-2 punch of Phish breaking up/Michael Houser dying was a big reason I lost hope in the jam scene, location was another. It was easy to be a wannabe hippie in the late 1990’s in San Francisco. Moving to Los Angeles, the jam scene is not so existent. While many fail to draw here, and thus ignore us for friendlier markets, STS9 is the perfect “jamband” for LA. STS9 is able to go off deep into uncharted space while having that dance house dub whateverthefuckyoucall it groove that just seems to work in this cement sanitarium of a city. Now, as I sit here some forty-one hours after my first STS9 experience, I must ponder whether discovering them a decade earlier would have saved this hippie’s soul? I also must wonder if this was a one time relapse or perhaps whether I have fallen off the wagon? Hopefully I will find out if that miracle moe. Club Nokia ticket comes my way…
A direct descendant of the outlaw Jesse James and star of a 1983 Kilpatricks Bread radio commercial, Reverend Justito has taken his gift of ADHD and put it to good use by creating one of a kind concert reviews. A bootlegger at heart, the man lives off Whiskey, Taco Bell and the love of San Francisco sports teams.