April 20th, 2012 — we had this day circled on our calendar for months. Earth Day is great, and 4/20 is too, but in our minds they were overshadowed by the epicness that is Sound Tribe Sector 9. After it became known that the Great Cycles Spectacle would be touching down in the Bay area at the historic Fox Theatre in Oakland, there wasn’t room in our thoughts for much else.
After a festive afternoon at Hippie Hill in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, we found ourselves making the trek to the Fox. As our BART train made its way closer to our stop, you could tell that many at this station were headed in the same direction. Their faces were covered with smiles with a hint of anxiousness as everybody followed one another towards the bright marquee.
Approaching the doors made our pulse quicken and our breath grow short. We knew it was time. We were there. We had made it.As we walked in, we heard a familiar sound. It was NOSAJ THING dropping his song Aquarium (made popular to the masses from Kid Cudi sampling it in his albums title track Man on the Moon). It was great to see Nosaj do his thing and warm up the anxious crowd.
After he ended, the anticipation began to build. The stage began to look familiar again. Laptops, drums, bass, guitars… the instruments needed for musical bliss. When the lights dimmed, it seemed like a heavy weight was lifted off the audiences shoulders, the time had arrived for the spectacle.
Normally when the lights are dimmed for a show, it means the artists are coming out on stage to begin playing however with STS9 it meant it was time to get everybody in the right mindset. To go along with their Mayan theme, an futuristic, alien type voice came over the speakers: “GREETINGS INHABITANTS OF OAKLAND, WELCOME TO THE GREAT CYCLE SPECTACLES.” It went on to explain the significance of the gathering and really set the stage for the evening. The Mayan-esque lighting rig began to flutter with cryptic messages and lights, and one could only look at it and ponder ‘What does this all even mean?’Without enough time to even finish pondering those thoughts, the boys graced the stage, saluted the crowd, and began to take everybody on an intergalactic journey.
Opening with “ABCees,” it felt as if the first stop on the journey with STS9 was right in the wilderness with the Mayans. It was a perfect way to start a night filled with mystery and uncertainty about what was set to come next. After the audiences feet were really moving, a familiar, space-odyssey like riff began, it was none other the title track from their latest EP “When The Dust Settles.” You could see momentum build within the crowd: eyes were wide, jaws went to the floor and everybody moved in sync to the futuristic groove.
Just when you thought their was time to cool down, they continued on with hits “Hidden Hand, Hidden Fist” and “F Word,” leaving the crowd with no choice but to keep moving. As mentioned before, this was a night full of mystery so what was coming next was unexpected by even the biggest of fans. It was hard to recognize at first, but as they kept going on a familiar sound filled the room that was none other than “T.W.E.L.V.E.” being played for the first time since March of 2007.One of the best part of this rarity being played was the fact that they played such an extended version and really jammed out with it.
And just when we thought we had seen it all, familiar sounds filled the room yet again. This time it wasn’t STS9’s original music we were hearing but rather their cover of “Shakedown Street” by The Grateful Dead. Covers happen all of the time (especially in the case of jam bands and the Grateful Dead) but this was extremely special given the history that the Grateful Dead had with the Fox and their association with the culture of the Bay Area. It really felt as if we were being taken back to the 60’s for a Dead show.
We were brought back to reality with the sounds of “EHM” and Aimlessly (which included a “Nautilus” tease). STS9 continued the journey with the hypnotic yet haunting guitar solos that are “GLOgli.” You could tell that the crowd was in a trance because just when it ended, the band brought it down a notch with “Circus.” The slower jam was much welcomed by the crowd how was ready for a short but needed break between sets.After some cool air, and a few drinks, it was time to continue the journey.
Though it ultimately ended up being much shorter than anticipated, the 2nd set of STS9 did not let down. Opening with “MOD,” the level of funk had been brought to new heights. With the Mayan symbols flashing in sync with the music, the dance party continued on! To keep the funky vibe going, more slick bass lines were needed. Much to the audiences delight, “Grow” delivered just that. There should have been a disclaimer prior to the show about the journey that was going to take place, because following an amazing rendition of “Grow,” we were brought back into space with a complete rework of “March.” This rework continued on with an intergalactic theme seen throughout the night.
The set was closed out in typical STS9 fashion with a mind-blowing version of “Tooth” followed by “The Unquestionable Supremacy of Nature.” Though it was clear the night was dwindling down and coming to a close, everybody knew that STS9 wanted to send everybody back to reality with a bang. The encore started out with a heart pounding version “King Pharohs Tomb” which finally escalated into a relaxing version of “Scheme Reprise” that sent everybody home smiling.
It was clear that there is a reason for gatherings like the Great Cycle Spectacles. It is all about coming together as one, and letting the music take our minds to new places. The night may have come to a close but the memories of the journey would not soon be forgotten.