Superstorm Sandy: STS9 and A Great Cycle Spectacle
In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the coming together of people in the face of adversity presented itself unabated with the arrival of STS9 in New York just days later. What began as the simple desire to review music for our readers was shaped by the multitude of human emanations that no one can control in times like these. In Sandy’s wake we were left with a narrative of New Yorkers coming to terms with reality. That this two night run was occurring in the almost unblemished Times Square, whose lights stayed on as bright as day throughout the storm, seemed unimaginable or insignificant to many outside the bubble of surreality that surrounds 42nd Street in New York. While the storm may have separated, battered and plunged the city into darkness, the STS9 shows were, at least for a few thousand New Yorkers, a chance to escape the chaos left behind, get out of their apartments after a week of paralysis, and at least attempt to have fun. Five days after Sandy hit, however, just getting to Times Square of all places was anything but easy.
Hurricane Sandy swept across the East Coast leaving thousands of people homeless, cold, hungry and most of all devastated. I’ve sat and thought to myself about this tragedy that was Superstorm Sandy, and like most I’m left pondering what the future has in store– each person looking to the next for answers.
Images on TV have flashed across the screen over the past week, showing scenes of of devastated neighborhoods only blocks from my apartment. NY is typically not known as the friendliest place on earth when it comes to the locals, but this week has proven something that comes to light every time tragedy faces the city. Just attempting to get to Sound Tribe on Friday night was a journey in itself that gives a little taste of this banding together mentality.
“Music is very spiritual, it has the power to bring people together.” – Edgar Winter
This past weekend, for me, was a time to celebrate life and share an experience that was unforgettable. For that I thank STS9. Music has always been driving force for me, as those of you who were with me this weekend can attest. After a week of no power, transportation and for many a warm meal, people from all over made the– literally– perilous journey to New York City for two nights of ‘The Great Cycle Spectacles’.
“Music is moonlight in the gloomy night of life.” – Jean Paul
Traveling to Manhattan from Brooklyn was definitely a hassle. With no trains running across the East River from Brooklyn to Manhattan, it seemed like we might have to walk. Luckily we were informed about the East River Ferry only hours before the show. After some complex travel arrangements, we finally set off to make our way to the crippled island of Manhattan. Our journey began with a walk to one of the few subway lines still running. Not that it did us much good as we were forced to get out after two stops due to flooding. From there it was a twenty-minute walk to the East River Ferry at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. The ferry ride was packed with people trying to make their way to points beyond (many of which were essentially quarantined to Brooklyn). Something you will only see during times of crisis in New York: the ferry, while packed with people, had a subdued atmosphere. People helping each other, allowing others to walk in front and no one impatiently tapping their feet because other passengers were disembarking at a slow pace. We were able to take the Ferry to Williamsburg, another part of Brooklyn further north. From there we had another twenty-minute walk to a friend’s house. Our friend with a car could not even go into Manhattan without us since all of the East River crossings had occupancy restrictions in place of three or more people. From there we took our friend’s car over the Williamsburg Bridge, which just minutes before had removed occupancy restrictions to cross. Finally we made it to Manhattan. A journey it was for sure, but a success nonetheless. Driving across the Williamsburg Bridge, we could see all of lower Manhattan hidden in the darkness; a darkness that would hopefully soon be lit for all of the weary souls roaming the streets.
“And the live show is still our main thing.” — Jerry Garcia
Night one kicked off with Activation. The first half of the set [listed below] was good, but it was mostly slow, which in my opinion was a warmup for Saturday night. With a crowd well below capacity, the full energy I’m used to was somewhat lacking. For those of us that made it there, that was fine. It was a time to reflect and enjoy the company around us while listening to some live music. For most people it was their first time out of their apartment in days, and for others it was a chance to finally be in a building with water and power. The first half of the show involved a lot of asking and telling about if you made it through the storm OK and what unreal scenes you had witnessed. Most people were fine, but many had lost everything, including loved ones. STS9 was everyone’s chance to forget about what was going on outside the walls of the theater and just be in the moment. Luckily the moments got better as the night went on. Near the end of the set was a fantastic rendition of Atlas, in which deep bass shook the room in a way that only Sound Tribe does. The set ended strong, with (to my pleasure) a very danceable EHM.
From the first notes of the second set you could tell the band was capitalizing on the increased energy in the room. Additional concert-goers had been trickling in throughout the first set after long delays making it through the disabled transit and road systems. The set started off with a crowd-rousing cover of The Walk by The Cure. I enjoyed most of the second set, but the most memorable song do the night was surely the Daft Punk cover Robot Rock. Fast-paced and high-energy, this cover really got the crowd the closest to a fever pitch that it would be all night. The set ended and we made the journey home, thankfully a quicker one than in the car we had arrived in.
“Music doesn’t lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.” – Jimi Hendrix
Fortunately on Saturday one train across the East River began to run. We ONLY had to take three trains and walk for about twenty-five minutes to get to Best Buy from Brooklyn. Upon arriving at the theater it was clear the night would be drastically different than the night before. Arriving right after Sound Tribe went on, there were scores of hopeful concert goers standing in Time Square hoping to snag any extras from the night. It seemed like everyone that was unable to make it the night before made an extra effort to get to Saturday’s show.
The band did not waste any time Saturday night. They started with a bang and ended with a bang. Prior to Friday night’s show, I hadn’t seen Sound Tribe since Gathering of the Vibes (which, by the way, was an outstanding show). With the theater packed with smiles and familiar faces, the energy in the room was electric.
The first set on Saturday night was fantastic. The highlight was an inspired When the Dust Settles. The first set was fun and danceable the whole way through. The second set included a memorable rendition of Rent and ended with a high energy version of What is Love that brought out some guitar shedding that one does not usually associate with Sound Tribe. The encores for Saturday night were two fan favorites done right. Circus was the first– almost melancholy and light-hearted. The band perfectly captured the pent-up energy that so many of the night’s concert-goers were looking to expend at the show. They ended with Instantly, my personal favorite Sound Tribe song. To my delight, they did it justice. While the song is reliant on samples, the computer-generated parts of the song were far from the centerpiece. The rhythmic tempo that they had captured for most of the second set was not lost for the encores, resulting in some of the best playing of the night.
While it still took over two hours to get home (the small distance of a little over 6 miles), I was happy with my decision to make the trek out of Brooklyn and into Manhattan both nights.
While mass transit in NYC has, at a snail’s pace, come back on line and for the most part is working at normal capacity, the road to recovery is still being traveled by people throughout the region. Over a week later and there are still people picking up the pieces of their broken lives. There are still people in New York hungry and cold; people in the the suburbs of Long Island and New Jersey without power who would have been left alone to clean up the tattered remains of their lives if it weren’t for the random acts of kindness from fellow New Yorkers. Over 100 of our friends, neighbors and relatives were taken from us in the storm, including the brother of one my my best friends, Jacob Vogelman, to whom this post is dedicated. Sandy taught New Yorkers something that, while we never forgot after 911, we can be proud to be reminded of in what seems to be a decade-long cycle; we can pull together when times are tough and help those in our midst most in need. Sound Tribe‘s arrival in NY coincided with the end of one of these cycles and in turn the beginning of another. Those fortunate enough to be able to attend these shows were able to forget, if only for a few hours, the futility and hardship going on outside the walls of the Best Buy Theater, past the blinding lights of Times Square; let their emotions go and let the music take hold.
I’ll leave you with these last words. Use music to your advantage, shine some light and share with others. Whether you decide to volunteer your time at a local shelter, bring clothing or food to family/friends in need, or donate to the American Red Cross, remember that YOU can make a difference in someone’s life. For me this is the meaning of the Great Cycle Spectacles. For those of you reading this from some distant state of some blessedly untouched area of New York, remember there are still many in need of help and only together can we make it through this trying time in the history of our city. Sandy is something you will tell your grandchildren about. Being able to tell them you went and helped your neighbors and friends in need in the aftermath of the storm will be a proud moment to share with our next generation. While you may have food, heat, power, and internet, remember those who do not.
Friday November 2, 2012
I: Activation, Scheme Reprise 2012, ABCees, Metememe, Looking Back on Earth Grow, Atlas, EHM
II: The Walk (The Cure) NIN> Tooth, Be Nice Inspire Breathe In, GLOgli, Robot Rock (Daft Punk), Kamuy> Drums> Evasive E: Empires Tokyo
Saturday November 3, 2012
I: Vapors> Simulator, Hidden Hand, Hidden Fist, When The Dust Settles> Arigato, Beyond Right Now TWELVE> Moonsockets
II: Really What, Scheme> Rent, March Move, My Peeps, MOD, Bloody Beatroots> Unq, What is Love Encore: Circus, Instantly
In Loving Memory of Jacob Vogelman, a victim of Superstorm Sandy
Photos credits Lannar Pursuit Photography and Sensible Reason.