Chalice Brings Together Lovers of Music, Glass, Hash and Art Along Old Route 66
STS9 was headlining Chalice for the second straight year and once again drew a devoted audience that reveled in the chance to catch the jamtronica band’s groovy instrumental jams in an intimate setting under the summer stars.
The Chalice California Festival returned to San Berdoo for a second consecutive summer and the event has easily become one of the top highlights of the Golden State’s annual event calendar for those with a passion for music, glass, hash and art. That’s right, Chalice has a Prop 215 medical cannabis area with exhibits of artful glass pipes and dispensary vendors giving out free dabs (a high-powered bong hit of sorts from hashish and related cannabis concentrates known as wax, crumble, shatter, etc.) The event wouldn’t even be possible in most states, but California’s cutting edge medical cannabis laws have set the stage for these kind of tricks on the former Route 66.
“Well if you ever plan to motor west, just take my way it's the highway that's the best… Kingsman, Barstow, San Bernadino, Would you get hip to this kindly trip, And take that California trip,” sang Chuck Berry in his famous song “Route 66” back in rock’s early years. The kindly California trip has been a rite of passage for American music fans since the ‘60s, but you won’t find this kind of event in San Francisco or Los Angeles. Hitman Glass thereby scored some major “heady points” by putting Chalice together again to celebrate the medical cannabis culture with the unique art and music that goes along with it.
Vendors from around the Golden State were on the premises including Nature’s Best Meds from San Diego, Green Buddha Collective from East LA and Badfish Extracts from Santa Cruz (advertising a 100 percent sativa Chocolate Thai). There was also a live glass blowing exhibit and some dazzling glassware art on display including pipe versions of R2D2, a San Francisco Giants cap, a Flash Gordon style laser blaster and a stunning Hopi kachina doll for sacred ceremonies. All of this was in conjunction with the competition to crown the state's top medical cannabis concentrates.
The musical lineup was overloaded with DJs and hip-hoppers, with a couple of notable exceptions. These included Beats Antique from Oakland, who were oddly scheduled for 2 pm on Sunday afternoon, a bizarre scheduling choice as both band and audience probably would have been better served if Beats Antique had been scheduled to precede headliner STS9. The two bands have a complimentary sound to some degree and many attendees weren’t even on the premises by 2 pm. But Chalice did right by saving the best for last, with STS9 (aka Sound Tribe Sector 9) closing out the festivities with a dynamic set that started around 11:15 pm and went until about 1 am.
The jamtronica band was headlining Chalice for the second straight year and once again drew a devoted audience that reveled in the chance to catch the band’s groovy instrumental jams in an intimate setting under the summer stars. The quintet threw down a variety of material from throughout their almost two decade career, pleasing both old school fans and those looking for fresh material. “Hidden Hand Hidden Fist” from the band’s 2008 Peaceblaster album was an early highlight, with a surging jam on the tune dedicated to shining a light on the injustices that plague the world’s neoliberal economic system.
The set’s peak arguably occurred with the trio of “Blu Mood>Glogli>Poseidon,” during which the group’s legendary chemistry gelled to that special level where it starts to feel like the music is playing the band. “Blu Mood” saw the band demonstrating their more organic sound circa the turn of the millennium, with some of guitarist Hunter Brown’s most nimble fretwork over the up-tempo breakbeat from virtuoso drummer Zach Velmer. Then Velmer and percussionist Jeffree Lerner locked into a tight beat on the classic “Glogli” from 2004’s Artifact, STS9’s masterpiece and easily one of the most underrated albums of the 21st century. The dynamic jam surged in the balmy night time air and saw the audience falling into the special type of collective groove that leads to strangers dancing with strangers. Brown, keyboardist David Phipps and bassist Alana Rocklin really synched in as a collective here, demonstrating the band’s uncanny ability to generate a wave of sound that makes it feel like the entire cosmos is moving into harmonic alignment.
Lighting wizard Saxton Waller was a key force throughout the set, spinning gorgeous colors and shapes amid dry ice smoke to boost the band’s artistic delivery to an even higher level. Late great Mayan prophet/scholar Jose Arguelles (a long time influence on the band’s spiritual vibe) once wrote that music, light and color are the means by which fourth dimensional time is recreated or brought into being here in the third dimension. Waller’s multi-dimensional lightwork over the years would seem to prove this out, for adding his light and color to STS9’s sound truly does seem to conjure a window into a higher dimension of peace and harmony.
The rare treat of “Poseidon” was another crowd pleaser, with the band mixing reggae grooves, psychedelic dub and staccato funk for a unique sonic treat. Brown’s riffing on the song’s main theme conjured a triumphant high-stepping vibe that made it feel like the band was taking a victory lap, although the show was only about half over. The new “Walk to the Light” suffered from a cheesey pop vocal sample, which was surprising since the band has used such soundbites in a skillful manner many times over the years. But the show’s energy suffered only briefly before the band rebounded strongly with a “Monkey Music” jam that had everyone back on the same groovy page. The tune featured another tight polyrhythmic beat as the foundation for an uplifting psychedelic dance trip through the light fantastic.
The band closed the set strongly with charged renditions of “Rent” and “Inspire Strikes Back", with the former seeming to benefit from a fresh jamming approach while the latter took the audience through several soaring triumphant peaks as always. Hats off to Hitman Glass for staging this unique event and to STS9 for making the Chalice trip along Route 66 again, doing their part as 21st century counterculture ambassadors to assist the blossoming golden age of medicinal cannabis and live music in the Golden State.