Reviews > Shows
Mayan Holidaze (feat. Disco Biscuits, Umphrey’s McGee, STS9)
Inside the walls of the resort — specifically, by the main lobby and banquet lounge — Fiesta Night got underway without much warning. A mariachi band provided the soundtrack for a tequila tasting which, either by requisite or by default, got everyone into jovial spirits, so to speak, for the resort-produced fiesta: a Mexican buffet was rolled out in the lounge while traditional dancers and other Mexican heritage entertainers took to the banquet stage. It was comical in its own way and endearing in another — certainly a nice touch. It also served as a reminder, lest anyone start to think that they were at a music festival, that Holidaze is, in fact, a music vacation. There is a difference and it was demonstrated, at this particular moment, by men in sombreros.
By the time Murphy asked the crowd, during STS9’s Saturday evening show, “Isn’t this the coolest thing you’ve ever seen?” it was already well established that, yes, in fact, it was. Waiters continuously brought trays full of drinks — from beers to margaritas — into the crowd for anyone’s and everyone’s enjoyment while STS9 played an inspired show that somehow felt rooted in actual geography.
Speaking to him about it later, Murphy allowed that part of the reason it felt so special was, indeed, that Mayan Holidaze tapped directly into STS9’s well-known connection to Mayan culture — and, yet, this was the first time the group had a chance to play their Mayan-inspired music right in the actual heart of Mayan territory. Then, too, these shows would serve as STS9’s last shows for the immediate future, due to an unfortunate health issue — something never really addressed head on, out of respect and, also, perhaps, because all realities just seemed out of place down there.
All that stuff, including the Mayan connection, became an afterthought when measured against the same excitement that all the other bands — and all the fans — had in common: “Just being on the beach, watching the moon come up, and seeing the smiles — seeing how people react to it down here — everyone is so calm and relaxed and yet having the time of their life,” Murphy said, whilst smiling himself. “Mayan Holidaze was really special for Sector 9.”
The late-night Disco Biscuits show was, not surprisingly, the dance party of the weekend, with Bisco kids literally kicking up sand for three hours straight while the band threw everything topical in their arsenal — including “The Very Moon,” “Above the Waves” and “Caves of the East” — out on the table for the gods to judge. They approved. Sorry if you don’t.
Much like Saturday, daylight hours on Sunday were strictly casual, with some fans partaking in water sports and still others venturing off on excursions. Others chose to get some exercise by playing tennis with members of both Umphrey’s McGee and STS9. But while everyone brought their Sunday Best — in spirit if not in dress — out for the grand finale of Holidaze, the afternoon’s defining activity was clearly football. Hundreds spread out around a giant screen in the banquet hall to watch the NFC and AFC championship games. It was, decidedly, the only time during all four days in which not everyone was on the same team, despite all being in it together.
Band members and fans hooted, hollered, heckled and hoorayed their way through the games, bonding over both the wins and losses. It was, once again, an otherwise common experience that, in the context of a Cloud 9 Adventure, somehow became unforgettable. Later that night, upon reflecting on his total Holidaze adventure, Ryan Stasik even told me point blank that “watching the Steelers go to the Super Bowl was probably the best thing to happen to me personally down here, to be honest.” And that includes salsa dancing with his future wife and getting bar mitzvahed with his band —experiences which, he confessed, were also great.
“We actually were not Umphrey’s McGee 13 years ago on this date,” he corrected, for the record. “We actually were Fat Tony. That was our first gig. We were Fat Tony. And then on January 29th we were Umphrey’s McGee.”
On Sunday night they changed their name yet again, albeit temporarily. Instead of performing a typical Umphrey’s McGee set, they performed an all-request show under the name Eliga La Musica. In fact, all three anchor bands changed their names on Sunday, reflecting respective twists that had been successfully engineered to make the last night of this fantastic adventure all the more fantastic and adventurous.
Under the name Axe the Cables, STS9 performed a semi-acoustic (or, perhaps more accurately, “sparsely electronic”) set that was a throwback, stylistically, to an earlier time in their career. The setlist included gems from throughout their repertoire, ranging from “Equinox” (from 2002’s “Sessions 01”) to “The New Soma” (from 2008’s “Peaceblaster”) to “Moon Socket” (from 1999‘s “Interplanetary Escape Vehicle”). All told, the set — STS9’s last scheduled show for the time being — was both heartfelt and heartwarming.
Back on Friday night, Biscuits bassist Marc Brownstein told the crowd that they would “take it to the end of this party” and that’s exactly what they did, as the Biscuits took to the stage under the moniker Tractor Beam for all-instrumental versions of popular Biscuits songs — including the otherwise singalong staples “Mindless Dribble” and “Svenghali,” as well as Conspirator tracks like “Lunar Pursuit” and a couple deep cuts including the fan-pleasing “Aquatic Ape.”
Of course, even paradise has its flaws and the one major limitation of Mayan Holidaze didn’t show its butt-ugly face until the very end, but it was certainly a serious damper — that is, come the dawn, it dawned on everybody that this journey had to come to a close. It just couldn’t go on forever. Well, actually, it can — it just needs 361 days of rest in between editions. That’s cool. I can wait. But, along with every other person in attendance, I just can’t and don’t want to live in a world where I can’t start counting down the days to the next Holidaze. It took me all of 2,801 words to say what I could’ve said in seven: Mayan Holidaze is, quite simply, the best.
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