Words by: Nick Boeka | Images by Casey Flanigan
Sound Tribe Sector 9 :: 03.01.09 :: Fillmore Auditorium :: San Francisco, CA
Adaptability is going to be a key to success in 2009. Right now, nearly everyone is experiencing the same issues, thinking the same things and figuring out what they need to do to survive in the current environment. To musicians and groups looking to weather the same storm, it means adapting to the evolving music climate, establishing their own sound, delivering the goods with every release and leaving no doubt with each live appearance. At this stage in their careers, the young veterans, STS9, are showing fans and critics alike that transitions are afoot. If adapting is the theme of the year, the band is charged and ready to take on any form it needs to survive.
STS9 :: The Fillmore :: 2009 Run|
Looking at the progression of the band and their releases is a testimony to the skill they already possess at this game. Their catalog showcases the many facets of the Sector 9 sound that fans regard as their favorites. From space-funk to loops, samples to remixes, this group has taken on many forms to present their art and make the concert experience more than just a show, but a musical story (yes) that attempts to take us on a journey. In the year so far, we've seen the band take a more minimalist approach to their live show, appearing billed as Live PA sets (for those who may not know what this term means – it refers to when a group performs their music only on laptops or electronics, in replacement of their typical instrumentation). But make no mistake, minimalist on instrumentation does not mean minimalist on sound.
The four-night stand at The Fillmore was to be the springboard for their Spring Tour and set the foundation for the rest of the year. Uncharacteristically, the shows did not allow taping, leading many to believe that a new Seasons-like release is on the horizon. Each night brought its own blend of heat, but it was Sunday's show that stands out as a defining moment. Structurally, the emphasis was on older, jam-vehicle tunes, which had the band breaking out of the Peaceblaster box they have been living in lately, revisiting their old maps and exploring uncharted areas. Those concertgoers looking for that old Sector 9 sound, the ones that stuck around for Sunday, were richly rewarded.
The light crowd after three nights of sold out Fillmore was a treat, and after a very energetic opening set from Kap10 Harris, the group emerged to their new stage configuration, which featured David Phipps in the middle, manning his impressive throne of keyboards, knobs and switches, and the rest of the band fanned out beside and in front of him. Most notable, Zach Velmer and Jeffree Lerner, now flanked Phipps on either end, and solidified the rhythm section. David Murphy quickly thanked the crowd for such a special weekend, and in typical 9 fashion, launched into a furious set of music, beginning with rare set opener "Baraka." The first song set the mood for the entire show.
Phipps - STS9 :: The Fillmore :: 2009 Run|
If there was a theme for the first set, it was downtempo funky goodness. Where the band was more focused on remixes, new songs and mean beats on the other evenings, tonight was all about the basics and playing them great. From the sample drop to start "Move My Peeps," there was a collective feeling that we were all a part of something really special. It was the new STS9, playing old Sector 9, enhanced by the visual styling of Saxton (Sir LED), and the package was just perfect. At the end of the set, the long, perfect crescendo jam of "Open E" came to a halt and the group announced they were feeling it, too, and would be treating us to a second set, where the previous three nights had all featured one long set.
At set break there was a palatable buzz in the air, as everyone realized how fortunate they were to all be at this gig. I took a moment to take in the collaborative art being created by Kris Davidson, J Garcia and Mars-1. The three artists have been making some very innovating pieces and tonight's canvas looked like a visual culmination of their efforts of late. When the lights dimmed, the second set started with the only "new" STS9 for the evening, "Central," which had many people wondering whether they could keep the intensity of the first set. It didn't take very long for that worry to be squashed because the second set was just straight heat. If there was any doubt that the band was reaching back in the catalog, the furry of second set songs brought back memories of the band that I saw in 2000-2002 period. Raw, energetic, and playing with passion in every measure they attacked, this was the Tribe that first introduced me to this part of the scene. At one point, Murphy took the crowd to the depths of bass, using his synth-bass to resonate the entire venue at vibration-of-life type frequencies. The second set ended the way they used to, over the top and leaving you chomping at the bit for that last piece of ecstasy.
To close out an incredible four-day run, the band emerged to a Boards of Canada favorite of mine, "Roygbiv," which was explored in swooping melodies from Hunter Brown's orange guitar. The song alone could have closed the show, but on Velmer's final queue, the group launched into one of their oldest songs, "Hubble," accompanied by Saxton's synced LED sequences of space vehicles, satellites and interplanetary travels. The group took the previous structure of the song and redefined it to deliver a rethought version that still stays true to much of the original flavor. The result was a truly outstanding close to a spectacular show.
STS9 :: The Fillmore :: 2009 Run|
It didn't take much to observe everyone around me bouncing in delight, truly inspired by the journey they had just taken, and thankful that they had shared it all together. If adapting is going to be a necessity for success, then STS9 showed this weekend that they can still slay their catalog, that they are still one of the top-flight groups in the scene and that they can also attract new audiences with their emerging sound. Surely, the rest of the year will offer many more stories from some of the best tellers around.
03.01.09 :: The Fillmore :: San Francisco, CA
Set I: Baraka, F. Word, Move My Peeps, Once Told, Bigs, STS9, Open E
Set II: Central*, Really Wut?, Tap-In, We'll Meet In Our Dreams, Dance, Hi-Key
Encore: Roygbiv > Hubble
* First Time Played
You can purchase this show here.
STS9 is on tour now, dates available here.
Continue reading for more pics of STS9 at The Fillmore...