Photo by liz o'keeffe
I saw the light, yet again. I felt the love, I drank music from the universal cup of knowledge, yes indeed, I was a part of the Sound Tribe, again, and it was more than I could have hoped for. You want one word to describe Sector 9 at The Fillmore over the weekend of October 18th and 19th; PROFESSIONAL. These guys seem to up the ante every single time I see them. Often in the music world you hear terms such as, "best show ever" or "they get better every time" thrown around like day old bagels, but in this case, it's true. Now before you turn away muttering something about a biased opinion realize that of course I'm biased, it's clear that I love this music, it's clear that I love these people, but everything in life is biased, whether you realize it or not, what we say and feel, the way we act it is all part of our personal belief system, and my friends, I do not take my music lightly and I refuse to throw meaningless words around, so let me re-state, these guys really do get better every time I see them.

Photo by liz o'keeffe
STS9 does not get better every day because they "play the hits" or simply give the crowd what they want. They continue to progress and blossom because they are constantly pushing the envelope, striving musically, spiritually and personally, they are truly progressing. As Zach told me prior to these epic shows, "we're all maturing, and coming into our own...we're evolving the music, we're playing what we want to play." And by striving to grow, by being committed to more, in every sense of the word, Sector 9 continues to throw down the best shows available.

Photo by Rie Kasahara
In keeping with this dedication to their art, Zach mentioned, "There are like twelve new songs written since High Sierra." That's twelve new musical engagements (we're not talking four minute radio ditties here) in three months, and the band hasn't exactly holed up in the studio to work on these. Over the weekend they busted out seven new tracks that were mind-boggling. And you see that's the whole crux of the situation here, nothing is half-ass, each and every moment, every song, every show, every transition is of the utmost importance, and they continue to shock me with their prowess as a musical tribe.

Let's jump in with the opener from Friday night, "T.W.E.L.V.E." This has long been one of my favorite songs, and just to keep par with the Tribes intentions, it continues to evolve and change forms. This version was deep, dark, a bit nasty and full of vibe. It certainly set the pace for the weekend. Coming out off the opener the band seemed to embrace the dark and dirty energy (in a good way I assure you) as they dove head first into "Mischief Of A Sleepwalker." The name is quite indicative of the song, imagine yourself in a nocturnal state, getting into trouble as you meander down a hallway that seems to get smaller than larger, darker than lighter, scary than soothing, quite ambitious for the second song of the weekend, but pulled off wonderfully.

Photo by liz o'keeffe
As I attempt to procure highlights from the weekend it becomes very difficult because in essence the entire weekend was one movement, one giant highlight. How can I talk about the "Mischief" without mentioning the absolutely amazing "Evasive Maneuvers?" How can I express my love of the "Baraka" encore without setting the foundation with the opener? What I will do is tell you this; Sector 9 is not about one song, Sector 9 is not about statistics and how many times a song has been played. You should not attempt to dissect Sector 9 or argue the time structure, Sector is the vibe, the flow, Sector 9 is getting lost in the music, getting lost in your head, and loosing yourself in the wonderful people you are with.

In line with these wonderful people, from the band, to the extended Tribe family, to the fans who truly do make this the experience what it is, I think it would behoove us all to heed the words from another one of these inspirational people who find light in Sector 9. The following is an excerpt from Rie Kasahara, who is a fabulous photographer, and more importantly a warm and wonderful person:

"Recently many jambands have come to Japan, fans who are fascinated by this music follow the bands to America, you can probably see Japanese freaks at a show. I'm one of those freaks. Someday I'd like to feel this music with all my heart, not at a festival, not at NYE, but in my daily life, the perfect band for this is STS9.

Photo by Rie
I went to two shows in America, (these recent Fillmore shows) the first night I decided to go without my camera. There were so many fans around The Fillmore, I could see friends meeting everywhere, they were full of joy and expectation. It's the same as the Japanese scene.

That night I followed just the sound of was so wonderful! It's the way I want to feel, I want to follow my instincts. I enjoyed dancing.

Photo by Rie
The second night I went to The Fillmore with my camera as usual. I went back to capture the feeling of the first night with my camera. I found the show is made of artists, staff, fans, the venue; all these things are a very important part of the show. I had never seen such a great and wonderful show. I felt blessed to see it through my camera."

In some way the simplicity of her statements seem to wrap up the experience far better than my long-winded attempts. Rie's honest and downright touching account is exactly what Sector 9 is all about, and we should never forget that, regardless of how huge this entity becomes.

In an effort to give those of you who were not lucky enough to be inside The Fillmore something a bit more tangible I will touch on a few points over the weekend that should not escape our attention.

Photo by liz o'keeffe
Audio Angel's presence on the first set closer "Satori" and the mid second set "Orbital" (which was amazing) was a wonderful addition as always, and left room for the mind to open up and breath with her huge, gorgeous voice. It would be crime for me not to mention another new song that blew me away, "Muir Soul." I'm assuming this is an ode to John Muir, who serves as a very appropriate inspiration. This song featured Phipps dancing a jazzy, almost boogaloo style lead on his keyboard, and definitely pointed to yet another direction the Tribe is capable of traveling in.

To close out Friday night, it was the polished sound, and very professional attitude that seemed to permeate everything the band did. Although the show seemed a bit short, it was very tight, succinct and done very intentionally.

Photo by Rie
If Friday was the more polished, grounded evening, Saturday was the freak out. Again they opened with a dark number, "Ramon & Emiglio" and from there it just got deeper and deeper. As I mentioned before the Tribe threw down a bunch of new songs, one of which was "Once Told." This track came out right after the opener "R&E" and had a trippy, yet somehow comforting vocal sample that I believe was taken from a pre-school where one of STS9's close friends works. The song was stretched, almost jumbled up inside itself with the vocal sample emerging from inside. Once again, the intricate and amazing use of samples continue to put Sector 9 on another level, I don't think there is another live act out there that can hold a torch to what these guys do with the technology available today.

Photo by Rie Kasahara
The set I closer "Jabez" was by far the best version I've ever laid ears on. It was completely re-worked with a mid-section that was so thick and nasty that it was sending shivers down my spine. Each member of the band seemed to have new toys at their disposal, with none more impressive than bass player Dave Murphy's, who incidentally had his game face on all night, bathing in low-end funk, and dark mysterious noises. Murphy was using a new bass-keyboard (for lack of any type of accurate name) during "Jabez" in which he was conjuring up a very deep, fuzzy-thick, resonating sound that vibrated throughout the venue and shot through the audience. "Jabez" found a new best friend with Zach sticking lightning fast licks on his skins while Murphy was bending minds, yes the set I closer set the scene for one of the best sets imaginable.

Photo by liz o'keeffe
Set II on Saturday night - this is what it's all about. This was the pinnacle of the entire weekend; this is when the band has to blow it out. By keeping things slightly under control (although at the time you don't realize this) during the first three sets of the weekend, Sector 9 created a bit of contrast. This is what I mean when I tell you that they are truly professionals. They band realizes that you must dance on earth before you can fling an entire audience into the outer realm. They understand the dynamics of an entire weekend, they comprehend the nuances of the subconscious mind, they are evolving to that next level that all the best bands do. What I am getting at is the uncanny ability to always leave a crowd fulfilled. There are few bands that truly encompass this crucial aspect. By keeping things just a tad shorter on Friday, and by keeping the roof just under raps during the first set the Tribe was preparing for the climax, they were leaving the door to the space ship open just long enough for everyone to get their gear and run up the ramp, set II on Saturday night left The Fillmore floored, in awe and satisfied!

This is what the set looked like on paper,

II: Breathe In, Crystal Instrument > Luma Daylight, Tap In, For My Peeps, STS9, Moonsocket
E: Havana Ascent, Kamuy

Photo by Rie
What it looked like from the floor was a sweaty all out dance party, with my mind floating far from my body, and my actions being dictated by the beats. It truly was the perfect ending to a wonderful weekend. "Breath In" is another new song with a sturdy composition and a guitar lead unlike any other I've seen Hunter take. "Crystal Instrument > Luma Daylight" was one of the coolest things I've ever seen. Zach told me about these songs, how much he enjoyed playing them, and it's easy to see why. At one point Zach was on his synth pads tapping away on an effect that essentially turned his pads into a pair of triangles. The light airy sound wrapped around the mind as a percussive dream was formed in front of our eyes. The maturity of such young musicians continues to amaze me, and they're ability to truly work as one unit is unparalleled in today's ego-hungry scene.

Photo by liz o'keeffe
"Tap In" was off the charts, and bled into a touching and very appropriate "For My Peeps" which seemed to be a nod to all of us shaking it loose on the dance floor. "STS9" was dark and out of this world. To be honest at this point I was dancing backwards, traveling through time and floating above The Fillmore, and that was before they dropped the biggest, badest and most impressive "Moonsockets" known to man. "Moonsockets" and "Kamuy" (the encore) have become the Tribes signature songs, and for good reason, they're unbelievable. The intro to "Moonsockets" was so long and ethereal that I was wondering if they were going to head somewhere else, until the familiar explosion broke out of the gray area and The Fillmore went nuts! "Moonsockets" seemed to go on for an eternity and the band seemed to elevate the energy at every possible point, building and building before busting into the instrumental "chorus." Sector 9 never ceases to amaze as they constantly add new sounds to their repertoire, making it very clear that they posses the best "space noises" in the business. At one point Zach was standing up arms raised over his drum kit, pumping the crowd like an MC.

Photo by Rie
The set ended and the entire crowd was in awe. One of my friends turned to me and said, "What can they do after that?" The answer could only be a double encore with a full on dance party coming out of "Kamuy." "Havana Ascent" was beautiful, and again added a touch of contrast to "Kamuy" which was absolutely ridiculous. It went on and on, every time you thought they would rap it up, they dropped back in, sending hair flying, and fists pumping. It was a serious dance party up in The Fillmore at that point. Everywhere I looked people were bearing their souls, it was cathartic, and left each and every person with the notion that they had been given a gift that evening. The music was nourishment, and we were hungry.

After the show my good friend, mentor, and all around wonderful person, the one I like to call Striker TK, instilled yet another piece of knowledge on me. He said, "If they didn't play one note I would still go. The vibe there is the best. They bring out a wonderful energy in everyone who goes." And that my friends is just as important as any new song they may have played, or any encore they busted out. This is Sector 9, yes the music brings us there, but the intangibles, the things you can't put into words, this is what sets the Tribe apart. This is what causes that symbiotic relationship in which we all feel the love and turn it back on the band, who in turn crank it up a notch and throw us into a frenzy of foot stomping, space walking, hip-shaking good times.

For me Sector 9 (and all music for that matter) becomes a model for how to live your life. Be open, be free, love and trust, run with your dreams, believe in the world, believe in yourself, and dance till your body shimmers with the glow of all things wonderful.

The Kayceman
JamBase | HeadQuarters
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[Published on: 10/25/02]

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