Every once in a while, a band comes along and completely sweeps you off your feet, literally. Sound Tribe Sector 9 once again showed that they have what it takes to keep an audience moving and shaking the whole night long. Saturday night at San Francisco’s Justice League, the band led the sold out crowd through two sets of exploratory trance grooves, blending their unique style in a way that left everyone smiling at the end of the night.

What makes Sector 9’s music so special? At first glance, it would appear that the band is simply playing live techno, yet upon closer examination, we find their minds and intentions are set at tuning into some sort of universal vibration, and honoring the natural harmonics which we live in day to day. Although most people might be unaware of these sounds, there is a clear connection between the music and the audience which raises conciousness through dancing. In talking with the band members, it’s clear that they are serious about their art.

They are philosophers of the Mayan culture and lunar cycles, whose entire theory of mathematics and natural harmonic vibrations is translated into the musical realm through playing instruments. There is a synergy and energy at the shows which transcends normal verse/chorus type of song structures. It’s the sort of feeling which allows every cell in your body to resonate at the same frequency, completely in tune with the music, and one another.

What sets Sector 9 apart from many of today’s bands is that they are not so focused on song changes or structure, but rather on sustaining the groove. While the majority of other bands attempt to build the music into a peak, Sector 9 appears more concerned with fluid transitions and constant rhythms. This allows them to build the jams more steadily, generating a celebratory feeling in the audience. With most songs ranging from 10-15 minutes each, they remain patient, allowing the jams to build naturally and evolve to a point where they are large and bright, rather than overwhelming and out of control.

The five band members combine their sounds in such a way that no one is taking over or leading, but they are all contributing their instruments to a communal sound. In a sense, they are all leading, playing within each other, generating a unique blend of soundscapes. The drums not only form the foundation for the groove, but a launching pad to explore new realms. The beats are steady, yet intricate and building, giving the sound more of a rising current to float upon. The bass lines are simple yet elegant and glide in sync with the undercurrents to boost the sounds from above. Percussion provides perfect accompaniment to the cosmic blend, giving off sparks of twinkling stars. On top, and in the middle, are the keys and drums. Instead of attempting to play lead over the already rich sounds, these instruments create rhythms of their own, and allow the flow to build and grow in a stronger form. Instead of taking a back seats and letting one musician shine, all the players are in unison giving their all to the common sounds of the stage.

On top of all that, they are a hell of a lot of fun to listen and dance to, and take control of the audience throughout the entire night. It’s difficult to turn away or leave the dance floor, because before you know it the band has launched into another epic journey through space and time, literally.

The show on Saturday night reached a new level of peak for this band. Clearly, they were pumped for their upcoming tour, and started it off right with a powerhouse show to a full house. The folks at Mystery Machine Productions did a wonderful job of not overselling the show, leaving enough room for people to get their groove on in full spirit. DJ Gordo Cabeza & Mr. Trent (of 12" & a Tireless Tongue) opened and got the crowd warmed up. The Justice League is a world renowned DJ club, and the mixing of these pros with Sector 9 was the perfect billing to get the audience in the right frame of mind for the evening.

As soon as the first notes of Sector 9 began, the crowd was focused and in motion. Gliding in and out of songs, the first set blended together into a full force dance party, not letting go until the band took a break to cool down an hour and 1/2 later. The second set featured more improvisational exploration and showcased the band’s ability to dive into realms of music that had yet to be touched. The drummer, Zach, even took a step out from behind his kit to show off some incredible dance moves for the crowd, who erupted in approval before he heading back to pick up the groove right where they left off.

The triumphancy of the evening came during the final two songs of the night. As the band was winding down to finish their show, they stepped it up once again and launched into an ascending orchestration which brought everyone to their feet. Unable to go home without more, the crowd exploded as the set ended and forced the band to come back on for one more dose of their fluid sounds.

Sound Tribe Sector 9 is off on the road now, playing 28 shows on the east coast before heading back west. In addition to a larger production and enhanced lighting, the band has extended an invitation to any artist to join them at their shows and set up to display their works. “Our intention is to enhance the environment of every Sector 9 performance through interactive visualization, ART. This is to create a sustainable circle of creative energy, were the music feeds the art and the art feeds the fans and the fans feed the music. We hope to transform the environment of every venue into a beautiful, spiritual place.”

It is clear that this band is bridging worlds into some next level territory. The only question will be whether we are all ready for it. Bring it on!

Andy Gadiel
San Francisco
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 8/28/00]

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