Words by Tanner Wyer :: Images by Tobin Poppenberg

Sound Tribe Sector Nine (STS9) :: 01.13 & 01.14 :: The Fillmore :: San Francisco, CA

STS9 :: 01.13 :: The Fillmore
A constant truth in life is change. Seasons change, feelings change, people change; it just happens. In an effort to continuously move forward towards an incessant goal, change is in fact inevitable. This notion of inevitable change takes on a whole new meaning when applied to the five-piece electronic musical phenomenon known as Sound Tribe Sector Nine (STS9). The Calif-orgia natives (both Northern California and Georgia are considered 'home' to the quintet) live and thrive on this ever-evolving path, their goal revolving around a desire to create a constant, soul stirring force of musical progression. To make the evolution of the music an embraced focus of the band's sound, and not just a typical occurrence that happens along the way, is something of great significance. The band came to California to begin its 2006 Winter/Spring tour, fresh off of a scorching three-night NYE engagement in Atlanta. Their two-night run in San Francisco acted as an analogy for the band's direction. Their shows were full of sequences, development, and ultimately, a sense of unfinished evolution that left those lucky enough to be in attendance feeling a part of something much bigger than just another weekend at The Fillmore.

Phipps, Brown, Murphy :: 01.13 :: The Fillmore
The band's return to the famous Fillmore took place on Friday the 13th. A brief vocal welcome was given to the crowd by bassist David Murphy, and the band eagerly jumped in head-first, delivering a spooky entrance to the weekend's festivities with one of their darker numbers, "Open E." The rest of the set continued with what would be considered a very good flow. An old heavy hitter of the 9's, "Mischief of a Sleepwalker," was sandwiched nicely in-between the two newer tracks "Music, Us" and "Somesing," both off the band's recent Artifact release. The highlight of the first set was without a doubt the closing number, titled "One a Day." This new track was debuted on NYE and is a synth-heavy, bass-pulsing tune that got the crowd up and jumping. Leaving very little room for the dance floor to stop pulsating, the first of four sets was a perfect showcase of old favorites, examples of the past year's hard work, and a preview of what's in store for future STS9 compositions.

Zach Velmer :: 01.13 :: The Fillmore
Setting the bar is a tough task to accomplish, but constantly surpassing it each time is even tougher. The end of the first set had the crowd very excited for the last half of the show, but it was this set that I found to be the weakest effort of the weekend. Let it be known though, by "weak" I mean that it was simply not at the same intensity level as the rest of the sets. In no way did they drop the ball. "GLOgli" opened and was a bunch of break-beat driven fun, yet standard. The old duo of "Evasive Maneuvers" > "Kamuy" followed and had a noteworthy drum breakdown between drummer Zach Velmer and percussionist Jeffree Lerner before the band launched into the highlight of the second set, the finally named (as it was previously dubbed "untitled") "Instantly."

Hunter Brown :: 01.13 :: The Fillmore
The song is a musical journey, starting off with a simple vocal and drumbeat sample. The band blends their instruments over the samples, using both technology and fundamental musicianship to create a fusion of composition and improvisation that allows them to truly explore. Each member participates, whether it be on their Apple PowerBooks or through the traditional method of their chosen instrument. The final result ends up being a smorgasbord of stimulation, with all the elements blending together (appropriately enough) in an instantaneous fashion. Again showing direction in their music, it was a shame that this was to be the last "holy shit" moment of the evening. The rest of the set featured two more debuts that were written just prior to NYE, "Pianoir" and "Rent." It's not that these selections were bad; they just didn't quite match up to what was brought earlier in the evening. The encore was a rarity in the STS9 catalog - "Satori," featuring a hypnotic drum beat supplied by Velmer and memorable, entrancing guitar licks by guitarist Hunter Brown. The song would close the night but only prepare the faithful for what was to follow.

STS9 :: 01.14 :: The Fillmore
While the band might have had trouble attaining the heights they had previously reached in the first set on the 13th, there was no doubt that this band came to play on Saturday. Arriving on stage with both purpose and intent, it was apparent that they knew exactly what they were doing up there, and the result was nothing but the heat. Kicking off with yet ANOTHER brand new song, a hip-hop driven "Lo Swaga" ignited The Fillmore as the beats bounced off of each other and anything else in their path. Later in the set, an enormous "Hubble" erupted, clocking in at over 14 minutes, showing that the band can still stretch it out and maintain direction as well as energy.

STS9 :: 01.14 :: The Fillmore
Perhaps their most popular song, "Tokyo" had an extended ending that I had never heard, which was pleasantly followed by "Arigato." This often-paired duo of songs showed yet again that when the band incorporates either song into the setlist, they like to follow it up with the other in order to keep it Japanese. "Arigato" segued into an older tune that has been gaining more play in the last year, "Blu Mood." This was without a doubt the best interlocking of songs the entire weekend, with guitarist Brown teasing the dominating, climatic guitar lick of "Blu Mood" through the last efforts of "Arigato" before the entire band erupted into a heaving, climactic rendition of the entire song. It was fun, it was fresh, it was reminiscent of days gone past, and much like the night before, left the crowd hungry for a whole lot more.

David Phipps :: 01.14 :: The Fillmore
The difference between the 13th and the 14th was that they absolutely blew it out of the water for the second set. No question in anyone's mind, the band knew exactly what they wanted to accomplish. The band opened with "Aimlessly," yet another brand new track that has a similar-sounding lead synth like in the previously mentioned "One a Day," only this one is more of an improvisational monster that sounds like it's "One a Day" on steroids. Any time you get keyboardist David Phipps creating a lead with a sound that powerful, big things will happen. As the band destroyed the room with this new track and exploded back into the powerful intro that led off the set, it was very apparent that they were pulling out all the stops. A newly reworked "F-Word" followed, with a completely different intro and style. It was deeper, had more focus, and just plain hit harder. What a fantastic concept for a band to have. Why not completely rework songs? Regardless of medium, publication of a product is full of countless ideas like "I should have done this/that." It is almost as if STS9 recognizes the limits of writing songs (especially ones concerning electronic samples) and further recognizes a way to escape those limitations by simply doing it different, and better.

STS9 :: 01.14 :: The Fillmore
The set continued with blistering ferocity. The bells of "Peoples" made the chandeliers within The Fillmore sway from side to side. Again with the brand new, "Warrior" made its West Coast debut and straight-up mesmerized the entire audience with its melodic layers and hypnotic patterns. "Move My Peeps" and "Grow" were nothing groundbreaking but were both upbeat and intense, and very fitting to close the set. The encore was perfect in terms of the theme for the weekend - a mixture of brand new and old - as the band played "Dem Be" before closing with an old fan favorite "Crystal Instrument."

STS9 :: 01.14 :: The Fillmore
It had been over a year since the five members of Sound Tribe Sector 9 graced the stage at the legendary Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, CA. The last set performed by the band at the historic venue had been an exhilarating performance on 10.31.04. STS9 performed three sold-out shows that Halloween weekend, the final being a PA set on Halloween, giving fans a sneak peak at some of the newer tunes on their upcoming Artifact release. This set was a glimpse of the band's vision, a look at the possibilities of where the sound was going.

If the 2004 Halloween run was a glimpse of their vision, the January tour kick-off at The Fillmore was a realization of what Sound Tribe Sector 9 has become - the fruition that this band has attained by striving for a complete and whole sound that is void of typicality is one to be admired. Take a look at the "Peoples" from 10.31.04 and the "Peoples" from 01.14.06. A variance of length is apparent, but more importantly, it is the musical growth that is most astonishing. Their sound has matured and evolved so much over the years that it practically engulfs the listener now. And there is no reason to believe that the band will stop progressing or changing their sound. Considering how much ground they have broken in terms of fusing worlds of music, the scope of things to come is full of possibilities. There is only one thing I feel confident in saying about the future of Sound Tribe Sector 9: They are going places.

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[Published on: 1/31/06]

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Death Cube K Tue 1/31/2006 06:28PM
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Death Cube K

i mean it's sts9. wha'd you expect?

wsptrdr starstarstarstarstar Tue 1/31/2006 09:29PM
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This article could not explain the band any better. It tells what they are all about and where they are heading. Finally the boys are getting the press and glorification they deserve. Great article.

eteeter78 starstarstarstarstar Tue 1/31/2006 09:54PM
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Beautifully written.

tube#47 starstarstarstarstar Wed 2/1/2006 06:41AM
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next week here in minneapolis, can't wait!!!

good article.

minutes Wed 2/1/2006 09:46AM
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whats a PA set on halloween?

Greatwaves starstarstarstar Wed 2/1/2006 11:45AM
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the tribe in chicago, whos pumped, toubab krewe, garcia and davidson painting. anyone know of anything else going on over the weekend in chicago, lets play

Dgold starstarstarstarstar Wed 2/1/2006 12:40PM
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well done Tanner, thanks for the link on the TLG OT board

kknickelbein starstarstarstarstar Wed 2/1/2006 01:36PM
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tanner- i feel the love you have for the band oozing out of your words! great article

tay1222 starstarstarstarstar Wed 2/1/2006 02:44PM
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Incredible article on my favorite band... A must see show! New songs are sick!

big_blue starstarstarstarstar Wed 2/1/2006 06:21PM
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yes, crucial article

Apo starstarstar Thu 2/2/2006 11:37AM
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I think that this band is greatly overrated. The PA set is when all of the members minus Zack play on their computers. I saw this at Cervantes in Denver and it was ok at best. Their Bonnaroo set was sooo boring. Everyone around was sleeping because it was a late night set. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

wut? starstarstarstar Thu 2/2/2006 11:54AM
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I have to agree....this article is a good one, and points out the main reason I keep going back for more with these guys, the constant evolution of this band is what makes them so good and so exciting.

fu starstarstarstarstar Thu 2/2/2006 01:41PM
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Well written and even better sounding live. Watch these kids throw it down and your questions will be answered. Oh yeah, and (Apo) if you don't like 'em then why are you even writing about it. Go listen to your 8-track player and dream of actually being able to create music of this caliber.

ConciousCollaboration starstarstarstarstar Thu 2/2/2006 02:31PM
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sts9 always. see yall at HoB chi town.

Greatwaves Thu 2/2/2006 06:40PM
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i believe a Pa set is when they dont play there guitars as much as their apple computers? a little more electronic, i hear its pimp any way

barsotti Fri 2/3/2006 07:12AM
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Toubab Krewe / STS9 say word?
Madison, Milw. & 1st night Chi-town
get in there early people!

beargonePhishin starstarstarstarstar Fri 2/3/2006 10:09AM
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good work tanner. this show was out of control. i've never had so much fun at any event. i'm really disappointed with Apo, don't act like u didn't dance thru the whole night. and i think if u could sleep thru a set of the tribe, u probably should not have been there. can't wait to see the guys again.

Bakeshow starstarstarstarstar Sun 2/5/2006 01:50AM
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Just discovered STS9, and am completly awestruck with them. I cannot wait to see a show, (hope they make it to the NW sometime soon). Reading this article, and seeing the pictures, WOW i cannot believe what ive been missing out on!

whoyou starstarstarstarstar Mon 2/6/2006 03:19AM
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Very good article bro. Wasn't at the show due to uh money problems, those problems being the lack of any money. But wanted to go and after reading this article I'm extremely pissed that I didn't go I mean I had to have had somthing left in my room worth selling. But alas you can't live with regrets so I hope they'll be back soon.

tomjsci starstarstar Mon 2/6/2006 05:16PM
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The Midwest run turns north and starts tomorrow, People. MPLS @ Fine Line --> Madtown @ Barrymore --> Land of Sky Blue Waters @ The Rave --> Windy City @ HoB. They're well rested for this 5-day closer, People.

dtwisco starstarstarstarstar Tue 2/7/2006 06:56PM
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STS9.. STS9.. these boys are the future.

mountainjam75 starstarstar Thu 2/9/2006 04:17PM
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I have seen over 500 shows( Dead,Phish,Panic, Kimock etc..)and have seen this band about four times. Where is the funk?? This music should be played in a highend metrosexual restaurant.I was very annoyed by all the tweeker kids all over the place. Everyone talks about the love.... The only love you tweekers feel or give out is synthetic. I won't see this band again and would be embarrased to recommend this scene to anyone with half a brain.

scj471 starstarstarstar Fri 2/10/2006 08:03AM
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it's tough to describe the experience. for me it's kind of spiritual, or at least it was when i first saw them a couple years ago. i don't look to them to wow me with their chops and musicianship so much as their creativity and their ability to create an emotional response. sometimes it clicks the right way (especially with their lights and the help of some substances) and it's like this profound warmth opens up in the room.

blower Fri 2/10/2006 02:45PM
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Very descriptive article. A little over the top, however. I have seen them twice at High Sierra and thought they were ok, but certainly not as exceptional as this author describes. They have some good moments and definetly create some crazy sounds. If you are into music that puts you into a late night trance then they are perfect. Lots of folks like em. Props to the band.

However, the author acts like they are some kind of song writing geniuses, which I have to disagree with. They do improvisation extensively. There is no composition or fusion of anything. Zero melody, no transition between musical genres, the music never hits a bridge or goes anywhere. The tune called "Open E" describes them perfect. No matter how long the band plays the song, or how many trippy computer effects they add, you are still left with just one note, an "Open E".

This quote pretty much hits the nail on the head for me.
No question in anyone's mind, the band knew exactly what they wanted to accomplish. The band opened with "Aimlessly,"

dedhed6111 starstarstarstarstar Fri 2/10/2006 03:39PM
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mountainjam, if we're keeping tabs. i've seen well over 1500 shows, so don't make yourself look like a tard by saying such things. STS9 is the absolute real deal in modern music. Sound Tribe Sector Nine is the John Coltrane of the Millenium, and that is the ballsiest statement I have ever made or ever will make. Open up your mind and your ass will follow son

Jimmy_Stewart starstarstarstarstar Fri 2/10/2006 04:08PM
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blower: the point of the article is that Sector has progressed by leaps and bounds recently. As a diehard fan, I am truly amazed at how far they've come in a year. This is the point I believe the author was trying to convey. 2 HSMF shows hardly qualifies you as expert enough to determine Sector's level of "genius". No fusion? Please, do yourself a favor and listen to any show from 12-29-06 through today. It's all about fusion...and progression.

blower Sat 2/11/2006 06:11PM
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I'll take you up on that Jimmy and listen to some of there new stuff maybe it will change my mind. Except it would be difficult to find a tape of December 2006, since it is only Feb 2006. I'm just jerking your chain. I know it is just a typo. Maybe they have come along way. I hope so.

I have only been to two shows but I have listened to a few of their shows to see what the buzz is about. I stand by my comment that they are not exceptional song writers. They are good at very simple improvisation. Improvisation is not song writing. Check out Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, James Brown, Sebastian Bach, Elton John, Jonny Cash, Miles Davis, Robert Hunter, Elvis Presley for examples of genius song writers.

I guess you and me have a different opinion of what fusion entails. Have you ever listened to the Dixie Dregs, the Mahavastu Orchestra, or even Zappa? It called fusion cause they mix jazz with other genres of music. At best STS9 fuses organic drum beats with electronica. I hear no technical jazz, no rock, very little funk, no country, no classical music. Sorry I do not understand what you mean by fusion. As far as word progressive goes that is just a relative term that means nothing without context, so I can't disagree.

As I said I think they are pretty good at what they do. They have warm tones and interact well with the crowd. I just think the article is a bit too much. I hope you are right and they are growing in leaps and bounds becuase I like what they stand for. My personal opinion is that they are kinda boring after a song or two, but maybe I will be converted after listening to some of their lates stuff.

The comment comparing them to John Coltrane is certainly a good laugh if nothing else.

mweezy777 starstarstarstarstar Fri 2/24/2006 01:25PM
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let the haters hate....ive experienced the real deal...see ya suckers spring tour.....great article