STS9 (photo: Joshua Huver)
As Sound Tribe Sector Nine (STS9) closes their 19th year of touring, they refuse to settle for anything remotely consistent with “mediocrity.” Guitarist Hunter Brown, keyboard wizard David Phipps, drum machine Zach Velmer, percussionist Jeffree Lerner, and bassist Alana Rocklin, bring a level of intense commitment and talent to the stage each and every night.
For their most recent fall tour, they have been dazzling fans across the country — several of whom are willing to travel for weeks at a time across multiple states so as not to miss a moment. One of the most impressive things that the band brings to the table is their seamless integration of one song into another.
On Sunday, November 20 at The Fillmore, STS9 delivered one of the most stunning shows of the tour. Playing for nearly four hours with very few breaks or stopped time, the band hit on nearly every point of their career and drew up a set that touched on several albums, perfectly meshing the new with some of their oldest material.
They opened with “New Dawn, New Day,” one of only four cuts from their most recent release The Universe Inside, before turning the auditorium floor into a zoo, segueing into an impressive “Monkey Music” complete with a sexy space-station version of The Grateful Dead’s “Dark Star” jam in the middle of the song.
The band addressed some of the hype surrounding the near-instant sell-out of ther album Artifact‘s vinyl reissue the day before with a standalone “Today,” a track that had fallen out of recent rotation. A solid “Evasive Maneuvers” > “Kamuy” section teased the techno-heavy “Instantly,” foreshadowing the surprises to come in the second set.
But in the moment, a tease was all that was needed, because STS9 had an ace up their sleeve:They soon busted out “Poseidon,” a song that didn’t see any play between 2004 through 2014, and the set closer “Jebez,” another tune that often eludes even the most die-hard fans. The last half hour of the set was dedicated to these tracks, and had all the energy you could want.
The hour and 15-minute set left the audience confused and grateful in a trance of bliss — they had just witnessed one of the most fire STS9 sets of the year. Less than 30 minutes later, the band returned to take that trance to the next level, fully aware that the evening’s ticket was only made available as a two-day pass that included the previous night’s show at The Masonic. Individual tickets for the closer at The Fillmore were not made available, a tactic intended to encourage their die hard fans to travel.
Opening with a combination of “Forest Hu,” “Really What?” and “Blu Mood” would have been enough to write home about for any other show, but they kicked the show into next gear and continued the play-calling schemes of the previous nights, segueing back and forth between tracks.
The band moved into “Instantly,” releasing a collective wave of validation from the anticipation of it being teased in the first set, but they quickly shifted gears into another non-album track, “GLOgli.” STS9 returned to “Instantly” and then the two songs mashed into one concentrated track, leaving no time for the audience to dissect what they heard — only to groove.
They rode the peaking wave up and into “Call Jam” before dropping into “Totem.” They didn’t stop there, however, and continued their frenetic onslaught of sound with a “Rabble,” “EHM,” and “Rabble” again sandwich — even mashing together the end of the tunes into a completely different and unique track — before finally ending the hour and a half set — with the last hour consisting of non-stop movement from one song to the next.
The band returned after a few short minutes for a three song encore that guaranteed the FOMO of all who wanted to but couldn’t attend the weekend in San Francisco with “Elsewhere,” “Water Song,” and “March”, the highlight being the ever-elusive “Water Song” from 2000’s Offering Schematics Suggesting Peace. There is no question STS9 is one of the most successful touring bands out there, and their careful attention to details are second to none.