STS9 continues to evolve their sounds and displays at the Pageant.
The world of electronic music continues to evolve quickly these days as acts constantly search for new sounds, new displays and new experiences to share with their audience. In this battle for concert scene supremacy, the music has often taken the backseat as even the most popular DJs fall into simple push button setups masked behind beautiful arrays of lights and lasers. Atlanta's Sound Tribe Sector 9 simply does not fit into this category. As one of the elite, live production focused acts in the genre, they continue to attract fans with musicianship and composition, and then proceed to melt their starry-eyed faces with innovative displays and experiences as well.
Birthing out of Atlanta in the late 1990s, they've made several dozen appearances throughout the festival music scene, as well as regular tours during the off-season and active participation with nonprofit causes. Additionally, STS9 founded and operates their own independent record label known as 1320 Records, expanding their principles and vision throughout many genres, adding to the many reasons that STS9 has truly become the model of impact and success in electronic music.
The five man lineup hasn't changed throughout the years, but they've certainly grown together as musicians. The front line is headed by David Murphy on bass and one of the MIDI keyboards as he handles the MC role for the band and has the most spatial flexibility on stage. Murphy is joined by Hunter Brown on guitar and another MIDI keyboard. Together they create a large variety of tones for both lead melody and the rhythm section. The sound is held together with an active display of rhythm from Zach Velmer on a massive drumset, as well as Jeffree Lerner's equally impressive percussion setup on the opposite side of the stage. The entire act surrounds the final member, David Phipps, who is nearly walled in entirely by a well-chosen selection of keyboards and synthesizers, often tackling melody and mood simultaneously.
They performed two lengthy sets for the crowd at the Pageant on a night that could do no wrong. The fans packed the floor space in a seatless room well before they took the stage and continually shouted, whistled and even howled throughout the show, letting the silhouettes on stage know they appreciated the music down to every transition. Drawing from a deep discography, their sets toured their compositions with a strong mix of sounds, drawing many times from the worlds of jazz, funk and jam-style rock to compliment their flowing, electronic style. Even after the set break, the mood and feeling seemed to resume right where they left off, a feat few seem to pull off these days. Those who could dance never stopped and those who couldn't danced anyway in the sway a crowd where personal space simply did not exist.
Like many of their contemporaries, however, the music itself is only part of the show as they continue to innovate new visual displays for each tour. This tour included an LED light setup, creating a blocky, pyramid-shaped screen that decorated the raised backline and formed the backdrop. Like a pointillist's dream, the lights formed constantly moving images and visuals that included a variety of themes and styles, ranging from growing fractals and dancing geometric shapes to stop-motion videos and beautiful, natural scenery. This was blended with highly focused beams of lights (not lasers) and constantly changing stage lights that swept colors smoothly across the stage to create the multisensory encounter that even the most experienced STS9 fans regaled as the best yet.
They were joined by Athens, Georgia's Maserati, another live band-style, electronically psychedelic act who also have a deep discography and history, thriving for over a decade. Their current lineup seems to be lead by drummer Mike Albanese, whose drum set sits in the forefront of the stage and the sound. He's joined by a pair of guitars and a bass in a style that's manicured constantly throughout their set with a variety of effects and additional electronic elements. The crowd was small for their early set, but they received strong reactions from the few that came early. The brunt of the crowd had arrived by the last song to cheer them on with additional respect.
The night proved successful for the performers and crowd alike as STS9 continued their legacy at the Pageant. They continue to grow as musicians, artists and members of the community. Perhaps the only feeling greater than the experience of that night's show is the anticipation of the next step in the multimedia creation that has become a Sound Tribe Sector 9 show.
All photos by Wil Wander.