Sound Tribe Sector 9

“We went first to [Washington,] D.C., then to Baltimore, then we went to New York — we saw them twice in New York — then we went to see them in Pittsburgh on the next Tuesday, and then the next night we went to Columbus, Ohio... on a whim,” said sophomore art major Andrea Meythaler, ticking off the list of Sound Tribe Sector 9 concerts she attended over a three-week period last fall.

“And then recently I saw them four times in Atlanta,” she added, referring to the four consecutive concerts that STS9 played at the Tabernacle, a concert venue in Atlanta, Ga., in the days surrounding New Year’s Eve.

Judging by the hordes of drum-whacking, glowstick-wielding, mellow-eyed concertgoers that filled the cavernous expanse of the century-old church, Meythaler represented a nearly infinitesimal percentage of the Santa-Cruz-by-way-of-Atlanta quintet’s fan base that converged in Atlanta on the first night of the concert series. All four nights of the Atlanta shows sold out days in advance, attesting to 10 years of STS9’s escalating popularity along the jam band and electronica circuits. Such devoted audiences for a band that has yet to release a recognizable single may seem perplexing, but the live music experience that STS9 engenders accounts for the thousands of listeners who are moths to the flame of epic improvised compositions that arise according to the audience’s mood.

STS9’s keyboardist, bassist, and guitarist manipulate electronic samples throughout the show, elevating the performance from a jam band set to a full‑fledged spectacle complete with a light show, live art, independent vendors, and the unbroken raw energy of a hyperkinetic crowd. Though groups such as Lotus, The Pnuma Trio, The Disco Biscuits, and Infected Mushroom channel genres similar to STS9, the Atlanta quintet belongs to a class of its own. Its appeal comes from the universality of the message behind the art — that music’s creative merit depends on the emotions that it evokes from the listener. An STS9 concert brings together people who love hip-hop, rave, electronica, and dance music, and the band attracts concertgoers demanding more than an hour-long set and the possibility of an encore.

The band indulges its audience and keeps them wanting more. As a service to its fans, most tickets range between $20 and $30. One especially enthused attendee at the opening night of the Tabernacle shows burst forth through the entrance to commemorate his 50th STS9 sighting. Another devotee, Sam Belanger, a second-year architecture major, described the band’s genre-bending sound. “STS9 is the evolution of music through the combination of genres,” Belanger said. “There’s always been a disconnect between the hippie scene and the raver scene, and they can pull from multiple influences for their songs and have it turn out perfectly.”

The debut concert at the Tabernacle ended in a bombastic symphony in vivid color played by five instruments and three digital turntables. When the crowd shuffled out of the venue in high spirits, fans continued to feed on the prevailing positive vibes that the concert environment harnessed.

The festival’s first concert, held Dec. 28, marked a modern-day happening, a truly unparalleled intersection of technology and free-form music. At this stage in STS9’s rapid emergence, bass-playing frontman David Murphy — whose fans affectionately call him “Murph” — would be humbled to hear Belanger dub STS9 “masters of ceremony, time, and sound.”