Any soul not saved during Tribe’s five-night NYE run at Atlanta’s Tabernacle should be inspected for factory defects.
By Bob Mandich
Deep in the heart of downtown Atlanta, GA the faithful masses gathered for five nights of the one thing they all had in common, their mutual love of a band. Now, while not everybody would be partaking in all five nights, there was no question that there would be a vast number of repeat offenders for this special occasion. It was indeed a homecoming for Sound Tribe Sector 9 who had not played The Tabernacle for two years to the date, December 27, 2011. The former-church-turned-venue is filled with such grandeur and beauty that it’s easy to see why the band refers to it as home. Its intimacy also adds to its mystique, holding only 2600 people. There is definitely something special about The Tabernacle, and for the next five nights Sound Tribe Sector 9 would go on to show everyone in attendance just how special a concert could be.
Night I opened with “Mischief of a Sleepwalker,” which, it turns out, had not been played since December 27, 2011. Instantly, all bets were off. The crowd roared with excitement as the soft and elegant opening notes filled the chapel. When you open a five night run with a “bust out” you set the bar high for what’s to come and almost have a certain responsibility to not let your fans down. There would only be ascension from here on out. The first set included “Warrior” followed by a very rare, non-axed (acoustic) “South of Here,” a particularly nasty “Glogli” that was layered in funk and the very elusive “Tap-In,” which had only been played once before in 2013 and not at all in 2012. The crowd was extremely satisfied with the 1st Set and gnashing its collective chompers for more. The 2nd Set featured a 10 minute “Orbital”, a song that is also very loved by the devoted faithful and almost never gets play time anymore. The crowd reaction was incredible; people were literally flipping out from the top to the bottom of The Tabernacle. An OG “ABCees” followed right after and did not feature the new, reworked ending. While I for one am a fan of the new ending, it was quite refreshing to hear the original in full for the first time in a long time. To be completely honest, it was one of the best versions I’ve ever heard, live or recorded. “Baraka” closed the 2nd Set and it’s always a real treat to hear it live; it’s one of their most beautiful songs and carries so much emotion. Even though it’s in the rotation more than some of the previously-mentioned songs, many fans are still wishing and hoping to get their first live one. The encore was the very slow and methodical “This, Us” followed by a very dirty “Ramone & Emiglio.” There was so much heat in the first night that it was almost impossible to believe that there were still four nights left.
With all the “bust outs” and bombs Sound Tribe dropped on everyone the night before, one had to think that there would maybe be a little extra in store for Night II. That would turn out to be true but not for a little later on in the night. The show really got going with “Crystal Instrument.” The very weird and spaced-out intro is an unmistakable sound that most fans instantly recognize. The up-paced play and tempo that follows make it one of the bands most unique and adored songs. A newer song that had been debuted earlier in 2013 was next. “Song 2” had only been played five times previously and was also only played acoustic. This marked the first time that the song was not “axed.” It’s a slow burning song with a breakdown and build that have the potential to truly be something great because, as we all know, when it comes to jamtronica bands, no song sounds the same the 50th time as it did the 1st time. There is a lot of work to be done and things to be added but “Song 2” shows great promise. The final three songs of the 1st Set will go down as one of the marquee moments of the entire run. “Roygbiv” sent the crowd into a frenzy as it’s also one of those rare gems that you’ll only hear by being in the right place at the right time. The Tabernacle was all the colors of the rainbow as light man Saxton Waller knew exactly how to paint the picture to Sound Tribe’s soundtrack. (On a side note, the lights were incredible all five nights. Saxton Waller is one of the best in the business at what he does and his skills elevate a Sound Tribe Sector 9 show from a performance to a spectacle, something that truly needs to been seen to believe. Peanut butter and jelly only wish they could pair as well as Sound Tribe Sector 9 and Saxton Waller.) For the final two songs they brought out bassist Alana Rocklin from the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League. She laid down her expertise on “Hidden Hand, Hidden Fist” and “Shakedown Street.” The former led into the latter and the latter was the best version of the famous Grateful Dead tune they’ve ever performed, period. While usually only churning out a three-four minute rendition, this one went just over the six minute mark and featured some funky bass lines from Alana and Murph. Set Two was the heat from start to finish. “Hubble” was followed by “Arigato” with the new, reworked ending that debuted earlier this year. The new ending has become better and much more crisp with each passing time it’s played. “Golden Gate” was next and got one of the best crowd responses of the entire run. Of all the songs that have been debuted since 2010 it may be safe to say that “Golden Gate” is the consensus fan favorite. The smiles could be seen all around and the love could be felt just as much. Two gold nuggets would follow as “Water Song” and “Open E” both tore the house down. “Tooth” was as sharp and as biting as ever. “Moon Socket,” a song that could be considered a quintessential Sound Tribe track as it is one of their oldest and most-often played, closed the 2nd Set and left the crowd screaming. They came back out for the encore and brought Alana with them for “Gobnugget,” one of the funkiest songs in their entire catalog. Murph and Alana were slapping that bass hard once again. “Instantly” was the final song of the night and had a serious intensity to it. Hearts were racing “Not just some of the time… instantly.” The first 2 nights were nothing short of incredible but Night III had something really special waiting for everyone who chose to attend.
Night III fell on a Sunday; there’s a saying amongst Tribe fans, “Never miss a Sunday show.” The fact that this particular Sunday show was in what once was a church upped the adage about tenfold. With trumpet specialist Russ Liquid serving as the opener, everybody in the building knew exactly what was about to go down. “Blu Mood” opened the first set, a song that makes you feel like you’re on a tropical island late at night just dancing your life away. “Evasive Maneuvers” was next and took everybody from the jungle to the spaceship where the need to dance was still very much the same. Old-school funk track “Wika Chikana” was next. It’s not that get-down-and-boogey type of funk, more like that get-down-and-dirty, and everybody was getting real dirty. “Grizzly” was next, followed by “Between 6th & 7th,” a song that is also usually axed when played. The band proceeded to bring out The Liquid Horns, made up of Russ Liquid on trumpet and Gnarly G on saxophone. There has to be some sort of formula for human reaction to horned instruments because the songs for which the horns were involved had the crowd going bananas. The 1st song was “Thriller,” an ode to the King of Pop. The horns are a natural fit for the song and even though they’d only played it three times before, it’s definitely worth noting that this was by far their best rendition. “Simulator” was next and also featured the horns, followed by “Move My Peeps” without them. The horns are simply not necessary for MMP, a song that entrances you with its pleasant riffs, deep drums and late-night feel. The horns were brought out again for the final song of the 1st Set, “2001 (Also Sprach Zarathustra)”. Again, the best rendition of this song they’ve ever done (sort of a theme of the entire run). The horns were absolutely on fire and Murph let loose on the bass like a mad man! To put it a little more eloquently, it was eight minutes of pure majesty. The Liquid Horns were back on stage for the start of the 2nd Set and the opener couldn’t have pleased the ATLiens more. “SpottieOttieDopaliscious,” originally by one of the greatest duos in rap history and Atlanta’s own OutKast, had the crowd howling at the moon. “Feels good to be home,” was all Murph had to say to get a thunderous response from the crowd. It was so laid back and so damn smooth that it was a genuinely sad thing that the song had to end. They could have played that one song the rest of the night and nobody would have cared. “Vibyl” and “Shock Doctrine” were next and both featured The Liquid Horns. The horns are a match made in heaven with “Vibyl” and while “Shock Doctrine” may seem like an odd choice to include horns, make no mistake that it sounded damn good. The Liquid Horns would exit stage left and then Sound Tribe would go on to show everybody why they were there in the first place. “Frequencies D&B>2>3” was killer and featured another ode to OutKast with a “So Fresh, So Clean” tease that a lot of people, including this writer, didn’t catch the first time around. Go back and listen, it’s downright squeaky clean. “Squares & Cubes” was followed by “New Soma,” a heavy-hitting piano ballad that encompasses the electronic and rock sides of Sound Tribe perfectly. They weren’t done with the covers yet either as “Robot Rock,” originally by Daft Punk, was next. This song was a lot of fun and Phipps absolutely killed it on the keys. “Lo Swaga” was next and this was the song where everyone got down the hardest. The energy could be felt from the band as it seeped its way into the crowd. “Lo Swaga” used to be heavy in the rotation but had only been played 2 times in 2013 up to that point. As unfortunate as that is, it couldn’t take away from the joy of hearing it in a set that was already phenomenal. One can only hope it will find its way back into the rotation in 2014. “From Now On” closed the 2nd Set.
The thing that separates Sound Tribe from other bands is their innate ability to convey emotion through their music and “From Now On” is a prime example. It’s gripping. It’s powerful. It’s the ups and downs of life. The band came out once more and The Liquid Horns were right behind them. I think everybody knew what the encore was going to be but it didn’t stop them from screaming like little girls when it came on. “King Pharaoh’s Tomb” lit the Tabby up like a Christmas tree and everybody danced like there was no tomorrow. The only things missing were belly dancers, sword swallowers and cobras coming out of wicker baskets because as far as I’m concerned, we were all in ancient Egypt for a brief moment in time.
Night IV kind of had the luxury of not really being expected to be better than Night III. With the horns and the set list from the night before nearly tearing The Tabernacle down, people were somewhat expecting a more laid back set to provide a little bit of ease between the middle and final nights. Depending on whom you asked, it was either exactly that or the best put together show of the entire run. “The Rabble” served as opener and for those of you who don’t know that is not a laid back song. “The Rabble” is one of their most intense songs, known to bring out the inner dance floor animal in anyone who dares to listen. “Kaya” was its usual uplifting self while “Somesing” popped its head out to the delight of everyone, another one of Sound Tribe’s more versatile and boundary-stretching tracks. “Atlas” was very loud and heavy and was followed by “Satori,” an emotionally-fueled song. “Tokyo” received a very nice ovation as it is very much like “Somesing” in that it expands the realms of electronic and rock music. “Hi-Key” was odd if only for the fact that it could have been played the night before with actual horns instead of its normal recorded horns. It was still great to hear nonetheless. The next three songs all led into each other, one right after the other to compose the Mobsters suite. “Mobsters” tantalized with its quick guitar riffs that made you feel like you were in some sort of 30’s swing club. “Surreality” captivated with its dream-like feel that had the audience hoping it would never wake up from this wonderland. Finally, “EB” brought the suite on home with its sharpness and rapid pace. A Mobsters suite is another one of those rare Tribe treasures that you’re just not going to see every day. The 1st Set ended with Sound Tribe bringing out Cherub, the electronic pop duo who served as Night IV’s opener. They would go on to cover “Party All The Time” by Eddie Murphy. Now while the original version is by Rick James, everybody who knows the song knows the Eddie Murphy version. This may have been the most out-of-left-field occurrence in the history of left field but, truth be told, it was a lot of fun and you could tell that Sound Tribe and Cherub were both really enjoying it. Nostalgia is a hell of a drug. The 2nd Set opened with “Really What?” and was then followed by “Vapors,” which featured Kenny Bartolomei from the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League on saxophone. “Scheme Reprise” sent shivers down spines with its pulsating rhythms and eerily-slow pace. “Today” was followed by “Jebez.” Both tracks are rarely ever played live and are both beautiful in their own rights. “Today” has a little bit of soft and hard to it while “Jebez” could be summed up as sonic happiness. For me personally, “Jebez” was the unquestionable highlight of the night. “Inspire Strikes Back” was next and is very much like “Moon Socket” in that it is a song that defines the band, universally known amongst almost everybody who knows who Sound Tribe is, even if those people may not know the song by its name. There were some minor new additions and tweaks to the track on this night, possibly showing signs of a new direction the classic cut could be heading in. “2012” closed it out before they came back out for a couple more golden tracks. “Nautilus” received a huge ovation and had the crowd hooked with its catchy jazz feel then “…And Some Are Angels” carried us home like a chariot in the night. From a standpoint of pure musicianship, it’s hard to argue that Night IV wasn’t the best set list of the run.
It was almost impossible to believe that four nights could have gone by so quickly, but you know what they say about time and fun. Everybody was ready to do it one more time and bring in 2014 the right way: dancing until you can no longer stand. The 1st Set really picked up steam with “When The Dust Settles” While this is a song that has a sort of disdain aimed towards it because of the frequency it’s played, it should definitely be know that the song got one of the rowdiest responses of the run. Everybody in attendance was feeling real good and felt even better when “What Is Love?” came next. It’s as fitting a celebration song as any and we all had something to celebrate. We were all in the midst of lifetime memories, sharing joy with our closest friends, loved ones, total strangers and five guys who are really good at what they do. “Music, Us” slowed it down and was well worth the wait as many people I had talked to throughout the run said it was one of the songs they most wanted to hear. “Dance” almost caused a few dance floor convulsions as it almost always does. The way that funk sound transitions into what feels like a high speed car chase gets a crowd worked up every time. “Luma Daylight” was a fantastic set closer with its deep bass and pure ability to tug at your heart strings. Sound Tribe came back on with about 10 minutes left in 2013 and treated us to a devilishly good “Monkey Music.” We all proceeded to count down together and welcome 2014 with open arms. How did Sound Tribe say hello? They surprised a lot of people with their self titled track “STS9.” It was a surprise if only because most people would have expected a rendition much earlier in the run. The way they spread their song catalog out throughout each night made it to where Night V was their best New Year’s Eve show in at least five years. “Kamuy” was especially hot with a dueling drum solo by percussionist Jeffree Lerner and drummer Zach Velmer that led into some nasty bass licks from the Murph man himself. “Breathe In” would go on to close the 2nd Set and was, in a word, heavenly. David Phipps is a master pianist and is capable of moving people to tears with his play and on no track is this truer than on “Breathe In.” The final encore would feature two songs. “Four Year Puma” brought the dance party to life one more time and had me believing that disco might not actually be dead. The final, final song of the run would be none other than “Circus.” Before I even got to The Tabernacle on Night I, no, before I even got to Georgia there was only one way I could see it all ending. The unmistakable opening notes sparked smiles and cheers of glee all across the room. The guitar cried tears of happiness along with many others in the room. The build brought spirits to an all-time high. We kept getting higher and higher until the climax, in all of its glory, cleansed every soul in the old church. I thought it to myself before and joyfully proclaimed it after, there was no other way it could have ended.
From start to finish these five nights were nothing short of magical. Sound Tribe Sector 9 elevated themselves into an elite upper echelon of performers. Every song was crisp. Every light shined bright. Every night was memorable. This will be a run that will be talked about for a long time to come and anybody who was lucky enough to be there should cherish those memories. There is no greater escape than music and there is nothing that makes this writer happier than seeing the happiness that live music can bring to a person’s soul. From December 27, 2013 through the first couple hours of 2014, happiness could be seen, felt and heard everywhere. As we always say, rage on, STS9. Ray John.