Entering Sky World: STS9 Red Rocks Tour Kick-Off

Live music is back and a three-night run in Colorado is an outstanding start for five-piece livetronica band Sound Tribe Sector 9’s return to live performance. The Sky World tour – rescheduled from last year – is the second part of their 2019 Push The Sky tour. Traditionally, STS9 plays a multi-night run at Red Rocks Amphitheater over Labor Day weekend. However due to the pandemic, the band had not played for well over a year until now. Having the opportunity to witness Tribe kick off this special tour at one of the best venues in the world and a place I call home was an outstanding live music experience. Tribe delivered a true night to remember.

Red Rocks is operating at full capacity again. So, it wasn’t long before both Friday and Saturday’s STS9 shows were sold out. I attended the first night this past Friday, July 23rd. The show consisted of three sets. One of the three sets was Classic Tribe hits, that included some lesser-known songs, and new content alike intertwined in a magical, funky, and at times a spooky musical journey. Exemplifying the true jamtronica sound, STS9 carried songs into the next, seamlessly blending sound.

Starting The Night Off

The show kicked off with a smoky horizon and a low-hanging early evening sun. A melodic voice rang out. The song “Sky World” by Theresa Bear Fox of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation played, a song of remembrance for those who have passed on. Screams of excitement emerge in a wave from the crowd of nine thousand and some attendees. The illustrious Red Rocks stage was graced with keyboardist and synth master David Phipps, percussionists Jeffree Lerner and Zach Velmer, guitarist Hunter Brown, and badass bass playin’ babe Alana Rocklin.

Tribe played some of their best bangers in the first set, including “Better Day”, “Breathe In”, “Poseidon”, and “Ramone & Eglio”. Also Tribe played “When the Dust Settles”, which transformed into their rendition of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Family Affair”. The second set included “Out of this World”, “Strange Games”, and “Lift You Up”. A blanket of light on the rocks from Friday’s full moon blended with the ambient colorful beams of STS9’s top-notch lighting production. Which painted a perfect backdrop for the final set – my personal favorite of the night. “World Go Round” metamorphosed into “Dusk”, “Monkey Music” into the soul-churning “Golden Gate”, and “Arigato” mutated into “Orbital”.

One of the most notable experiences of seeing an STS9 performance is witnessing the raw love and passion these musicians have for their art. An undeniable look of pure hypnotic bliss possesses Rocklin’s face as she crafts the basslines. David Phipp’s serene expression as his fingers effortlessly glide across the keyboard. The sweaty, beaming focus on Jeffree and Zach’s faces as they hammer and thump the drums. Hunter biting his lip, somehow grimacing and smiling at the same time, when he masterfully takes over the song for a moment with his guitar. And the crowd – the fan base of Tribe – is so special in itself. “This is my 150th tribe show”, said one of the guys standing next to me. His eyes tear up a bit as the song Golden Gate creeps into fruition. 

Tribe encored Friday with the song “We’ll Meet In Our Dreams”. A final pulse of energy exploded from the stage in the ending drum solo. Then came the typical moments of a Red Rocks show after the encore is over – “back to life, back to reality”, we heard. A bittersweet sadness ascended on the crowd as the realization set in that the show was really over for the night. Although, it only felt as though so little time had passed since the journey began. I reluctantly pulled myself off the side planter box, following the herd down the stairs in a pure joyous haze.

Conclusion

Overall, I highly recommend experiencing an STS9 performance at least once to those who haven’t yet. After more than two decades of making music, Tribe is an expert at producing a truly original sound and presenting live music in a way that offers so much substance to fans of electronica and rock music alike. Upcoming performances for STS9 include Summer Camp Music Festival in Chillicothe, Illinois August 20th – August 2021, and three additional October shows in Lake Perris and Napa, California. 

Photos by Julien Deroeux

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