Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9) 5-Night New Years Run @ The Tabernacle - Atlanta, GA [December 27-31, 2013] (Review)

A Review By: Troy Manley
Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9) formed in Georgia in 1998 and haven’t looked back since. The band has released 11 full length albums, two remix albums, and  two live DVD’s – not including their countless live sets available for download through their website. Sound Tribe’s music is almost entirely instrumental electronic rock that maintains funk, jazz, hip-hop, and drum and bass influences throughout their live shows. The band prefers to maintain group cohesion and rhythm over individual solos in their self described “post-rock dance music.” Consisting of five stellar musicians – David Murphy on bass and midi keyboard, Hunter Brown on Guitar and midi keyboard, David Phipps on keyboards, Zach Velmer on drums, and Jeffree Lerner rounding things out on percussion and handsonic – STS9 have developed a large following and average nearly 5,000 tickets per city on their tours. They have headlined stages at large festivals like Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Electric Forest, Summer Set to name a few. There is an extensive list of festival appearances: HERE. STS9 has also has their own record label – 1320 Records – which has a host of talents artists under its belt, which can be found HERE. For this New Years they decided to return to Atlanta, Georgia for a 5-night run at The Tabernacle- also known as “The Tabby.”
  Below: The Tabernacle Circa 1920 source
    The Tabernacle is a mid-sized venue in Atlanta that as a lot of history behind it. The building was initially constructed on as a Baptist Church and its first services were held in September of 1911. The pastor of the church upon its construction was Dr. Len G. Broughton and the church became known as “Broughton’s Tabernacle” among the locals. The church officially ended services in 1991 and was sold to a group of investors in October 1994 who intended to redevelop the venue in conjunction with the 1996 Summer Olympics. After unsuccessful attempts to restore the building, a deal was cut to open a House of Blues just in time for the Olympics. They turned the venue into a fully functional concert hall in 45 days and it was ready to go when the Olympics opened in July 1996. The first act to perform at the new House of Blues was The Blues Brothers. The House of Blues officially shut down when its lease expired in January 1998. Lance Sterling is the hero of this story. In March 1998, he announced an investment of $2 million of personal funds to develop the venue. He also gave the concert hall its current name, The Tabernacle. Officially opening on March 28, 1998, The Tabernacle was under Sterling’s command for two years, until he announced he was to sell the venue because his involvement conflicted with his family life. He sold it in December 1999 to SFX Entertainment – now Live Nation – who has operated the venue since. The 2,600 capacity venue sustained extensive damage as a result of a tornado that went through Atlanta in March 2008. Workers labored around the clock for two months to repair the building; much of the building has to be redone and repainted, so the company brought in the original painter from the 1996 opening to fix the damaged sections. That was the first tornado to hit the downtown of the city since weather record keeping began in 1878. Luckily there weren’t any tornados this time around.
Below: The Tabernacle in 2011 (source)
                The Tabernacle is right next door to a giant colorful and flashing Ferris Wheel, SkyView Atlanta, in the heart of downtown Atlanta and there is plenty of parking in the direct vicinity of the venue, so that shouldn’t be an issue. “The Tabby” is a giant brick building with white trim that doesn’t necessarily seem that big from the outside – although it is monstrously tall. With only a pair of will-call windows and a single entrance into the venue, lines should be expected and it is advised to arrive a little bit early to the show to ensure you are inside on time. After a thorough, yet semi-intrusive, security check at the entrance you walk up a flight of stairs into a main lobby area that you can continue straight through and down another set of stairs to arrive at a large lobby area with TV’s and audio equipment set up so those below can still enjoy the show. This is where the merchandise booth, bathrooms, water fountains, and multiple bars were located. Rewind back to the original staircase now. Instead of going straight and down the stairs, you can either go left or right and continue up another set of stairs. On this floor you can enter the main general admission floor and some other bars. There is a SweetWater Brewing room on this level that has some awesome beers with higher ABV’s at the same price as the lower quality brews, they’ve even got some couches for you to sit on. If you’re into craft brews I suggest making your way into that room.
Below: SkyView Atlanta, The Tabernacle is the Brick/White building on the bottom left (source)
                You can continue up the stairs a couple more flights and find multiple lounge rooms with couches for people to enjoy, as well as multiple bars on the other floors – beverages are not hard to find in this place. There are 2 balconies and I checked both of them out. I don’t really recommend the 2nd balcony unless you’ve got VIP. VIP has the 1st and 2nd row center stage of the 2nd balcony reserved and that is arguably the best seat in the house. Elsewhere on the 2nd balcony I did not enjoy because I felt like the 3rd balcony was right above my head and I couldn’t truly enjoy the light show – the acoustics also felt a bit off. The chairs were also a bit crammed in there. I’m 6’7”, so that probably doesn’t help my cause either. On the other hand, the 3rd balcony is awesome, although you need to get there early to get a good spot – it filled up quick every night on this run. The chandelier in the middle of the room and the décor of the ceiling are awesome and they are difficult to see from the lower levels of the venue. The light show is stellar from the 3rd floor as well, you can see everything in its entirety and just really take it all in. The chairs have more room too. My only complaint was that it got quite a bit warmer up on the 3rd balcony than on the floor. All in all, the Tabernacle is an incredible venue.
Above: One of the multiple lounges and bars scattered throughout the venue (source)
DAY ONE- 12.27.31 w/Lunice
                Lunice was the opener for the 1st night of the run. He is a French-Canadian producer born and raised in Montreal that maintains heavy hip-hop influences throughout his set. His set started off pretty cool with him interacting with the crowd and just having a good time to lift the mood. He asked the crowd if they like rap music before the show, I guess I didn’t really know what to expect from a DJ that played rap music. He infused vocals over grimy and progressive type trap beats for the first portion of his set. He left the decks multiple times and at one point was down in the crowd walking around while his music was still going. The vibes I was picking up from the crowd was that many of them weren’t exactly digging it. I could understand where they’re coming from. Midway through his set he changed things up and included less vocals into his music and made it a more bass heavy dance style set – this got the crowd going. Despite not necessarily digging his music all that much – I’m just not really into in trap, personal preference – this guy was pretty damn good behind the controls. He knew exactly what to do at the right time and that is not something you see all that often. If you dig trap, dude’s worth checking out.
Below: STS9 on the first night (source)
                Once Lunice’s set was finished the crowd started filling up the floor in anticipation of Sound Tribe taking the stage.  The guys wasted no time and came out of the gates swinging with “Mischief of  Sleepwalker” and a massive set ensued. “One a Day” came up next and then it progressed through “Kabuki” > “Warrior” > “South of Here” > “Equinox”> “GLOgli” > “Tap-In” and rounded out the first set with “Scheme.” Holy shit! That’s the first thought that crossed my mind when they took their set break. After a 30 or so minute break, the band came back on for their second set and got things going again with the high energy “EHM,” which was followed by “Orbital” > “Abcees(OG)” > “T.W.E.L.V.E.” > “Awesome” which transitioned into “Unquestionable Supremacy of Nature” and was rounded out with “Baraka.” After going off for a couple minutes, the crowd started doing the Atlanta Braves war chant – god damn was that cool. After a minute or two of the chant roaring throughout the entire theater, the band came back on and the place went crazy. Their encore consisted on “This, Us” and “Ramone & Emiglio” finished off the night.  The energy of the crowd was par-none throughout the show and the band was feeding off it and played on point with an incredible vivacity the entire time. Their lighting guy, Saxton, was on the money all night as usual – shouldn’t expect anything less, ever. With 4 suspended light bars and their fabled high-definition light board, he had all the tools at his disposal necessary for him to work his magic. Lights were projected onto the walls and ceilings, as well as the stage area, which made for an incredibly entertaining and refreshing light show throughout their two sets. The entire show is available for download: HERE.

DAY TWO - 12.28.31 w/Eskmo
                After their killer performance the first night, anticipation for the 2nd night of shenanigans was running high. Well, shit did not start out on the right foot. Traffic caused us to get there a little bit later than we were hoping to, so when we got to The Tabernacle there insanely long lines leading up to the lone entrance, and some more lines – although not as long – as will call. Well, after about 50 minutes waiting in lines in the rain we finally got into the venue and Eskmo was midway through his final song. It is truly one of the most aggravating things ever when you miss an artist because of lines to get into the venue.
Below: STS9 (source)
                After about a 30 minute intermission the lights dimmed, the crowd went nuts, and the band took the stage. STS9 started things off with “Bigs” and transitioned through “1.2.3” and “Empires” flawlessly to create one ‘super track.’ Without losing any momentum, Sound Tribe got into “F. Word” and then proceeded to work their way through “Crystal Instrument” > “Song 2” > “Metameme” > “Looking Back on Earth” and “Roy G. Biv.” But that’s not where they ended their first set. Murphy called friend and fellow bassist, Alana Rocklin, to help them finish strong with “Hidden Hand, Hidden Fist” which was impeccably melded into “Shakedown Street.” Alana Rocklin is the official bassist for J.U.S.T.I.C.E. and is part of the duo, sub-ID, which is part of the 1320 Records family. Tribe’s second set was another raging dance party as the group demolished “Hubble” > “Arigato” > my personal favorite, “Golden Gate” > “Water Song” > “Open E” and finished off by bringing “Tooth” around into “Moon Socket” in an emphatic fashion. After leaving the stage for a couple minutes, the band came back on stage for another song with the talented Alana Rocklin, “Gobnugget,” which was followed up by “Instantly.” The entire show is available for download: HERE.

DAY THREE – 12.29.31 w/Russ Liquid
                Russell Scott, better known by his stage name, Russ Liquid, is a Portland, Oregon based producer and DJ whom in a short period of time, has already developed a reputation for “radiating a sonic supernova of genre-blending beats on the dance floor, captivating audiences with passionate live instrumental performances.” Throughout his set Russ Liquid utilized a trumpet and a flute throughout the set and maintained an incredible level of energy that truly transpired onto the crowd. Truly an entertainer, Russ seamlessly added flourishes of instrumental color and emotion while manning all the various controllers and instruments himself. Not to mention he was dancing like a mad-man the whole time. Hands down one of the coolest electronic acts I have ever had the opportunity to see, I HIGHLY recommend checking this dude out – you will not be disappointed.
Left: STS9 (source)
                If there is one thing I’ve learned about bands making a multi-day run, you don’t want to miss the Sunday show! Sound Tribe let no time go to waste in getting into things by starting off with “Blu Mood” and “Evasive Maneuvers” before getting down to “Wiki Chikana,” “Grizzly,” and “Between 6th and 7th.” They took a quick break to invite some friends on stage. Russ Liquid took the stage along with GharlyG to provide some support on the horns for their insanely awesome and unexpected cover of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” – holy shit was that freaking cool. The level of energy Russ Liquid brought to the stage was incredible, and was maintained throughout the entire night. Gharly G and Russ Liquid stayed on for “Simulator” and took a quick break for “Move My Peeps” before coming back on for “2001 (Also Sprach Zarathustra)” to close out the 1st set. After a 40-minute set break the lights dimmed and Sound Tribe was ready to take the stage again. GharlyG and Russ Liquid came back out for the first 2 songs of their second set, “SpottieOttieDopalicious” and “Vibyl,” to get things going again in a high energy fashion. STS9 powered their way through an insane set list through the rest of the night, following up those 2 awesome tracks with “Shock Doctrine” and then melded together “Frequencies DnB,” “Frequencies Peace 2,” and “Frequencies 3.” Next came “Squares & Cubes” which transitioned into “New Soma.” They finished their second set up strong with “Robot Rock”- which is a Daft Punk cover – “Lo Swaga,” and “From Now On.” After going off stage I successfully predicted their encore to my friends, “King Pharoah’s Tomb!” For this incredible rendition of the powerful track, they invited Russ Liquid and GharlyG back on stage to power out some horns, however, as a special surprise, they also had Kenny from J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League come out to lay down some sexy sax on the track. The 3 horns and band maintained an insane level of energy throughout the encore and god damnit did those horns get sexy. They jammed out, worked in some horn sections, and even danced like hell on stage. Although only a 1 song Encore, it was incredible and everyone left the venue ecstatic about what had just happened. Easily the best of the 3 days so far, I could only imagine what the next couple days will have in store.  The entire show is available for download: HERE.
Above: GharlyG(left) & Russ Liquid(right) join STS9 (source)
DAY FOUR – 12.30.31 w/Cherub
                Cherub was opener for the 4th night of shenanigans at the Tabernacle. Cherub is an electro-pop duo consisting of Jordan Kelley and Jason Huber hailing from Nashville, TN that has been making splashes since the release of their first album, Man of the Hour. Having seen the band once before at North Coast 2013 in Chicago, I was pretty excited to see them in a venue as spectacular as The Tabernacle, however, the excitement and expectations fell short. I was up in the 3rd row direct center of the stage on the 2nd balcony for their set, and boy did they sound bad. For the first half of their set their sound was extremely muddled and their voices just seemed off. Not to mention they took the stage 15 minutes late and played a short 30 minute or so set. They had energy on stage, but the control of their music seemed to be coming from somewhere else other than the stage, and although they were playing guitars and using a beat pad, it felt too choreographed to an extent. They played “Jazzercise ‘95” during their set which was really cool because most crowd knew the track and went crazy. Going into their last song I was surprised they hadn’t played “Doses and Mimosas” yet, and that they elected to end their set with the track. Kind of cliché to end your opening set with the only track that anyone really knows. Oh well, their music is awesome to listen to on the daily – so I can live with it. Maybe it was just being up on the 2nd balcony, which I do not recommend, but I would suggest checking Cherub out if they are opening for an act you like or are at a festival and have the opportunity to check them out – their music is entertaining.
Below: STS9 (source)
                After Cherub ended we made our way down onto the floor because we just weren’t too satisfied with being up on the middle balcony. After a short wait STS9 took the stage and started things off right with “The Rabble” that was transitioned into one of my personal favorites, “Kaya.” They continued on through “Somesing” > “Atlas” > “Satori” > “Tokyo” > “Hi-Key” > and “Mobsters” transitioned through “Surreality” into “EB” before inviting Cherub on stage to do an incredible cover of Eddie Murphy’s “Party all the Time.” What a perfect way to end out the first set, the whole place was going nuts and signing along to the party anthem. After a short set break they came back on and rocked the place with “Really What?” before pausing to invite Kenny from J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League on stage for the 2nd time in the run to play “Vapors” – another one of my favorites. They finished up the set with “Sheme Reprise” > “Today” > “Jebez” > “Inspire Strikes Back” and “20-12.” After their powerful set came to a close, they went off stage for a couple minutes only to come back on for an incredible encore consisting of “Nautilus” and “…And Some Are Angels.” The entire show is available for download: HERE.

DAY FIVE – 12.31.13 – New Years Eve w/Project Aspect
                I brought my cousin with to this show; she had never heard of STS9 prior to that and had only been to The Tabernacle once a couple years prior, despite living in the Atlanta area. We rocked out solid seats in the 4th row of the 3rd (highest) balcony. Jay Jaramillo, aka Project Aspect, set the stage for the night on New Years Eve at The Tabernacle. Beginning in 2008, Jay began project aspect with a new vision for exploring EDM – an emphasis on depth and layering of sounds to provide an unpredictable live performance. Playing 100% original music throughout the night, he displayed a vast array of skill throughout heavy bass music, ambient and melodic tones, and crunchy glitch style beats. This was definitely the most I had seen the crowd get into an opener throughout the 5-night run. Jay has also teamed up with a good friend of mine, Ronnie Weberg – aka Unlimited Gravity – for a side project called Unlimited Aspect. They are going on tour soon, I highly recommend checking that out if they stop through a city near you.
Below: STS9 @ Midnight on NYE (source)
                After seeing Project Aspect from up on the 3rd balcony, I was excited as hell for Sound Tribe to take the stage. Once Sound Tribe took command of the saddle, they got things rocking right away with “MOD” > “Beyond Right Now” > “When The Dust Settles” and “What is Love?.” They continued through a rendition of “Music US” that was worked into “Grow,” followed by “Rent” and then “Dance” was worked into “Luma Daylight” to finish out the first set.  They took a 30 or so minute set break and then came back on minutes before midnight. They rocked out the end of 2013 funky with “Monkey Music” before pausing for a countdown to midnight and bringing the new year in with their self-titled track, “STS9.” They then pounded out “Kamuy” and “Aimlessly” before playing what was technically the only repeat of the weekend, “Abcees” – however, this version was played with the new, reworked ending and the previous with the original ending. They finished out their set with “March” and “Breath In.” After going off stage for a couple minutes, they came back on for one of the best encores I have seen them perform. They worked “Four Year Puma” into “Circus” which made for a perfect ending to an incredible show. The entire show is available for download: HERE.

The End
After everything was all said and done I could not believe how blessed I was to be able to take part in something as incredible as this 5-night run by arguably one of the best touring acts right now. The Tabernacle is an awesome venue and it was great to have STS9 be my first experience there. It’s a venue that is easy to access with easy parking in the vicinity and has awesome sound throughout. It also helped that Sound Tribe was incredible throughout the weekend. Never missing a beat,  Murphy, Brown, Velmer, Phipp, and Lerner worked together and had an awesome time on stage fed by an insanely energetic crowd. That place was rocking each and every night.  I ran into a dedicated sound tribe fan, Jeff Ashachik, that was rocking out a pair of crutches after tearing his achilles tendon playing some good 'ol basketball. It was his 4th time seeing tribe and he traveled about 50 miles from Carrollton, Georgia to get to the show. He said his favorite part about the show - other than STS9 killing it - was how understanding and accommodating everyone was when they saw he was on crutches. Apparently they let him right up to the front. Not bad. Although he could only make it to the one night of STS9 he was excited to see them again and is hoping they're going to announce some festivals in the near future. I can only imagine how tired he was after the show. At the end of the 5-day run I was exhausted. My legs were sore, my feet hurt, and I just needed some sleep. But I cannot wait for the band to get on the road for their Winter 2014 tour, which is probably hitting a city near you… so, you shouldn’t miss them. If you do, well, there’s always festival season. A big thanks to STS9 and 1230 Records for having us out at the run and for continually doing what they do best, put on an awesome show.


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