Sound Check Sector 9: A Question of Quantity- Not Quality (10/23/09 Terminal 5)


It can be argued that Sound Tribe Sector 9 is and has been one of the most influential bands in the jam band scene over the past decade. The band’s style incorporates a brilliant mix of numerous disciplines, blending themes of hip-hop, rock n roll, urban electronica, drum and bass, and jazz. To stay ahead of the game, STS9 constantly reinvents their sound and style. However, change is a two way street.

While the band’s talent remains intact, there is no denying that they are not the same group they used to be. Remember when STS9 used to rage 15-minute songs with no end in sight? Remember when a Tribe fan could go to multiple shows and never hear the same version of a song twice?

In terms of musicianship, it can be argued that, while they are still a great band, they have become too predictable. In sacrificing the improvisational element of their music, they frequently sound too rehearsed. On the other hand, some fans would argue that the improvisational element does not matter as long as musicianship is up to par. It doesn’t really matter with whom you agree as long as you, as a fan, acknowledge and embrace the band’s attempt to grow.

It is pure fact that Murph, Hunter, Zach, Phipps and Lerner are all incredible musicians who have created a collective sound unsurpassed by their industry cohorts. It is for this very reason that my friends and I did not hesitate in buying the $40 tickets to their New York City show at Terminal 5 during the past fall tour. Ehem- Cough- I repeat $40 tickets.

I’m sorry, but lets just put $40 into perspective real quick. This past summer I went to a two-day festival called Muddy River Jam Festival and the ticket for the entire weekend was $40. Moreover, Phish, one of the most famous bands in the world, charges a mere $50 a ticket for their shows. Ok, so maybe STS9 is not to blame for the high-ticket prices. Maybe it’s just the high cost of living in Manhattan or the gluttonous club owners who genuinely believe that raising the admittance fee to their venues will raise the caliber of attendees.

While the topic of ticket price may appear as a digression from the premise, it is actually far from the case. When fans pay extra money to see a band that they would normally see for a lower price, it is only natural that they place high expectations on the evening’s events prior to the show.

Unlike Boston, it is legal for clubs in New York to stay open for all hours of the night. (Boston my heart goes out to you.) That said, it is fair to assume that a band such as STS9, notorious for epic late night performances, would rage Manhattan on a Friday night until 12am, at the least. Unfortunately, this was hardly the case.

However, the members of the band proved that they aren’t as young as they used to be when the concert ended before 12am. In fact, in regards to music in general, what is usually the one thing that differentiates the young from the old? That’s right… VOLUME! How many times have your parents or grandparents told you to turn down the music? Well, my friends and I were raging the rail at the show and we were having perfectly clear, normal sounding conversations. This should never be the case when you are front row at a show; unless perhaps your aim is to enjoy a nice relaxing evening with Enya or Sarah McLachlan.

The only people to blame for the poor sound levels and the abrupt end time are the band and their crew. Just a couple weeks prior at Terminal 5, Hard, an electronic tour featuring British dubstep artist Rusko as well as the Crookers, Italian ghettotech aficionados, not only raged until 2am, but the music was so loud my friends and I had a difficult time hearing each other on the 3rd floor. Fortunately, STS9 proved just as talented and on point as ever with a very solid set.

Yes, just one set. A $40 ticket for just one set that ended before 12am. In fact, the set began just a couple minutes before 10pm and ended just before 11:11pm. I can recall this specifically because my 11:11pm wish was for STS9 to come out and play a second set. The first set was so good that everyone wanted more. Is that too much to ask? While the band did come out and play 3 encore songs, it did not make up for the fact that they did not play a second set, as everyone left the venue before 12am.

The judgment of a show should typically base itself on quality over quantity. With all due respect, it is not the quality of the show that is at question here. Rather it is the notion of quantity that played the deciding role this night at Terminal 5. The tickets were too expensive, the set was too short, and the volume was too low. Is STS9 still a great band? Yes! Do fans deserve more than one set for $40? Yes! Has STS9 changed for the better or worse? That’s for you to decide…

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