As you drive into the Rocky Mountain state you’re greeted with a sign that says “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” and boy, oh boy was Colorado sure colorful during STS9’s four-night New Year’s Eve run.
With three nights booked at the famed Fillmore Auditorium in downtown Denver and a late addition New Year’s Day show at the Belly Up Tavern in Aspen, the energy going into this run was fever pitch long before the doors opened.
Sound Tribe’s first gig was slated for a Wednesday night, so it was no surprise to see plenty of kids hanging out at popular watering holes around town during the days leading up to December 29. Next door at Sanchos Broken Arrow, many STS9 fans opted out of the openers deciding instead to imbibe a few beverages rather than take in some extra music.
Over the years, the band has morphed from an organic electronic-inspired jam band into the live production and laptop-heavy jamming behemoth that it is today. With this change of sound has come a whole new round of support DJs that cater more toward the club banger vibe than to the loose grooves of yesteryear.
So, plenty of young kiddos wearing sunglasses and neon shirts were inside of the Fillmore right away when the doors opened to check out Mimosa, Tipper or Emancipator while a large portion of the older fans kept the pregame going at one of the various hotels along Colfax Avenue.
This was the scene for most every night of the run – notably younger fans hit the dance floor when the doors opened with the more seasoned Tribe fans getting going just before show time. New fan or old fan, it didn’t really matter once the house lights went down and STS9 hit the stage.
The three nights at the Fillmore Auditorium were pretty much musically solid front to back. Starting things off with a cover of The Grateful Dead’s “Shakedown Street” and dropping right into some classic high-energy STS9 – everyone knew that they were in for a treat.
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Not surprisingly, a couple of new songs were debuted during the course of the run and a few old crowd favorites like “Circus,” “Wika Chikana” and “Breathe In” were busted out for all to enjoy.
To send off 2010 and ring in 2011, Big Gigantic’s Dominic Lalli joined STS9 onstage for a cover of Stevie Wonder’s classic “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” and lighting designer Saxton Waller brought that “colorful Colorado” vibe to life with his newly designed light show.
Each night held something special. The debuted Dead cover and a new song ("Scheme") dropped the fist night. A solo for keyboardist David Phipps, a drum solo for percussionist Jeffree Lerner and drummer Zach Velmer and a DJ suite for guitarist Hunter Brown and bassist David Murphy highlighted the second night. New Year's Eve brought Dom and the Wonder cover as well as the heavenly "Baraka."
But none of those nights measured up to the fourth night.
Fast-forward twelve more hours and about 450 lucky fans found themselves climbing into Subarus, minivans and school busses to start out on a four-hour road trip adventure to the world-renowned ski town of Aspen.
On the night of January 1, the band had scheduled a very intimate performance at the Belly Up Tavern. For a group that has been selling out Red Rocks’ 9,000-seat amphitheater each summer, a concert at a bar-sized venue was what dreams are made of for diehard fans.
If the location and the semi-magical date of 1/1/11 weren’t enough, the event was officially billed as “An Evening of Sector 9 and STS9” and had everyone’s heads swirling with what the band had in store for this night.
Well, what they ended up having in store for the fans was what could, arguably, be called the best STS9 show in years. The first set was littered with back-to-back gems like “Nautilus,” “From Now On,” “Satori,” “King Pharaoh's Tomb” and “Dance” while the second set featured a “Tokyo Remix” and the two new songs, “When the Dust Settles” and “Scheme.” The vibe in this club was unreal and was reminiscent of seeing the boys play a show circa 2005. The Aspen show was all that anyone could have hoped it was going to be, and that is saying a lot. STS9 delivered.
All in all, the four-night run of STS9 shows in Colorado between December 29 and January 1 was top notch. The previous year’s shows had left some people skeptical as to how these shows were going to play out. But for everyone’s benefit, STS9 showed us that they still have it in them.
It’s as if we are on the cusp of a rebirth of the old school Sector 9, merging with the newer breed of night clubber-friendly STS9. Hold onto your flat brim hats everyone and enjoy the ride.
>> This article was originally written by Ryan Getz for Headstash Magazine