STS9 Lights Up NYC with Empire State Rooftop Performances

If a band is going to perform on the rooftop of a building to nearly 3,000 people, and that rooftop is in Manhattan, then the show should feel larger than the sprawling metropolis itself. That’s exactly what jamtronica heavyweights Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9) did on their two-night run this weekend at new music venue Rooftop at Pier 17 NYC.

An aerial view of Pier 17 during the show, taken by photographer Bill Bernal aboard a FlyNyon helicopter.

The Seaport on South Street has seen an artistic resurgence in recent times, and part of that has been the harbor’s opening of a brand new live entertainment venue in August, Pier 17. The venue sits on the rooftop and commands breathtaking views in all directions. Musicians from Sting and Shaggy to Kings of Leon, as well as Comedians like Amy Schumer have graced this rooftop gem. But even with those big-name acts, the venue featured one of its most anticipated events so far in Sound Tribe’s two night run this weekend.

Night One

Peaceblaster’s “Metameme” kicked things off in comfortable and colorful style, as Tribe’s lights began to illuminate the New York City night in similarly cosmic, mind-bending style. Night one overall would be a well-appreciated offering of old school-style Tribe, not only in the songs making the setlist but also in the spirited feel the band found again and again through the evening, harkening back some of their best days of live performance over the past many years. Such night one gems as “Ramone and Emigilio” even with its relatively new style, and a first-set “When The Dust Settles Reprise” instilled some spontaneous joy in the die hard percentage of the audience.

Following the opener was “Out of This World,” and its segue into “March” really helped the night launch proper. By the end of this nicely extended two-hit segment, around seven o’clock and barely twenty-five minutes into the show, the playing from the band was reaching top-notch and the energy on the rooftop reaching towards the sky. Over the last many shows this year, Tribe has been working in more drum and bass grooves into their live mix. Whenever the building energy of a particular song seemed to call for it, bassist Alana Rocklin and the twin percussion killers of Zach Velmer and Jeffree Lerner were given the floor to launch into energetic drum and bass sections.

Several times over, the night saw Rocklin meticulously weave her bass lines into the percussive wall that helped to charge some of the great night one jams. On one such drum and bass segment at the end of a fantastic version of “Reemergence,” Velmer saw a furious moment across the drum kit, and made for arguably the most exhilarating segment of night one.

Sound Tribe offered a banger of an encore for this first of two shows, with a “Water Song” that blended perfectly with “Kaya” to wrap it all up. As angelic white beams of light beaconed into the dark New York City sky, a gorgeous, liquefied, stretch of space linked the two songs seamlessly, with David Phipps leading on his pristine synth work.

Night Two

As the band took the stage again on night two, the iconic Brooklyn Bridge loomed behind, and a colorful sunset transitioned across the sky. The mood was incredible. Set one, which began with “Menacer”, felt like a jam filled donut, with the band seamlessly weaving new and old songs together. The high energy and sprinkled rap samples got the crowd going.

“Menacer” segued into Peaceblaster’s “Shock Doctrine,” and the heavy, dark undertones and electric riffs from guitarist Hunter Brown set the tone for the night. “A03,” a new, airy tune, came next, and was an exciting one for the crowd to hear, because STS9 had debuted this song at their Red Rocks Run only three weeks ago in Colorado.

“A03” segued into several classic Tribe tunes sandwiched together, starting with “Frequences 3.” This was not an ordinary Frequencies rendition, as the high energy Frequencies 3 was played first. The band smoothly moved into another older favorite, “Squares and Cubes.” The colorful light rig above the stage was dominated by illuminated squares and cubes, perfectly complimenting this song. Without stopping, the band continued into the mellower dance tune “Frequencies 2,” and eventually found their way back into “Squares and Cubes.” The band created a reverse “Frequences” “Scubes” sandwich, and the crowd was energized to a maximum level.

Next up was “ABCees,” another older STS9 song mixing dark undertones and reggae samples, and included another drum and bass section. “Strange Games,” was next, and utilized both Outkast lyrics and melodies from their own song “Get Loud.” The band closed the first set by transitioning into “When The Dust Settles,” which included lyrics from “Games”.

After a short break, the band returned with another newer song “Spending Time,” which they debuted at their recent New Years show. This segued into Peaceblaster’s “Beyond Right Now,” and also included a crowd-pleasing drum and bass section.  The quintessential “Moonsocket” followed, and has evolved significantly since the Interplanetary Escape Vehicle release in 1998. “Moonsocket” included a longer jam that did not disappoint. The band changed gears with three new songs, “Dragon City,” “New Dawn, New Day”, and “Seed.” “Seed” segued into the fan favorite “Rent,” teasing “When the Dust Settles.”

STS9 ended their two-night run at Pier 17 on a high note, before returning to play one more song before the 10 pm curfew. They sent their fans home happy with an energetic version of yet another classic offering, “Be Nice.”