If there is something Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9) does best, it’s taking a situation and not only making the best of it but going above and beyond by providing the audience with a completely unprecedented experience. After the start of their three-night run in Colorado was moved from Summit Music Hall to the Paramount Theatre due to unforeseen construction complications, STS9 showed yet again why they are the masters of rolling with the punches. A last minute venue change didn’t slow down the five-piece band from Santa Cruz. If anything — it only fueled the excitement for the following two-night run at Red Rocks.

For a band that’s been around since 1998, coming up with new concepts for their live performances could prove to be difficult. For STS9 though, it’s the type of creativity they thrive on. The theme for the September 7 and 8 shows at Red Rocks was Cave of Crystals, “a cavern of dreams where we can explore new worlds and continue to discover what’s real & imagined.”

READ: Q&A – Inside the Cave of Crystals With STS9

STS9, cut chemist, TAUK, What So Not, DJ Z-Trip, Wave Spell, Crystal Cavern, Red Rocks, 303 magazine, 303 music, Ellie Herring, Ryan Lewis, when the dust settles

Upon entering Red Rocks, it became immediately clear that we were stepping into a new world, one filled with massive crystal-like structures surrounded by some of the best natural beauty Colorado has to offer. Arriving at the cavern first Friday night was DJ Z-Trip, a California-based master of all styles of music with roots in hip-hop and electronic influences. DJ Z-Trip began the celebration with an energetic performance that left the audience buzzing with excitement for the remainder of the weekend.

What So Not continued to magnify the energy with his fast-paced beats and high-energy performance. The audience sang along to “High You Are,” “Interbloom” remix and “Tell Me” before the Sydney-based artist left the crystal cavern sparking with anticipation for STS9.

STS9, cut chemist, TAUK, What So Not, DJ Z-Trip, Wave Spell, Crystal Cavern, Red Rocks, 303 magazine, 303 music, Ellie Herring, Ryan Lewis, when the dust settles

While the crystal structures that covered the stage were magnificent on their own, no one was quite prepared for what STS9 was about to unleash upon the magical wonderland they created. Sparks of colorful energy moved through the previously unresponsive structures while the band took the stage Friday night. The audience could feel the electrifying jolts of energy that moved through the cave as they opened with “Be Nice.” As they transitioned into the fitting “Crystal Instrument,” the rocks surrounding the stage began to melt into the colorful display encapsulating Red Rocks with a polychromatic dreamscape.

Feeding off the energy generated earlier in the night by the openers, STS9 kept their improvisational jams moving swiftly and created a rapidly climatic rise during the majority of the two Friday night sets. STS9 weaved the classics “Instantly,” “Oil & Water” and “ROYGBIV” between their newer selections “Wave Spell” and “Out of This World” which kept the set fresh yet recognizable.

STS9, cut chemist, TAUK, What So Not, DJ Z-Trip, Wave Spell, Crystal Cavern, Red Rocks, 303 magazine, 303 music, Ellie Herring, Ryan Lewis, when the dust settles

After closing with an encore of “Beyond Right Now” and “Mischief of a Sleepwalker” the inhabitants of the crystal cave wondered, “can we just stay here through tomorrow night?” We collectively put up a fight at the end of the Friday night set in hopes that this Disneyland created for experimental music lovers would take us on just one more ride through the colorful tracks of delicious jams. Unfortunately, our ticket only granted us access to access for a few short hours, and the eager riders would have to get in line again Saturday night if they wanted to take another trip.

For those who attended Friday night, there was no question of if the second time around would be worth it. The only queries that filled the air were to the extent of how far the ride would go. Cut Chemist greeted our arrival by etching his name into the rocks with his unmatched scratching ability. He blasted us through the stratosphere with his light-speed master DJ skills. Luckily, we landed on our feet when he threw us down before TAUK.

STS9, cut chemist, TAUK, What So Not, DJ Z-Trip, Wave Spell, Crystal Cavern, Red Rocks, 303 magazine, 303 music, Ellie Herring, Ryan Lewis, when the dust settles

After the whirlwind of electronically charged rollercoasters, the audience needed a change of pace if we were going to survive the rest of the night. TAUK delivered an unbelievably jam-packed set that recharged the audience with their impeccably timed and beautifully cohesive performance.

Feeling rejuvenated from TAUK, the audience readily buckled up for night two of STS9. Starting the ride off through the sound waves of “Circus,” our conductors led us down a path of psychedelic colors and sounds for a groovier ride than the heart-racing trip Friday night. The kaleidoscopic crystals danced through every color of the rainbow for an enchanting and heart opening journey through “Enceladus” and “Scheme.”

STS9, cut chemist, TAUK, What So Not, DJ Z-Trip, Wave Spell, Crystal Cavern, Red Rocks, 303 magazine, 303 music, Ellie Herring, Ryan Lewis, when the dust settles

Feeling the electric charge throughout the rails of Red Rocks, the skies played with visuals and created a stunning lightning show over the Denver skyline. The audience “oohed” and “awed” with each jolt of electricity that sang with STS9. The lightning strikes were almost too impeccably timed and hit at just the right moments throughout the show. The second set charged the night sky with “Hubble” and “World Go Round” among other favorites before ending with one of their most recognizable and beloved songs, “When the Dust Settles.”

While the encore is always appreciated, it never truly satisfied the insatiable thirst for more magic. The night ended with “Moonsocket” and while the audience pleaded for more, all good things must come to an end. STS9 took Red Rocks on a journey through time, space and crystal-laden color for a once in a lifetime ride that can only be described as pure magic. Until the next time the carnival comes to town, the passengers will forever hold the temporary cavern of dreams as a treasured memory in their hearts and souls.

All photography by Ryan Lewis

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