STS9's David Phipps Reminds Us That "Musicians Are Human Too"
A popular Season 9 episode of South Park titled "Die, Hippie, Die" depicted jam-band culture as a bunch of bleary-eyed people who mumble about saving the world while not ever doing much besides bobbing their heads to "crunchy grooves," all spaced out on the reefer.
If psychedelic-flavored concerts these days are nothing more than ignorance fests, as the episode suggests, then maybe it was irresponsible for David Phipps to devote his life after college to playing music with electro-rock band STS9 instead of pursuing a career in industrial design. That was what he was all set to do when he made the decision to jam.
"There is kind of a generic description of jam culture," Phipps says. "The stoned activist. I could see where people could think that. But not every kid at our concert has got a hemp necklace on. And the fan of jam-based music is one of the most open-minded fans out there."
Those who are familiar with STS9 know that more has happened in their 15-year career than a bunch of head-bobbing. Social work has been nearly as strong a theme for the band as trippy synth and laser lights.
The group has done a carbon neutral tour, generated money to help rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and in recent years collected lots of food for hungry folks through its work with Conscious Alliance.
In doing so, it's made an effort to use its position to have a positive influence in a responsible manner.
"Musicians are human too," Phipps says. "We all have our own problems and demons that we're all struggling through as well. So just because we have a platform doesn't mean we should be running our mouths all the time. With that platform and with that audience, though, if you are in a stable place and see something unjust, then I do feel that you have a responsibility to speak up and try to rally people."