Interviewed by Helen Vivas
Photo by Aaron Bradley
Our motto at Festival Squad is “Festing for the People”. The people that contribute to this blog live, breath, eat, and sleep music. We often times have our personal favorite musicians that have lead us to become who we are today as a music-lovers. For me, that is Sound Tribe Sector 9. I remember the first time I saw STS9 play live at the Chicago Theater in 2008- it was life changing! Since that moment, I’ve been proud to call myself part of the Tribe Family and subsequently have met some truly amazing people along the way.
One such person that I’ve met along my Tribe-loving journey is Vera Mandich. I had the pleasure of interviewing her as she reaches her 100th live tribe show!
Hey V, thanks again for letting me interview you! We’ve known each other for years now and I’ve always been amazed at how many Tribe shows you rack up over the course of a touring season. How do you do it and why is following tribe so important to you?
I honestly ask myself that same question all the time. It kind of blows my mind how I’m always able to make it work when it comes to seeing Tribe. I’m very fortunate to have always had bosses that understood my love for live music and allowed me to take time off for it. It definitely helped that I was a great worker so I think they understood that by giving me that leeway I would continue to give it 110% whenever I was on the clock. Now I work the festival circuit so it’s become easier than ever to see them when I want.
The reason seeing Tribe is so important to me is simple really. They always lift my spirits. Their music makes me feel every human emotion you can think of in the most beautiful way. I’ve met some of my closest friends and favorite people through seeing this band. They have very much become an integral part of my life.
You are only a few shows away from hitting your 100 show mark! How many years did it take you to reach 100? In that time frame, were there any shows that really stood out to you? Any “life changing” moments that made you fall in love with STS9 more?
My first Tribe show was at Rothbury 2009 and that was also my first music festival so that whole experience was life changing. There are so many memorable moments but there a definitely some that standout more than others. They played the Madison in Covington, KY in 2010 and it was the first time I heard “Circus” ever (my favorite song). I remember at Waffle House after the show my friend Jamison going “What was that song they played during the first set? It was soooooo spiritual.” Don’t judge us we were still youngins. Once I found out it was game over. The Great Cycle Spectacles tour in Chicago was insane as well. The first night it snowed so much that like 1000 people who had tickets didn’t come because it was that bad outside. They played an axed “986 Foot Tall Trees” but what really stood out to me was “EHM”. I’ve always thought that “EHM” sounds like the end of the world and the projections on the pyramid during the song included oil tankers in the ocean getting bombs dropped on them. To say my mind was blown would be putting it lightly. They played an after party at the House of Blues Chicago in September of that same year during North Coast Music Festival. The pyramid rig they used during the GCS tour was so big that it couldn’t fit on the stage so they just played with house lights. They encored with “Breathe In” and it was the first time I ever openly wept at a Tribe show. The pyramid rig was cool but it was in that moment I realized how much I truly love this band for what their music does to me. They played the Congress Theater in Chicago before it was shut down and it was also the last show I saw there. I saw so many amazing shows there and for the last show I saw to be Tribe was just really special. The highlight for me on that night was the cover of “Thriller” with a horn section. The whole crowd was on fire for that. My first new year’s run was also my first time at the Tabernacle in Atlanta. It’s a beautiful venue that used to be a church and is one of their favorite places to play. Nobody knew it at the time but it would also end up being David Murphy’s (original bass player and a founding member) final shows with the band. The encore on the final night was “Circus” so obviously, I was left on a cloud. A few months later Alana Rocklin would be revealed as the new bassist and the rest, as they say, is history. I could honestly go on forever from that point on but I’ll stop there.
You’ve previously mentioned to me that you are planning to hit your 100th show at the 3-night STS9 20th anniversary at Red Rocks! STS9 just announced that they will be covering their album Artifact in its entirety on Friday followed by an Axe-the-Cable set on Sunday! How excited are you to be a part of the 20th year anniversary of the band AND hit a monumental point in your Tribe family shows attendance?
I couldn’t be more excited and it honestly makes perfect sense that it’s probably going to end up that way. I’m a firm believer in the significance of numbers and how they correlate to moments in our lives. 13 is my favorite number and my 13th Tribe show was my first time at the Canopy Club (a venue that’s hosted some of the most talked about Tribe shows ever) in Urbana, IL. I got my first “Baraka” that night and they encored with it. “Baraka” has since become my favorite encore song. My 23rd show was at the House of Blues in Chicago (shout out to MJ). My first time at Red Rocks was 40. I hit 80 during the new year’s run last year. Big shows and big numbers have always seemed to line up and these monumental red rocks shows are more than likely going be 98, 99 and 100. It’s crazy and amazing all at the same time.
Some of our readers might not be fully immersed in the “groupie” lifestyle scene, so can you explain a little about what it’s like following your favorite band around the country? Highlights/ lowlights?
Well first of all, you get to travel the country and that alone makes it worth it in my opinion. I’ve gone to so many cities and states for the time because of Tribe. After the Vegas shows, I ended up winning $500 at the roulette table so I said fuck it and went to the shows in Park City, UT. I had never been to Utah before and I fell in love because it is such a beautiful state. I seriously can’t wait to go back. You also meet so many people from so many different walks of life. Like I already said earlier I’ve met some of my closest friends and favorite people through traveling to see Tribe and I know that I’m gonna continue to meet great people as long as I do. I’ve definitely had some rough experiences involving friends, lovers and myself but they’ve been few and far between. When you do something so often bad stuff is bound to creep its way in from time to time but you gotta take the bad with the good. That’s just life.
At what point in your life did you decide to start traveling across the country to see your favorite band? What provoked this shift in the way you lived your everyday life? Would you suggest it to our readers?
Aside from going to red rocks and new year’s runs I really didn’t start traveling to see them until last year. When they would come to the Midwest and hit multiple cities that were only a few hours away I’d hop in a car with friends and go but I wouldn’t really call that “going on tour”. I quit my job in the fall because I could afford to and I started looking at flights to places like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Austin. I realized how inexpensive it was and just kept pulling the trigger on all of them. All of the Tribe centered trips I have taken have been incredible. At the end of the day, it’s about doing what makes me happy and you can’t put a price tag on a happiness. If there’s something out there that makes you happier than anything in the world then it’s absolutely worth it to invest your time and money into it. Take it from me because I’ve never been happier.
How has STS9 become part of your everyday life? Culture? Have you made life-long friends during your journey? What would be your advice to our readers about following their musical idols?
STS9 is a huge part of my life and will always be. I was having a good time at Rothbury in 2009 but hearing their music live for the first time was the reason I fell in love with the music scene. Whenever I meet someone who loves Tribe outside of a show there’s always that moment of “OK. This person gets it.”. I’ve met Groh, Landry, Giles, Margot, Kath, Justine, Kat, Sam, Maghi, Hunter, Chelsea, Kean, Jackie, Natalee, Kory, Jordan, and countless others because of Tribe and I fucking love those people. I’ve grown closer to Slug, Lisa, Johnny, Nikki, Nick, Andrea, Derek, Neusha, Josh, Derrick, Cody and countless others because of Tribe and I fucking love those people. I legitimately owe this band for all the wonderful people they’ve brought into my life.
If you’re in a position to get after it then get after it. If you wanna follow an artist or band then follow them. If people think you’re crazy it’s because you are but none of that matters. You know why you’re doing it and that’s the only thing that matters. Just don’t be a dirty fucking wook about it.