EOTO at the Masquerade, Atlanta, GA, December 4, 2010. Photo by Jeff Pearson.
Originally published by Life’s Sweet Breath
Electronic duo EOTO is nearing the end of their year, with over one-hundred and fifty shows under their belts and four to go. On Thursday night in Atlanta, EOTO showed no signs of fatigue, and no signs of stopping. The band pushes themselves night after night to create a unique experience for those in attendance, with a blend of styles within the electronic realm, all completely improvised. Both of String Cheese Incident fame, Jason Hann handles the drums and occasional sampling, while Michael Travis takes on production, keys, bass and guitar. The pair layer loops on the spot and build sections into peaks only to break them back down and start a new theme, all with precision.
EOTO comes out to a crowd thoroughly warmed up for a long night of dancing, with openers, The Polish Ambassador, pumping out infectious electro grooves tinged with elements of disco and funk, and This Is Art, creating dance music with a combination of laptop artistry and live bass and vocal sampling. By the time EOTO steps foot on the stage, the Heaven Room in the Masquerade is buzzing (as are many of the individuals within).
The duo takes no time to get the room moving again, kicking off their set with punishing dubstep, characterized by wobbling bass and grimy aesthetic over slower tempos. Travis expertly navigates and layers pages of loops on a laptop while Hann brings the beats to life with technical prowess on the drums. EOTO have been perfecting their craft for the better part of four years, and are able to feel out a room before ever playing a note. They base most of what they do onstage by how the crowd responds to certain styles, and realize each crowd is different. Hann states, “If the crowd is digging a particular style of music that we’re doing, we’ll hang out there a little longer than usual. Then we’ll get away from that but note to ourselves to come back to it. We don’t talk about it, but we both feel it.” This ideal is present in Atlanta, as EOTO sees Heaven react to the dubstep onslaught with outright joy, and uses the better part of the first set to vary themes and breaks within the context of dubstep.
Midway through the first set, Hann and Travis shift the theme to a more up-tempo techno vibe, which really gets people moving. By this point, members of the crowd have lost any inhibitions they might have brought with them, letting themselves get lost in the throb of the bass and intricately layered nuances. Travis picks up the guitar for the first time of the evening, and improvises melodic lead lines over beats he had only minutes before structured on the spot with Hann. EOTO is tapping into something that concertgoers have long craved, in that they like to see creative energies in person, and want to feel like something unique is happening before their eyes. Combining that with electronic dance music is something that has never been done before with this level of skill.
EOTO’s second set was a journey across every sonic landscape imaginable. They came out firing immediately, bringing back the up-tempo rhythms and letting organic instrumentation come to the forefront. Travis once again shows off his chops on guitar, and takes it one step further, in creating samples of a guitar line that catches his fancy, and weaving it into the composition on the spot, before filtering and processing it to the outer limits of space. They settle into a swaggering funk groove, and Hann shows his TLC love, singing the hook for “No Scrubs” over the top, sampling it, and sending it off to join Travis’s guitar line somewhere beyond the atmosphere of Earth.
The second set reaches its climax as they build and build up-tempo layers into a frenzied wash of sound, to break it down back into a variation of the original dubstep themes from the first set. The journey is complete and back at what EOTO have considered home for this particular show in Atlanta. Hann’s drumming is even more intense during this peak, almost putting a drum and bass beat under the slower dubstep filth, creating an incredibly interesting and textured sound. The crowd shows no signs of fatigue, giving back just as much energy throughout the second set as the first.
EOTO is about done with their year of relentless touring, with one more stop in Jacksonville tonight, and a New Year’s Eve celebration in Denver to wrap it all up. If Thursday in Atlanta is any indication, Hann and Travis are far from touching the bounds of their limitations, and will continue to push themselves in directions which make those limitations impossible to reach.