EOTO at The National

I recently saw EOTO at The National in Richmond, VA; the staff treated me like royalty. Thank you National.

EOTO is made up of Michael Travis and Jason Hann, both from The String Cheese Incident. EOTO is Travis and Hann’s 100 percent, live, improvised, electronica project.  I’ve been listening and studying the formulas that make up the different genres of this type of music; like jazz, electronica has many sub genres. Sunday night, EOTO focused on the Dub Step genre side of electronica.

These two musicians have been making music together for the better part of 6 years. I remember the Big Summer Classic Tour with SCI, Yonder Mountain String Band, Umphrey’s McGee, Spearhead, New Monsoon and myself. Travis and Jason were starting to form the idea then (I think it was 2005). It has blossomed into some kind of freaky-perfection with these two real-life-musicians, relying on mental telepathy.

EOTO uses computers synced together, along with an arsenal of keyboards, bass, guitars, and drums. The duo produces live, what many DJ’s spend hours creating or sampling and then have to load what they created into their computers for a performance. Once I started to understand the formulas of this type of music, that’s when I realized how amazing EOTO really is.

It starts with the musicians; both being drummers, their sense of rhythm is impeccable. Travis takes control of the bass lines using real bass as well as keyboard bass lines mixed with filters and processers to create a certain sound; that seems to me to be one of the common key elements to Dub Step. Then he creates melody lines with synthesizers and guitars. Then he can add and subtract, as well as manipulate the sounds all while inserting the tension build up and the inevitable drop.

Jason Hann has risen far beyond that of a drummer. With his headset microphone, he adds different vocals ranging from incomprehensible effect-laden rants to pop music hooks. He would often put his left stick under his arm and with his left hand, he would modulate his voice as well as the over all groove with different buttons and such; all while keeping the beat of the snare and high hat with his right hand. Its mind boggling knowing first hand how much of a possibility it is for error. I listened for mistakes; dropped beats, wrong notes, there weren’t any. This goes to prove how long they’ve been perfecting this as well as their mastery of the instruments and electronics.

I’ve seen them many times but the Richmond show was different. Better. Maybe it’s the addition of incredible visuals that took up the entire back wall, which was awesome. But, I don’t think so. I think it’s my fascination with how it all works and watching these two pull it off live on the spot. Improvised. This type of music isn’t for everybody. Is any?  More and more people I talk to after my shows have been voicing their dislike for this type of music. I get it.  These are people that are used to seeing people on stage playing instruments.

Most DJ’s in this Dub Step genre just have a computer or two as well as a bunch of knobs to manipulate with. I understand the dislike. But, what ensues is a total party of group movement. To me, that’s incredible. No matter how it happens. I fear it’s becoming more common for electronica acts to push play and let their show play out, while turning knobs to add delays and filters. What the haters don’t realize is the amount of hours it took to create this music that is stored in the computer of the artist/electronic musician, that 1000 people paid in advance to see press play and dance along with them. A lot of which resembles some of the music that is improvised and preformed live by EOTO.

They offer a distinct bridge between two words of music, those who play instruments and those who use computers. They do both. Live improvised electronica. The crazy thing is, for every one hater of this genre of music there are 1000 lovers of it, buying tickets and exuding youthful energy at these shows. Have you ever heard of the Ultra Music Festival in Miami, FL? I’m sure some of you have. But if you haven’t its the mecca of electronica and dance music. I’ve heard mixed reports of 150,000 to 175,000 tickets were sold at this year’s event. All with out the help of the mainstream media, which is just now catching on. That’s double the attendance of Bonnaroo.

People say electronica is the future. It’s now. Where will it be in the future? Who’s to say? Maybe there will be classic dub step stations on satellite radio. All I know is I like it. Music rules. If you don’t like it, you change the channel or press skip or go the movies instead of the club. If you like it, you can immerse your self in it and it can become your personal soundtrack. There is something for anybody. But, not one thing for everybody.