February 14, 2014
New York, NY USA
Review by Dave Cappadona
Bringing Music Back to EDM
Just when I thought the rave scene had turned into a fashion show of kandi and neon tank tops, EOTO gave me a breathe of fresh smoke filled air. Let me preface by saying I am a huge electronic dance music fan. I could argue that electronic music may be the best genre based on variety alone. That being said, raves have turned from being about enjoying music to a dance party of teenyboppers who only want to feel the bass vibrate through their cavities. EOTO was going to show New York Webster Hall their show was about the music first, even with the light show orgasm.
EOTO is an improvisational electronic duo, based out of Boulder, Colorado. Michael Travis and Jason Hann, both known as members of the jam band The String Cheese Incident, started the group in 2006, and have steered electronic music off the highway of repetitiveness to the wilderness of the unexpected.
The lights dimmed and the pair took their spots by their respective set ups. Hann by his drum set, and touch-tone pad, with Travis by his collection of keyboards synthesizers, and guitars were the captains of this space ship. Both rigs are equipped with laptops that use Ableton and Reason to aid their live production.
They started out with a spacey jam, which got people grooving slowly. This allowed me to fully take in their stage set up, which included a large backdrop screen, with smaller jagged shaped ones on either side of them. The light show was continuous throughout, and consisted of a wavy array of psychedelic colors and images, which really did aide their set, rather then distract. The band was not only feeling the crowd out, but also themselves. I watched as they exchanged glances and nods to each deciding on where to take Webster Hall next.
The crowd settled into the groove when Hann picked up the pace and told us it was time to wake up. The electronic funk sound had everyone moving, and smiling cheek to cheek. This was like nothing I had ever experienced at a live show. Not only were EOTO playing continuously but they also treating genres and tempos like Derek Jeter’s love life. Don’t stay committed, and constantly change to keep the flow fresh.
I thought I understood where EOTO was going until Hann started to rap out lyrics to Busta Rhyme’s "Break Your Neck." This took the energy to another level, and he took advantage. With a crash of his symbol, Hann slowed down the tempo to a cool 140 bpm. Travis responded with a wobble bass and a dark synth chord loop, and we were in full dub-step mode. That’s right, this was not dub-step made in a basement by perfectly aligning every single note for hours upon hours. This was 100% made up on the spot. Was it perfect? Absolutely not, but there was a certain unpolished rawness that only a human touch could make, which I find is an important musical attribute that is often left out in the preciseness of electronic dance music.
There seems to be a stigma attached to electronic dance music, that the artists who produce it are not musicians, because they don’t play the guitar, or they just "push play" when they perform live. While I don’t share this point of view in the slightest, for those who do, EOTO is a band that could change their opinion. Not only are they playing individual instruments live, but they are also mixing on the fly. These guys are immensely talented, and show the full capabilities of the EDM, while reminding listeners that they can still get down and jam, like the best of them.