EOTO deliver spontaneous show at Paradise

A review of EOTO at the Paradise Rock Club on November 20, 2010

, Staff Writer

There are live bands and then there is EOTO. The two-man act consisting of Michael Travis and Jason Hann, drummer and percussionist for String Cheese Incident, deliver a 100% live improvised show each night, start to finish. There are no prerecorded loops, no “songs” to speak of, and so every show of theirs is going to be completely different from one another. The duo hit the Paradise Rock Club Boston last Saturday and as always, the 2-hour show was unpredictable but awesome.

The music of EOTO is very different from that of String Cheese Incident, though, drawing its influences entirely from the world’s dance floors, bringing a hodgepodge of trip-hop, breakbeat, dubstep, and all in-between flavors of electronica. Immediately on seeing EOTO’s stage setup, it becomes apparent how intricate their work really is: pedals, mixing boards, MIDI controllers, keyboards and laptops (at least four) bunch together tightly for easy access. Travis’ area is peppered with a guitar and bass, while Hann’s is filled with a drum kit and odd percussion instruments.

The set started fairly innocuously, a simple drum beat with light house chords playing on top. Once the two had built up a light groove they found suitable, the real work began: Travis took to his keyboard, adding small loops of sound here and there, while Hann filled out the percussion on his end. All the while, various psychedelic images flashed up on the screen, though it was far more interesting to watch the musicians work off one another. This interplay was lost on most of the crowd, however, whose only objective was to dance themselves into a sweaty mess. EOTO certainly provided the opportunity, providing a perfectly paced set for the sloppy Saturday night crew. Hann knew exactly when to introduce a tight snare drum to a beat, Travis adding intensity to the mix with louder synth samples at other times. The flow between sections was seamless, and by the time the show was done we were, musically, in a completely different spot than when we’d started.

It’s difficult to write a retrospective review about a band like EOTO, as a band like EOTO literally only exists live. Sure, there are recordings of past performances, but even their albums are recorded in the exact same way. Without formed songs, there’s nothing to latch onto from one performance to the other, and the Travis and Hann shift so fluidly between styles that there isn’t one unifying aesthetic to properly describe them. Watching the two men improvise at-length was a feat of musicianship,

The two enjoying the act as they constantly feed off of one another and the crowd. The spontaneity of it all was not lost on the audience. A certain symbiosis started to take place as the set wore on, EOTO becoming aware of what was and wasn’t working with the crowd, who in turn provided feedback, whether intentional or not. It’s a real treat to attend a show that is entirely unique to one specific space and time, and EOTO are one of those groups able to construct an experience out of this fact each and every night.

Leave a Reply