Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012
Better than: Any humpday I can remember.
It's been a few years since the String Cheese Incident's percussion duo Michael Travis and Jason Hann visited South Florida as the notorious EOTO. As I recall, they were last seen booming the flaps off a dinky rage tent in the middle of Bicentennial Park at ULTRA Music Festival 2010. Since then, the pair's live show has evolved quite a bit. From psychedelic LED visuals to a more undulating flow, EOTO has certainly solidified its persona in a time where livetronica is staking its claim in the progressive electronic music scene.
The night started out with a bang of beats, from Boulder's Jantsen, an electro DJ with a heavy hand in dubstep overkill. Though his bass bombs were much appreciated -- as were his '90s hip-hop selections by Dr. Dre and DMX -- the saturation of unnecessary knob work had me yearning for the echo of a Ruff Ryder's snarl.
Around 10:30 p.m., I couldn't take anymore warm-up exercises, so when EOTO finally took the stage, I let out a sigh of relief. Just as soon as the air left my body, my next breath was fuzzy with vibration as I inhaled. The thumping of Hann's drums rattled with angst, as Travis immediately got to some fancy fingerwork on the melodics. The first memorable improv banger of the evening was a rendition of Ray Charles' "I've Got a Woman" with a zesty twist, thanks to Hann's hearty, flawless vocals. Even though the upbeat version fused some Kanye West "Gold Digger," swagger, there was still a classic foundation from the original. Hann's chorus suddenly looped back into itself, and the words, "When I'm in need" lingered. His superb effects amplified the show from the very get-go, but equally impressive was his focus and rhythm as he kept a perfect cadence on his glowing LED kit.
The Lotus Stage was quite the sight. As the first set progressed, the petals began to light with excitement, while projections of everything from paisley to tie-dye blanketed the shaped screen. A border of stars in space gave the flower a celestial feel. As the bass shook from every corner, my eardrums bounced with delight, begging me to stuff a marshmallowy pair of earplugs in. Instead, I denied the cochlear request and opted to go all-out for the night.
Usually, a cover is a numbered and appreciated treat, and the crowd received "In the Air Tonight" with the utmost gratitude. The signature pump-up track was filled with hype and nostalgia, as Hann belted lyrics so proud and mighty, Phil Collins would've joined in on harmony with glee. With his vocal programming tricks, Hann did an unbelievable job transforming his own vocals, in a rich but subtly synth-laced manner, never going overboard or too hard too fast. To add to the glory, projections of Hann's live act were plastered on either side of the backdrop, adding another element to the rainbow of patterns they wove.
Glitchy segues and steady drumming broke up the highlight tracks, and the instrumental periods were never too long before something thrilling happened. To close out the first set, EOTO threw down with a HOVA nod, with amplified energy and a sea of approval for 1998 chart-topper "Can I Get A..." Hann spat verses so tight, there's no doubt the live version would've been endorsed by the Jigga Man himself.
Set break was a tad long, and as some fans opted to head out, I knew set two would bring it just as hard. Bobby Caldwell's "What You Won't Do For Love" unleashed a funky dance party in the pit, and as Hann crooned along, I noted a mash-up of Timbaland's "The Way I Are," courtesy of Travis's handy work, as flames emblazoned the lotus flower, and hues of red, yellow and orange ignited and swayed. The groove proved that the latter half of the show would not -- and could not -- fall short. And, it didn't. Keeping the retro field trip in check, EOTO dipped into a livestep jam, forcing bodies to jerk to the sluggish, oozy beats, before Hann channeled Prince through "When Doves Cry."
The bass rumbled below as a Miami-esque booty dance interlude ensued, and Hann's high-pitched delivery of Luda's "How Low Can You Go" activated attempts by hip-popping battlers. From the booty beats came a different genre of bass. The guys transitioned into an islandy dub escape, taking everyone on a trip over the bridge and to the sandy sea. Fittingly, it was a quick, and raucous cry of Damian Marley's "Welcome to Jamrock," as the pit cried in unison, "They call it murder." But just as quick as the irie vacay came, it went, and a dirty dish of drum and bass brought everyone back to Grimetown.
As the show wound down, Travis dabbled on his guitar, looping in riffs, as the two cranked out some "Roxanne." Flashes of red light paid homage to the Police, but the best part about EOTO's covers was that sans borrowed lyrics, each song had its very own shining identity.
It was a warm welcome back for EOTO, and especially Hann, who grew up in North Miami Beach. Hanging with fans before the show and signing autographs for Cheeseheads and EOTO-ites alike, it's clear to see this act is only on its way up. And it's great to ride that high alongside them.
Overheard in the crowd: "This shit is good as fuck." And, "It's like food for my ear holes."
Random thought: Though I was surrounded by show-goers on various psychedelics, no boomers were necessary to enjoy the LED Lotus flower. It was a trip all its own.
By the way: Maybe consider not wearing a flat brim to a show. You'd be that much cooler if you didn't.
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