In the erupting world of electronic dance music, sensory overload sells. Saturday night at the Fillmore Auditorium, EOTO got the message. The peculiar livetronica brainchild of the String Cheese Incident’s percussion section, Michael Travis and Jason Hann pushed the limits of the venue’s sound system while bombarding an amped crowd with lasers, balloons and their signature 3D mapping Lotus flower stage production.
The night was a benefit and food drive for the Boulder-based non-profit, Conscious Alliance, and featured fierce opening sets by dubstep artists NiT GriT and VibeSquaD. The evening also highlighted the talent of the influential visionary artist Alex Grey, who painted live on stage throughout with his wife Allyson.
EOTO’s performance showcased the chemistry that has developed between the two artists over two decades of playing together, seamlessly moving between trance, reggaeton, breakbeat and dubstep in an openly improvised structure. In a scene dominated by “just push play” producers, it was refreshing to see the duo encourage exploration and musicianship and not rely on the perfection of a pre-produced set. Were mistakes made? Plenty. But they were a necessary sacrifice to the creative form of dance party EOTO has come to encapsulate.
The music was at its best when Travis laid off thunderous, piercing bass synths in favor of guitar licks and live bass, like a funk-fueled jam that opened the second set before evolving into a electro-house take of Earth Wind and Fire’s “Shining Star.”
Hann’s playing on a light-up kit was dynamic throughout, from booming half-time beats over syncopated dubstep, to technical 32nd note high-hat patterns during drum and bass flurries. Saved for the encore, he also moved to his signature djembe for a flashy extended solo. Most impressive, however, were his vocals. Using a trigger pad with his left hand he added live effects to his voice and sang everything from falsetto house choruses, African chants and rap verses.
Sure, watching the middle-aged duo hype an adolescent crowd with references to hits like J-Kwon’s “Tipsy” and Ludacris’ “How Low Can You Go” was a bit amusing — but it was definitely effective.
Travis and Hann will be back at it with the String Cheese Incident at the end of the month for a three-night New Year’s Eve run at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, CO.