Summer Camp in Chillicothe, IL is by no means an electronic festival. About a third of the 50 or so artists are electronic, another third is indie or pop, and the rest are jam bands. The festival is now in its 10th year, and sprang up around moe., who headlines each night.
Throughout the day, people wandered the dusty trails of Three Sisters Park searching for those elusive late night tickets. Proggy-jam band Umphrey’s McGee would be following up their afternoon set with an exclusive showcase in the barn, mere miles from their home base of Chicago, IL. EOTO’s set, slated to follow Umphrey’s around 1:30am, would close out the 4-day festival. Needless to say, folks were clamoring for the tickets, up to and during the shows.
It also goes without saying that the folks who stick through 4 days of sweltering, 90-degree heat are the champions: the grungiest of the grungy. These cats are not quite to the bottom of their bags. There was a bit of overlap between the UM fanbase and that of the EOTO crowd, but it was a totally different vibe.
The humidity in the barn rises dramatically, along with the temperature. Eyes are closed tightly. Limbs flail at random. Sure, Umphrey’s fans get down. But not this hard. It’s just an intense bunch.
If you were to sample some EOTO tracks from mid-2007, you’d notice the sound was lighter, in a sense. Tempos were predominantly quicker. Melodies were a bit airy and bubbly. The bass sounds were shallow—almost gentle. There were elements of glitch and trip hop in the sound, to be sure, but on the whole, EOTO’s improv resembled contemporary house music.
Then dubstep came along and changed everything. Suddenly, EOTO sound is grimy to the max. Appropriately enough, considering their third album is entitled “Fire the Lazers!” their sound conjures up the image of a giant, B-movie monster zapping a Japanese city with its blast. Similarly, imagine the T-rex roar from Jurassic Park with a twitchy, lurching beat. EOTO’s sub-bass is the closest thing to the “brown note” that I’ve felt.
During our recent interview (The Untz Podcast – Episode 10), Hann pointed to acts like Tipper and Excision for pushing the group into their current trajectory. As the group was touring extensively from festival to festival—and country to country—Travis and Hann independently caught a set by DJ Skream at Shambhala in the UK. When they reconvened, they both had the same reaction: “How do we do that?”
Have no fear, Untz fans, there’s still plenty of four-on-the-floor drumming in an EOTO set. Hann, whose main objective is holding down the rhythmic fort, kept an up-tempo untz beat between breaks. But Hann has been playing Latin and West African rhythms since he was a tot. Comfortable breaking out of the norm, he’s able to whip out the choppy, breakstyle beats common in dubstep. The man plays more than 200 shows a year; it’s got to be a relief to ride a 148-bpm untz beat through a build, into a peak, and then just drop back into a choppy, half-time crusher.
Michael Travis isn’t sweating nearly as much these days. Unlike his work with Cheese, which keeps him drumming vigorously for entire sets, his raison d'être is bass. At it’s core, EOTO is still a live drum and bass act, and Travis has very little melodic work to do. He just has to keep that bass thumping, whether he’s playing it through a computer or with his bare hands. When that whompy bass drops, he’s out of his chair with a fist pump.
The beginning of the late-night set skewed heavily to the dubsteppy side of the spectrum. When the crowd would begin to fade a bit, and dancers hit the bathrooms, free water, or the floor, Jason Hann would kick the untz beat, and bring the tempo up. Hann’s vocoder distorts his sweet, soothing voice into a gutteral demon belch. Between furious fills, it sounds like Satan is encouraging his minions to lose their shit and dance harder.
I have to compliment EOTO on keeping it together. The band began their weekend in Minneapolis, flew out to California for Lightning in a Bottle, headed back to Illinois for Summer Camp, and finally flew back to California on Monday. This is par for the course, though. The band plays upwards of 20 shows a month. Jason Hann and Michael Travis were just as exhausted as the fans, but neither party would let the other down. At each build, at each break, war whoops would erupt in the barn. When the crowd reacted, EOTO would respond like a perpetual motion machine.
Throughout the past decade, festivals have been springing up everywhere. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly the advent of the late-night DJ set. By the end of a night of partying ,the only thing that can keep fans going is a sound that’s going to cut to the core. The raw, primal nature of whompy bass and tribal beats will raise the dead-tired to their feet. Don’t miss the opportunity to catch EOTO’s prehistoric sonic barrage at a late-night near you.
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