We left Arcata late which, considering how we do things in Humboldt County, is right on time. Driving down Highway 101 through the avenue of the giant Redwood grove, I was looking forward to seeing giants of another variety, the giants of an ever changing genre and ever evolving sound; one that can never be imitated. Despite valiant efforts, no rage supplies could be conjured up for our impromptu weekend jaunt down to San Francisco, a fact that would normally be daunting before a long trip into the inner city with no hotel, minimal funds, and a fellow crazy road trip partner behind the wheel. However, I knew that while visiting my second favorite city (NYC 4 Life) and my absolute favorite live act, there was no need to worry about the shortage of street pharmaceuticals, for the music of EOTO is all the rage supply needed.
After the 5 hour jaunt to Frisco, we arrived early at the venue in Dirty Harry’s Honda Element, our quarters for the night. 103 Harriet is a huge place, and we unwound with some fellow fans with a shmoke session on the steps of a different abode on wheels; an RV with Colorado tags and evidence of thousands of miles of touring (guess who was inside). After meeting a fellow NY native and purveyor, we found ourselves in a KIA SUV with a couple of hot University of San Francisco students on too much Xanax. We sat drinking beer and smoking blunts, listening to bad Southern hip hop, awaiting the opening of the doors.
As my mind began to expand and race I became extremely excited for the night’s festivities. Upon entering the club, it was made apparent that no ins and outs were permitted, however I was confident my gift of gab would allow me easy egress and re-entry throughout the night.The club had two rooms, a main space with a stage and an eye pleasing plexiglass house DJ booth on opposite ends of each other, and a smaller front room with a bar and seating. In the bar room the neon lights and flashy accents made me instantly think of the malt shop where the gang from Saved by the Bell would sip shakes and eat burgers. The cheesy disco music pumping from the house speakers did not help the vibe, and possibly was to blame for my initial response to the venue. The club does have amazing potential when under the control of such rage worthy promotion teams as An-tenae and Raindance Productions, who hosted the Chinese New Year party there. On the bar room stage, spinning disco records, stood DJ TAL of Long Island, NY. Decked out in tight jeans and cowboy boots, sipping on a pink drink, too cool for school, too cool for any other genre of music. (We had an interesting exchange not worth mentioning). Not being one for disco music, the scene instantly made me feel a bit of disappointment, similar to the finale of Camp Bisco last July in the Disco Tent. As I sat in the corner with an overpriced beer and my pad, vigorously jotting notes on the depravity of the music, I began to absorb the crowd as well. The place was crawling with half drunk hipsters and young Asian businessmen drinking Stellas and Coronas, probably speaking of office politics and sitcom style gossip. They were smiling fake smiles and dancing awkwardly in their J-Crew shirts and fancy dresses, making sure they looked good at all times, and God forbid if they begin to sweat. San Fran gay urbanites, college kids and older ragers who refuse to let go of the lifestyle, which I commend them for, rounded out the demographics of the crowd; however, they were a disappointing minority. I was hoping the disco feverish inhabitants of this first room would remain there, and cursed the engineer who designed the path to the smoking section through the neon dance floor. After getting quite worked up for a minute I began to find myself ranting to Dirty Harry on the dynamics of this party, and had to remind myself that my mind was under the influence of more than just the distasteful auditory variable.
Absorbing about all I could of the nightmarish disco tech, I sauntered into the main room past an array of EOTO wares and 3D psychedelic artwork (more on VORCAN, some of the most down to earth guys I’ve met, later). Across the room from EOTO‘s arsenal, behind the clear DJ booth, David Satori was cueing up his DJ set for the night. Still reeling from the previous week’s Beats Antique performance, I was already feeling better about the potential for the main room’s lineup to overpower the wimpy womps of Zack Morrison’s malt shop one room over. The club was slowly filling, and I was hoping to see some rowdy rage level three speaker rioters, but unfortunately my comrades in rhythm never made it. Satori‘s style expressed his exotic influences and taste for heavy bass lines, and I was surprised when he hit an Ableton snag and lost sound for a matter of 10 seconds. Somewhat panicked, he quickly redeemed the show with a tech-housey version of the Sanford and Son theme song, which threw me into a monstrous giggle fit. Along with fun songs like this, Satori‘s set had some really beautiful and interesting tracks; I found myself lost in the complex meld of genres, staring off at lasers in the distance, processing the music. Snapping back to reality, I ventured through the first room to catch a smoke outside, and was pleased to see PapaChango had taken over for Tal. Although disco-based, he was melding in some heavy dance rhythms and 90’s hip hop samples. I realized I was familiar with this mash up artist from a promo CD I was given at Earthdance in September, and was happy to freak out some disco hipsters in a rageful dance episode when Chango dropped some Modeselektor into the mix. Talking with Dirty Harry outside, I told him that besides covering the night’s events for the show, it was also my goal to freak out as many of the trendy urbanites I could with wild in their face displays, tremendous toe drags and violent phantom elbow drops. Such bodily acts are encouraged in the events I like attending the most, and for the most part were missing here.
Back in the main room Heavyweight Dub Champion, with help from the dreadlocked Tatter Todd contributing an Ableton controller and saxophone, were going hard at making people move. Heavyweight played heavy jams non stop, and I am happy to say he is a fellow hardware hero. The laptop is replaced with a myriad of synths, effects components, drum machines and a huge GL 2400 Allen and Heath 24 channel mixing board that most artists would choose to leave at the studio. I respect this method of laptop free performance and thought that his mastery over the hundreds of buttons, switches and dials was quite impressive, gaining a grand view of his dexterous DJ’ing from a vantage point on the stage. Heavyweight‘s set was seamless, and the compliments of Todd‘s live sax had lovely effects on my mood, a perfect warmup for the two headed robot that is EOTO.
Michael Travis and Jason Hann, a.k.a the End Of Time Observatory, formerly of String Cheese Incident, are good… too good. I find it very hard to write about their music. Their touring schedule exhibits the essence of keeping it moving, they defy any one genre, and seem to spontaneously conjure up live sounds night after night that DJs attempt to produce in studios and bedrooms around the world. They are time tested musicians taking over the electronic scene and they do it so easily its almost not fair. As their set began, it put me in the mindset to dance for a while and not think about the people who were choosing the nightmarish disco in the other room over this. The sound quality was a lot better in the middle of the dance floor, and pushing through this weak willed crowd had me feeling like a crocodile wading through weeds, easily positioning myself in the best place to feed. I was hungry for the live 2-step drum patterns and tweaked out electrified mandolin. I had a thirst for the deeply garbled bass riffs and perfectly distorted lyrics looped until beautiful and indecipherable, and I was going to get my fill no matter who showed up that night. Songs would transition with absolutely no pause or glitch as if a master DJ was controlling Michael and Jason. As Jason would improv effects on his freshly looped voice sample, all the while keeping rhythm one handed on the drum kit, Michael would be staring off into the distance, cueing his bass or strumming some keys on one of his three keyboards. As Jason rallies in intensity, a jerk of Michael‘s head followed by a smirk ensured the next drop was going to be tastier than the last. This little tell is sometimes good to notice, as it gives you a warning to put down a drink or camera and prepare for a new heavy break drop freshly produced in the earbud of the white haired Travis on stage.
As the beats kept coming (non stop… for 2 1/2 hours), I fed on these riddims splashing through the water while panicked hipster gazelles attempting to cross were quick to get out of my dancing space. The garbled bongo samples sounded like a bull frog with a womp stuck in its throat, dictating the frenzied scene. As the set progressed, with a point to the sky from Michael to Jason, the tempo increased and the mood shifted from the grimy muck riddled pond water bull frogs of dubstep to a much happier tech house flowing spring stream kind of feel. It was easy to hop and skip around to and required less gnarly violent dance moves associated with Grime, and the crowd reacted much to the this change in feel by finally giving the duo some energy back, about an hour and a half into the set. The minimal-tech sounding rhythms were interesting and was missing from the other times I’ve seen EOTO, which proves how dynamic their sets are: different every time you see them and constantly pushing and fusing genres.
With last call for alcohol long gone and 4 o’clock nearing, the club began thinning rapidly. EOTO was far outlasting everyone in there, including myself who took several breaks outside for a smoke and a rest. As the end neared, the mood again shifted towards some incredibly hard sounding dubstep, and I truly feel they saved the best jams of the night for the people who stuck it out until the end. The bass lines seemed crispier and deeper then ever before, and it was safe to say anyone left was a fan and not just there to be out on a Friday night. At one point, the duo paused before a heavy bass drop, and for the second or two of silence you could hear muffled disco from the other room. I became overwhelmed with pity for the poor souls choosing to be there just as the avalanche of sound came crashing back down, drowning out the weaker beats. I had, at this point, situated myself in the back of the club with a group of rage worthy dreadlocked combatants with an ear for the grimy riddims, and we closed the show out dancing hard, my t-shirt soaked through multiple times, cigarettes sponged with perspiration and feet sore from hours of moving and grooving.
Despite the crowd, the show was a mind blowing success, as it would take a whole lot more to prevent me from enjoying myself seeing David Satori, Heavyweight Dub Champion and EOTO live. After the show, I stayed to thank them for playing a non stop 2 1/2 hour set that seemed like a lifetime. They are both very down to earth and friendly, and Jason was nice enough to put me on the guestlist so LostinSound could get an article, and I could get a show. I told Jason I was going to see them back in Humboldt in a couple days, and was pleased to hear he was excited for the crowd above the Redwood curtain. As it was late, I didn’t want to bother and ask for an interview after they just gave me a non stop 2 1/2 hour show, so I said good night and ventured out into the cool Frisco Air. (Read LostinSound‘s October ’09 interview with Jason Hann here) After a night in Golden Gate National Monument and a day chilling in the Haight, we headed back up to Humboldt county for part two of this EOTO tale.