It is nearly 2 a.m. in a gleaming warehouse perched at the Northeast edge of the San Francisco Bay. On the dock, infernos rage from steel barrels, spewing molten fireflies by the dozens with the wind’s every frigid breath as the building’s vibrations and rumbles only hint at the possibilities which lay inside. Sitting near the edge, a short school bus, tie-dyed with day-glo paint from hood ornament to rear door, sits on the dock, filled with lounging people all smiling and laughing inside its bizarrely psychedelic, remodeled interior. As a couple of giggling partygoers saunter through the warehouse doors, the deep trance music leaks out, tantalizingly coaxing bobbing heads and whirling feet back to the dance floor. As the rest of the world slumbers, an intimate crowd of lucky night-owls is about to witness a collaboration of four intensely talented musicians who don’t get a lot of chances to play together these days, but who are all extremely comfortable making music with one another.
Michael Travis and Jason Hann of the String Cheese Incident have been working together for the past few years, since Cheese decided to take an indefinite hiatus from regular touring. Their project Eoto has an improvisational dub-step style which has developed into a deep, dark, menacing creature, often featuring sounds that, not only don’t exist in any natural setting, but probably couldn’t even be replicated ten or fifteen years ago. Hann mans a trap drum kit, with only a tight snare, multiple cymbals and a high-hat for his acoustic tones, but also garnished by an electronic drum pad and a touch screen both of which connect to a high powered computer running a mixing program called Ableton Live. Travis is hooked into the same system but with keyboards, guitars and bass. Together, they create looped creations that they continuously add more sounds and effects to until wiping the slate clean to do it again. The night before this, Eoto put on one of their classic sets of exploratory dub that never fails to get the place jumping.
On this night however, fiddle and mandolin extraordinaire Michael Kang, along with the funky captain of the keyboards, Kyle Hollingsworth, both sharing Eoto’s roots in String Cheese Incident, would join the stage with their jamrades for a performance that blew the proverbial roof off of the building. More than a collaboration, this is more of a continuation from their highly acclaimed two-weekend stint with String Cheese Incident in both, Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Horning’s Hideout outside of Portland, Oregon. Cheese enthusiasts pepper the audience, all still buzzing from their excursions to these six incredibly exclusive shows.
The music started with Travis and Hann dominating the action, creating a creeping jam as they normally would for an Eoto show, giving Hollingsworth and Kang a chance to ease in slowly. As Kyle warmed up to the beat, he began to lace his flowing brand of jazz into the mix, constructing a futuristic, glitchy jive with Kang laying down embellishing undertones to round out the sound. At very few points did Travis lay down his really deep sonic quakes that he normally does, opting for a somewhat tamer sound to give his guest stars a chance to really shine. To the excitement of the crowd, Kang switched to his fiddle about midway through the first set in an attempt to pick up the pace. The next 45 minutes of music proved some of the best jamming on the scene today as the band really clicked, starting with Kang’s inspiring violin licks. Eventually, Travis also traded out for his bass guitar, looping only minimal sequences as the unstoppable new sonic creature, ChEoto, picked up speed. Kang and Hollingsworth’s interplay was gripping as they melded together and traded licks back and forth going between jazzy to their all out thrilling jams. The music reached many peaks before the band settled into a bluegrass jam that took them to curfew as the audience, still energetic at 4 a.m. turned the dub-step disco into a downright hootenanny.
In all, it seems a unanimous agreement that this collaboration produced some ridiculously hot improvisation. There was never a dull moment during the show as it only served to gain steam as the night progressed. Hopefully, after the chemistry they portrayed on Saturday, this will have just been the beginning of a beautiful thing.