Once upon a time EOTO was an acronym. "It used to stand for End of Time Observatory," explained the duo's drummer/beat manipulator Jason Hann calling from his Venice Beach home. "It just got to be too much to explain in interviews -- people thought we were talking about something negative like the end of the world, which we were not -- so we started going with EOTO, which people pronounced as 'E-O-Toe.' Then some Japanese fans came up to us and said EOTO means 'good sound' in Japanese, so we keep it as that."
Michael Travis is the other half of the electrojam twosome, started as a side project of the phenomenally successful jamband, String Cheese Incident. "At first it was just something to do," said Hann. "About five years ago, when I would fly out to Colorado for [SCI] practices, I'd stay at Travis' house. We'd finish practice about 7 in the evening and there wasn't that much to do, so we just started jamming -- we'd set up at his place and jam until 4 or 5 in the morning.
"We started out playing fusion with me on drums and Travis on bass playing tapping style like Stanley Jordan. That was fun. Then he added this Roland-Boss looping pedal and that made it more interesting. We kept adding new elements, finding new ways to keep it interesting and started messing around with more electronics. It really came out of endless hours of entertaining ourselves."
Eventually Hann brought in his computer loaded with Ableton, a looping program, and Travis assembled a rack of electronic devices. EOTO played its first live show at Sonic Bloom an electro-fest in Colorado. The crowd dug it. Live electronica was on the rise with jamband fans becoming house music fans. When String Cheese stopped touring, the electro-dub-step duo became their main gig. The rest is history.
Last weekend they played in one of the rave domes at Earthdance; this week they launch a 33-day, 32-city national tour (they play two nights in Pittsburgh, Penn.) with night three -- Thursday, Oct. 1 -- at the Red Fox Tavern. Every show will be improvised on the spot. Each will be recorded and, in SCI/jamband fashion, fans will trade them on the ’Net, spreading EOTO like a virus. People will dance. At least that's the plan. Likeminded DJ/producer David Starfire joins them at the Red Fox.
The Fela-inspired Afrofunk big band Afromassive is back in action Friday at the Jambalaya. Founded by guitarist Greg Camphuis and bassist Aaron Bortz, the band's gigs have been infrequent since Bortz started touring with Bay Area Afrofunksters Albino! (due here Oct. 28), with various members coming and going. Still, says Camphuis, "The whole project has always had a lot of momentum. We have an album in the can; this show is like a fundraiser to get us over the hump and finish it." Original Afromassive drummer Rob Peterson is up from Santa Barbara, and as a bonus Albino! frontman Michael Bello will sit in on sax. Brazilian drum line The Janky Mallets open with a blast of samba.
Also drawing inspiration from Africa -- Toubab Krewe, a band from Asheville, N.C., that merges jamrock with North African-style guitar and rhythms reminiscent of Tinariwen. They've had a big summer recording material for a new album and playing Bonnaroo and Rothbury, where T.K. percussionists sat in with The Dead. They return to Humboldt Brews Saturday on a West Coast swing, meeting up with another Asheville band, Josh Phillips Folk Festival, which is not really a folk thing -- guitarist/vocalist Phillips shifts between reggae, funk, pop and jamrock seemingly effortlessly.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Portland's Brothers of the Baladi play music with a Middle Eastern flavor at Arcata Theatre Lounge providing a soundtrack for bellydancing by Shoshanna's Ya Habibi Dance Company. The show is in conjunction with the all-day Saturday and Sunday Redwood Coast Belly Dance Festival taking place at the Arcata Community Center.
Saturday is also Arts Alive! night in Eureka. Gamelan Sekar Sequoia plays haunting metallic Javanese music at the Graves Museum. Watch for films on the sides of building around Old Town as WildRivers 101 Film Fest folks run wild. Nocturnum's resident VJ Itchie Fingaz has a WildRivers-associated thing at The Pearl showing off video mixing.
Itchie does his thing at Nocturnum every Thursday. Also at the Eureka nightclub this week: a Friday night with Itchie and the amazingly trippy DJ Z-Trip, turntablist extraordinaire and master of the remix and mash-up, just back from a Euro-tour. Then there's a Sunday hip hop show with Zion I and The Jacka up from the Bay, and a World Famous thing next Tuesday on the dub-step/glitch tip with electro-duo BoomBox and San Fran "global slut psy-hop" DJ, Ana Sia.
David Johnson from White Manna writes with a reminder about a show at the Jambalaya this Thursday with his band's "intellectual buffoonery," which I guess is his way of describing trippy trance-rock. The Manna men are joined by Robert Tripp's hard rock band The Hard Ride and Big Eagle, a band from L.A. that includes a couple of former locals: vocalist/songwriter Robyn Miller (an ex-Eurekan) and Dameon Lee of Lowlights fame, who plays banjo with this project. Expect an eclectic night since Big Eagle is more along SoCal country-rock lines a la Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons.
The Blakes may take their name from the 18th century mystic poet, but their music is rooted in ’60s garage rock with shades of The Kinks and The Stones. The Seattle band plays Friday at Humboldt Brews, sharing the bill with SF-based Music for Animals, a smoother indie rock quartet now seeking cult followers. The hypnotic "If Looks Could Kill" from the MfA EP seems like a step in the right direction.
It's a decent week for jamband fans: Following the EOTO show at the Red Fox is a Friday gig by Eric Levy's Love Lounge, with the keyboard player from Garaj Mahal fronting a combo that includes drummer Alan Hertz of KVHW fame. On Tuesday, Oct. 6, it's San Diego saxman Karl Denson's Tiny Universe laying down jamfunk on a tour in support of a new disc, Brother's Keeper, his first in seven years.
On the classical front, we have a Friday with dueling piano prodigies. CenterArts has 19-year-old Van Cliburn Medal winner Haochen Zhang in HSU's Fulkerson Hall. The youngest participant in this year's Cliburn competition, Zhang's debut recital in Shanghai included all of Bach's two-part inventions, alongside sonatas by Haydn and Mozart -- he was five at the time. That same Friday at the Arkley Center, the Eureka Symphony presents "Giants of Their Time," a program featuring Humboldt native Ryan MacEvoy-McCullough playing "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43" by Rachmaninoff, along with works by Haydn and Cimarosa. MacEvoy-McCullough completed his music degree at HSU by age 18; now 22, he's moved on to USC to work on his Masters. Hard to choose? You don't have to. The Eureka Symphony show repeats Saturday evening.
Portland's 14-piece Pink Martini calls itself a "little orchestra," but it ain't classical music -- the "orchestrations" tend toward lounge-ish music from all over. They're at the Van Duzer next Tuesday.
And speaking of martinis, the folks at the Arcata Playhouse are throwing a benefit for their assorted projects. "Speakeasy: Martinis & Mayhem" features Playhouse co-founder Jackie Dandeneau as your hostess, singing jazz and folk-pop tunes backed by the Speakeasy Trio, Tim Randles, Tim Gray and Marla Joy and assorted special guests including several back-up singers and a horn section led by Gregg Moore. And yes, they're serving real martinis, along with beer and wine and hors d'oeuvres (try Jackie's tamales).
One more thing: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 8 is this weekend in Golden Gate Park, for free. Google it; you'll be amazed.