Former String Cheese Incident Duo Brings Two-Person Jam to Whitefish

By Beacon Staff

When the two former percussionists from The String Cheese Incident perform in Whitefish this week, no lucky fan will snag a souvenir set list from the stage. There won’t be one. Even the artists are unsure of what they’ll play – their show is entirely improvised.

“There are no pre-programmed tracks or loops at the show, everything you hear is being created on stage and very in the moment,” percussionist Jason Hann said. “We try to get the same thing to happen as when a DJ drops a needle on a record and gets a flow going from one song to the next. We don’t stop and wait for the audience to applaud.”

The duo, named EOTO, will perform at The Bierstube at Whitefish Mountain Resort on Thursday, Feb. 28. The 21-and-over show begins at 8 p.m. and the cover charge is $8 at the door or $5 with a season lift pass.

Hann and Michael Travis started EOTO in 2006 as a side project, but when The String Cheese Incident completed its final tour last summer the two began taking their own duo of improvised live breakbeat, trip-hop, house and drum and bass on tour in earnest. Hann plays the drum kit, percussion and sampler, while Travis is in charge of the tonal elements, playing bass, guitar, and keyboards, and hand percussion and live mixing.

The result is the electronic sibling of the jam-based String Cheese Incident and an eclectic mix of traditional and electronic instruments that’s earning a reputation for keeping audiences on their feet.

Like the content of their shows, the group itself is an evolving project that has grown from private jam sessions to a national tour. “I was living in California and would stay with Travis when I came to Colorado for practice,” Hann said. “Every night after practice we’d end up staying up having jam sessions until four or five in the morning.”

The two stayed true to those jam-based roots, refusing to pre-record or plan their shows, Hann said, and with each performance they have become more comfortable relying on feedback from the crowd and their own talents to direct the show. The style lends itself to innovation. Fans who haven’t seen the duo for just a few weeks notice new beats, Hann said, and he estimates EOTO comes up with something new about every four shows.

“I think that for the most part other groups don’t try improvising as much,” Hann said. “They’ll be comfortable playing all day in a garage with their band and really being loose and not thinking about what’s going on, but they get really afraid to do that live. Because we’re both drummers I think we’re more comfortable stacking parts and improvising and, after a while, you let years take over.”

The bands name, EOTO, has evolved as well, originally acting as an acronym for End of Time Observatory. But Hann and Travis soon learned from Japanese and Philippine fans that EOTO, pronounced “E-oh-toe,” means “good sound” and “good love,” respectively. “I guess we stumbled on the right letters and pronunciation,” Hann said.

The show at The Bierstube will be the first time either artist has performed in the Flathead Valley. EOTO has held shows at venues in Bozeman and Missoula previously – and will continue on to those towns after the Whitefish show – but decided to sidetrack up to Whitefish on fans’ requests. “We’d see people at shows in Idaho or other areas and they’d ask us when we’d be coming there,” Hann said.

And, as always at EOTO shows, the audience in Whitefish will determine in a large part what type of show they see. “It very much depends on them – some are more into the jams, others prefer the electronic sounds. We’ll just feel it out, but they’ll get some of both for sure,” Hann said.