EOTO/Zmick | 04.13.09 | Illinois

By: Josh Fisher

EOTO/Zmick :: 04.13.09 :: Canopy Club :: Urbana, IL

To promote the Summer Camp Music Festival, Canopy Club has been treating jam fans to free concerts every Monday night featuring artists from Illinois’ growing scene. With support from Urbana’s premier jam band, Zmick, Monday Night Miracle has been delivering free weekly music to the masses. The past year has seen national acts visit like Lotus and Strange Design and performances from smaller bands like Raoul Duke and The Fuz. April 13 was the culmination of everyone’s hard work, as EOTO headlined the free show at Canopy Club.

Never have I seen the Canopy so packed on a Monday night, and the anticipation of Summer Camp lingered in the warm air of both rooms. As early as 10 p.m., people were escaping into the Canopy’s main hall to get a good spot for EOTO. Zmick started the night in the Canopy’s cozy Void Room in the front of the venue. Many people were being social, sitting around and enjoying the $3 premium pint special, while it was strictly business for Zmick.

Zmick opened with their musical adventure, “Crad Rock.” This song quickly became a crowd favorite upon its first live performance, and it’s no secret why. The song tells the tale of a hike up a mountain, providing insight into the human spirit and uplifting listeners to a state of empowerment. The call-and-response chorus of “Crad Rock” is the song’s most striking attribute. The call, sung by guitarist-vocalist Brad Miller (“We didn’t come this far/ Just to be let down”) is answered by a countdown of the distance left in the journey, sung by bassist-vocalist Dan Wonsover (“Twelve more miles to go!” etc.). DanWon was able to coax the audience into sing-along frenzy with his genuine enthusiasm. By the time the jam hit “one more mile” the band had revved up the tempo, and Miller’s guitar solo had the entire crowd jumping in jubilation.

Another highlight of their first set was the funky rocker “Options,” complete with a wordless chorus and head-banging bridge. Wonsover sets a great foundation for this song by using slap technique to give his bouncy bass line more bite. Radically changing gears, the band segued into a soaring guitar feature with Brad Miller riffing on the melody of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” While the abrupt change in direction sent many to the restrooms or out for a cigarette, those who stuck around were treated to a unique tease into the finale of “Options.”

Zmick by Crad Bohn
The flood of people into the main concert hall for EOTO was something else, and dancing room was at a premium. From the first track Michael Travis dropped on his synths, it was clear the rage was on. The improvised club/dance duo utilizes looping pedals to layer their sounds. This allows for many different permutations of their beats, which were consistently tight thanks to drummer Jason Hann. During EOTO’s first set, you would have been hard pressed to find someone who wasn’t grooving. Without an elaborate lighting rig, EOTO provided digitized visuals on Canopy’s screens. Much like their visuals, EOTO’s music slowly morphs from its initial style. This unpredictability created a whirlwind of excitement and even unease in the room. Audience anticipation creates tension and EOTO thrives on drawing out that tension with their spontaneous music.

EOTO’s set break allowed time for Zmick to shine once again. In the half hour they had left, they played one continuous jam, an instrumental rendition of their climaxing original “COB” into The Beatles’ classic ballad “Something” into their sure-fire Latin groove “Daffodil.” This set showed off some of their best attributes, including the lysergic keyboard playing of Mike Donato, the intense drum work of Kris Ahrens and the band’s technical cohesion on their transitions. Zmick knows no bounds, with a repertoire running the gamut from progressive rock to reggae to Latin to electronic. What remains constant in this sea of variables is that they provide the perfect balance between concrete songwriting and abstract jams.

Once the last chord of “Daffodil” dissipated, many Zmick fans were left craving more, but most of the crowd was ready for the last round of EOTO. The second set built upon the massive dance party the duo started in the first set, and another long block of music kept the Canopy Club bumping until closing. The ambience of EOTO’s second set was more in your face than the first set, complete with minor tonality and dissonant synthesizers. Many ethereal sounds were scattered amongst their grooves as the energy level in the room began to peak. Toward the end of the set, the enthusiasm of some began to peter out, but you wouldn’t know it from listening because the music showed no signs of slowing.

The crowd showed great appreciation for Travis and Hann as they took their bows and left the stage. Under the house lights, some continued to dance while others chatted about their summer plans. This show provided a perfect warm-up for the Memorial Day weekend festival and featured two of the many announced artists. The schedule has yet to be announced but you won’t want to miss either of these bands when they take the stage at Summer Camp.

EOTO is on tour now; dates available here.

JamBase | Ragin’
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