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Dancing with Instruments

written by: on January 8, 2013

Whatever one’s stance on electronic dance music, recognition for the inspiration it’s given to compose and create music, however simply the music is made, is in order. Although for many people, live musicianship is more engaging than attending a show where someone clicks ‘play’ and strings together tracks they made at home on Ableton Live. Here is a list for those who like to watch the magic happen, and boogie down in accompaniment.

“Space Cakes II” – The Coop (2011)

Named after a backyard shack where the jams began in 2004, the Coop has been hitting every great festival in the Midwest, while still working its way into the consciousness of the greater festival scene. The band’s first full-length LP, Internalize was a result of everything the members had written prior and what threw them into the spotlight. Tracks like “Space Cakes I” hang on onto jam-band elements that suddenly blast into the dance track “Space Cakes II,” which rides out with a slap-bass solo while the saxophone and guitar riff together in righteous ways. The sweet jams and weaving of thought-provoking samples from the movie Waking Life and Terence McKenna make the Coop a must-listen for livetronica fans.

“Live at Northampton” – Eoto (2011)

The guys of Eoto are nothing new for a festival-aficionado. String Cheese Incident is one of the most well-known and talented jam-bands around, and the band’s bassist and drummer are the duo that make up Eoto. These two are the pinnacle of livetronica, as they use no pre-recorded samples. Drummer Jason Hann has a stripped down set suited to make nothing but the danciest of beats, and his head-strapped microphone lets him tweek his voice and chop it up like any home-composer would do with vocal sample they poached from YouTube. Eoto plays no repeated sets, or songs for that matter, which makes every show a conversation between Eoto’s decisive jamming and a crowd whose movements expose their enjoyment.

“Find Your Cloud” – Papadosio (2011)

Papadosio makes dance music that purposefully defies genre labeling in spite of acts who directly emulate the electronic music they derive from. Named after a subtle psychedelic suggestion, the five piece band is a blend playful jams, spacey synth pads and world music overtones. The groups’ general philosophy also dips into world culture, with lyrical suggestions of transcendence and universal understanding. Some call it jamtronica, but Papadosio would resent that, and all this genre labeling is ultimately futile, isn’t it?

“Hidden Hand, Hidden Fist” – Sound Tribe Sector 9 (2008)

This list wouldn’t be complete without Sound Tribe Sector 9, since the band is one of the top grossing live touring bands internationally.  The band took the festival scene by storm over the last decade and brought livetronica bands to the forefront of the festy-kid consciousness. Dubbing themselves “post-rock dance music,” Sound Tribe Sector 9 focuses heavily on building up every progression, every passage, into a larger and groovier song. These jams are carried upward and outward by the rhythm section, with percussionists Jeffree Lerner and Zachary Velmer who use tablas, handsonic drum pads, and a full set that locks in perfectly with bassist David Murphy. Guitarist Hunter Brown and keyboardist David Phipps blend into the equation with vibrant riffs and synth-leads that expressive fans can’t help but dance to.

“Live at Red Rocks” – Lotus (2011)

Hailing from Indiana, Lotus knows how to cater to the Midwest festival crowd. Lotus errs to the side of its jam band beginnings, while also locking in funky electronic patches that aren’t overbearing. These guys aren’t too serious and bring out Legend of Zelda remixes that rock the nostalgia out of every attendee who has an ear for electronic dance music finesse.