The Tropo Experience

I first saw Tropo at Rise: Big Sur. I was initially struck by the accoutrement of the band (three MacBooks, a drum set, the bongos, a violin, two electric six-string guitars, a bass guitar, an electric eight-string slide guitar, and at least two synthesized keyboards) and their ability to seamlessly weave together live instruments and electronic dance music.

At Lunacy, the band played on the main stage; a crowd of two hundred people danced while the lights pulsed against the band and the bamboo backdrop. Regrettably, I missed them at Lunacy – I was furiously grading papers and arrived the day after they performed.

The second time I saw them was on Halloween at a yoga studio in Avila Beach that smelled like lavender. The high ceilings, exposed beams, and tall narrow windows gave the venue a church-like feel.  As Tropo was setting up, they played pre-recorded electronic music. I was sitting at the wall in my costume; I was wearing the classic disguise – the big-nose connected to glasses with a bushy mustache and matching bushy eyebrows.  Next to me was my roommate, Mike, dressed like an Oxford professor except for the piece of tape in the center of his gasses. In front of me an earth goddess wearing gauze butterflies in her hair and a flowing, muslin gown said to her friend: “Ah, Tropo. My favorite band. My favorite band.” They floated to the middle of the room and began swirling to the music.

The band completed their set-up. Tyson worked on the center laptop, Grant on the left, and Ryan on the right. Jeff sat behind the drums and Ahmed was on the bongos.

When the pre-recorded music stopped, there was a pause as Tyson picked up the violin. As soon as he started playing, my roommate looked at me in surprise and said, “What?!” Tyson played the violin with the technicality and precision of someone who had been classically trained, but the sound was entirely distinct – Tropo is, after all, an electronic band.

Soon, the music escalated into a driving beat and everyone was dancing, mostly barefoot – I couldn’t help but join in the revelry. Maybe it was the Kirtan performance right before or the very fact that they were playing in a yoga studio that looked like a church, but there was something tangibly ecstatic in the air and my soul felt uplifted as I danced.

I looked around me: a giraffe danced with a 1920’s pinup army girl, a woman in fishnets and a sleeveless shirwani blew bubbles, a young child dressed as a jedi danced with his mom, and an old man wearing a Hawaiian shirt and khakis sat at the wall. All of them were smiling. I kept looking around and noticed that everyone was smiling.

The music continued; positivity coursed through my veins. As the sounds intensified and cooled, so did my movements. Eventually, it seemed my energy was entwined with the band’s and it was all I could do but succumb to the music.

(from Left to Right): Jeff, Ahmed, Tyson, Ryan, Grant
Photo by: Sarah Leonard

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