February 6, 2008
Over the last several years, the electronica genre has been saturated with one band after another, many of whom compensate for lack of talent with toys, laptops, and light shows that distract the audience from the repetitive garbage spewing from the speakers.
Lotus is not one of those bands.
They set themselves apart from other acts in subtle ways, the most obvious being instrumentation. Luke Miller mans the keyboards with a guitar strapped to his back. When he abandons the keys and joins Mike Rempel in a two-guitar front, Lotus really becomes something different than anything else out there. With two guitarists and a percussionist to augment the drummer, they create sounds that other bands of their ilk can only replicate with samples, and the real thing is much better.
Electronica is about creating danceable tension and release – building the song to a point that one note sends the audience over the top – a feat Lotus has perfected. They came into Memphis on their "Copy, Paste, Repeat" tour a mere day after the storm that spawned tornados that claimed a few lives and ravaged a portion of the city. Lotus provided the crowd at Newby’s with a catharsis, a brief respite from reality.
The show opened with "Slow Cookin’," and the rejuvenation of a broken city began. Jesse Miller’s thumping bass drove the jam as Mike Remple’s delicate guitar work provided a perfect foil, and towards the end of the song, Chuck Morris pounded out a great Latin-tinged percussion solo.
"Juggernaut" is aptly named, and by the time it came around, the show was in full-swing. Driven by the vastly-underrated drumming of Steve Clemens, the song built up perfectly, but didn’t quite blow it out like it should have. Rempel built the jam up to a frenetic peak, but instead of having one huge explosion, the bottom dropped out of the song as the band shifted into a slower, keyboard and percussion groove.
Lotus debuted a new song the last time they came to Memphis – the "Legend of Zelda" theme song. This visit again treated Memphis to something new, "Age of Innocence." Only the third or fourth time the song has been played, it definitely has potential to grow as the band fine-tunes the number.
The band then delved into the Chemical Brothers’ catalog with "Block Rockin’ Beats," and as Jesse Miller opened the tune with the familiar bass line, the crowd began to cheer. The lyrics "Back with another one of those block rockin’ beats" was programmed into the synth and played at the right moments, and the song really held up well compared with the original.
"Reich > Greet The Mind" provided one of the more special moments of the show. "Reich" was subdued and while at times it bordered on monotonous, it prepped the crowd for the subsequent "Greet The Mind." The song opened with the familiar squealing, wailing synth, and Jesse Miller’s funkified bass lines. A vintage porn soundtrack comes to mind.
"Greet The Mind" had all the components of a great live electronica song. The tension and release was the perfect – the song built up through the first few sections and as it ebbed and flowed, the entire room undulated to the music. Lotus punctuated the tune with staccato notes and it built up to a frenetic, dizzying pace before settling back down. However, the band saved the best for last.
"Nematode" was a perfect example of Lotus at its strongest, and a snapshot of how great they can be when they’re hitting on all cylinders. With Luke Miller on guitar, he and Rempel created textures that at times seemed Allman-esque, and at other moments had a jazz feel. Electronica bands often get bogged down into creating repetitive grooves, and Lotus occasionally falls victim, but for the most part they succeed at melding jaw-dropping grooves, and "Nematode" was one of those songs. The bass was pounding, the percussion section was going full-bore, and the two guitars added the right ingredients to cook up one hot jam. It was a perfect send-off to end the set.
After a brief moment off stage, the band came back for the encore, and as the opening riff to the popular "Jump Off" lept from Rempel’s fretboard, the crowd let out a yelp, and the band was off and running once again. Propelled by the spot-on rhythm section, the song was the epitome of Lotus, and for a city in need of healing, there’s nothing better than the power of music.