Lotus at the Georgia Theatre on March 3, 2012 (Photo: Michael Podrid)

Memphis, Birmingham & Athens: Lotus electrifies the south

 

 

Throughout the latter part of February, Lotus, the five piece acid-jazz and electronica infused outfit from Philadelphia, began their trip into the land of made their way deeply south of the Mason Dixon to begin a trek through the south.

With the regard for electronic music being at an all-time high,  the brothers Miller (Luke and Jesse), Mike Rempel, Mike Greenfield and recently reinstated percussionist, Chuck Morris, planned a more extensive southern run than any in the band’s history. Over the course of eighteen days (that are still underway) and with a staggering light rig in tow, the band scheduled fifteen stops. Obviously, this meant many stops on weeknights, something of which the quintet was seemingly carefree about.

The fact is that this band knows that they have something special. There are lots of DJs making music with their iPads and loads of bands out there melting faces with guitars. Lotus is doing neither one, but what they are doing hinges on both. This puts them into a category unto themselves and crowds are turning out in unprecedented masses.

Honest Tune was on the scene in Memphis at Minglewood, Birmingham at WorkPlay and Athens at the Georgia Theatre to provide different takes through four photographers’ lenses and three writers’ keyboards. 


 

Lotus
Minglewood Hall
Memphis, TN
February 22, 2012

By Josh Mintz

 

Bill Graham had a saying about the Grateful Dead — “They’re not the best at what they do, they’re the only ones that do what they do.” While Lotus may not be the only ones who do what they do, it’s damn close. They proved it when they rolled into Memphis with their jazzy, rocking, latin-tinged electronica stylings and a light rig powerful enough to illuminate a blacked out city.

 

The return of percussionist Chuck Morris (he was on paternity leave) signaled the return of the Latin textures that sets Lotus apart from the other retread acts. He brings so much to the table, subtle sounds and drum beats that make the band great. Between his return to the road and the band’s ridiculous light show, the stage was set for great music at Minglewood Hall, and for the most part, the band delivered.

 

While the focus of any concert is the music, the light show is part of the experience (especially in the jamband world) and it bears mention. From lasers that shot across the pitch-black room to swirling bursts of color, the lights really added to the show, and the crowd clearly got off on them.

 

The band opened the show with “Suitcases,” and from the first notes, it was clear that the audience was in for a great night of tight music. Jesse Miller’s bassline was razor-sharp, and guitarist Mike Rempel delivered some of the jazzy licks that make Lotus peerless on the electronic music scene.

 

“Bubonic Tonic” was the first song that Lotus stretched its legs on, and it was a true behemoth, a runaway train of sound. Drummer Mike Greenfield’s staccato drum rolls powered the song behind the Luke Miller’s swelling synth notes.

 

As “Bubonic” neared what had to be ten minutes, the group seemed like they were just gaining the steam needed to power the monster, pushing the audience further and further, until there was so much tension that the room was about to blow.  It’s what really makes Lotus great, the tension-and-release and group-mind that every band aspires to attain.

 

The tempo of the show down-shifted As “Bubonic” segued into an ominous-sounding “Dowrn,” a song that really illustrates the direction that Lotus has gone the last few years, featuring sampled vocals and gut-bursting synth-bass.

 

The band got back down to business as usual with tracks like “It’s All Clear To Me Now” and “Wooly Mammoth,” uptempo blends of dance-rock that were quintessential Lotus. “It’s All Clear To Me Now” was as huge as “Bubonic,” another tension-and-release animal that built and built until it exploded. Rempel’s crystal-clear guitar lines on top of the Greenfield/Morris duo had the entire room moving as one, smiles abound as the mega-watt light show lit up the room.

 

A bit of momentum was lost, though, as the band followed “Wooly Mammoth” with “Lead Pipe,” a song that was more electronic than rock…while the beats were danceable and the bass was heavy, the elements that make Lotus great are lost when the band shifts focus away from instruments and towards buttons, knobs, and switches.

 

“Lead Pipe” melted into “Shimmer and Out,” and whatever footing the band lost was regained. Jesse’s laid down a thick bassline over Chuck Morris’s percussion. “Wax” was trance-inducing, a workout of visual and audio senses. “Hammerstrike” closed the set, and the band walloped the audience with a double-encore of the anthemic “Disappear in a Blood-red Sky” and the breakneck speed and dual guitar of “Intro to a Cell.”

 

Lotus is a band with the potential to own their genre, if they’d stay away from the cliche of samples, a commonplace tactic for bands of lesser skill. The five band members have the chops to pull off greatness without the use of toys, and for the better part of the Memphis show, that’s exactly what they did. When they stick to musical instruments rather than electronic toys, they do what few artists can and all artists aspire to do – move the crowd to dance with reckless abandon.

 

Setlist

Grayrigg, Livingston Storm, Blacklight Sunflare, Neon Tubes*, Break Build Burn, Travel > Phantom > Juggernaut, Uffi, Destroyer, Spiritualize

Encore: Massif, Age of Inexperience
*debut of “Neon Tubes”

Click HERE to download the soundboard recording of this show.

 

Click the thumbnail(s) for more photos from Memphis by Josh Mintz

(Scroll down for the Reviews & Photos from Birmingham and Athens as well as a video)

 

 

 

Lotus
WorkPlay
Birmingham, AL
February 28, 2012

By David Shehi

 

Back to the beloved quintet days of old pre-Chuck Morris (percussionist) paternity leave, the band that once opened many an evening with “we’re Lotus from Philadelphia and  there is plenty of dance room up front; this is dance music” tore through the south, selling out or nearly selling out each stop. Providing testament to the fact that the band has come quite a way over the years and also in an act of true boldness, on this night, the ensemble set up shop at Birmingham’s WorkPlay Theatre… on a Tuesday night.

 

Not to get off subject, but Birmingham is also the home of the Vulcan statue (the largest cast iron statue in the world). In the early 1960’s, the torch that Vulcan holds above his head would glow green — meaning there were no immediate traffic accidents in the city –  or red indicating otherwise. Later, it changed to indicate traffic fatalities. Now it stays the same color all the time.

 

Regardless, the point is that nobody ever knew what color the torch would glow and so is the case with Birmingham’s live music scene. While there is no doubting the fact that the Magic City has more than its share of patrons, predicting if they will support local bands in bars or larger bands in clubs is as much of a coin toss as it was to try and predict what color the big green guy’s torch would be back in the day.

 

To this notion, apparently Lotus said “fuck it” and marched into the city, nearly sold the place out (causing the band’s tour manager to comment “you guys sure do know how to party on a Tuesday night”) and had the place firmly in their grasp from the first note and drew upon that initial burst for an interweaving of a catalogue spanning setlist.

 

After a short but immensely impressive set by South Carolina’s The Malah, the dimming of the lights and thumping fight song like bass riff intro of “Scrapple” signaled the beginning of what would prove to be an incredible mind-bending Birmingham night.

 

Though the Philly boys  opted to not make a jam vehicle out of the number from 2009’s Oil on Glass/ Feather on Wood, what the number provided was an introduction of the players, with bassist Jesse Miller riding high while guitarist/keyboardist Luke Miller provided a an undercurrent and riff filament  for the multi-cresting tides of the guitar work from Mike Rempel. Most of all though, it was an immediate example of what Chuck Morris adds to the band. Through a simply brush through the chimes or correctly placed bongo slap, his abilities coupled with those of drummer Mike Greenfield — and the aforementioned elements –  take the discerning ear to places that many bands simply are not capable.

 

As the set progressed, Birmingham became acquainted with the retina piercing light show that the band has fully engrossed itself into. When taken in conjunction with the sounds from numbers such as a highlight of “Did Fatt > Shimmer & Out,” the lighting seemed to take the instrumentation to a higher place via the level of energy that was as frenetic yet focused.

 

Catering to the DJ loving cats in the house, something seemed to be either lost or the mass was just recovering from recovering for a moment during  “Lou Carcohl.” Most likely a matter of song selection, things went off course for five minutes as the Lotus boat steered away from exploration and towards execution of a clear cut case of electronica — as opposed to the acid jazz (with electronica elements) that is the defining and quintessential Lotus sound.

 

Selecting the perfect way to come out of the electronic spell, the trance inducing and pristinely progressive “Blue Giant” and “Flower Sermon” followed. The crowd’s response to the faultlessly tight deliveries of the beloved soundscapes from the two markedly different eras  (2006’s The Strength of Weak Ties and  2003’s Germination, respectively) would have been made clear if no one had clapped, teach face in the throng telling the story throughout.

 

In the end, Lotus showed once again that there is no duplication of what they do. The only complaint one can ever find is in song selection and that is simply a matter of personal taste. The band’s execution cannot be questioned. They are as tight as a tick that is fresh off of a dog’s ass. Their maturation as a collective is like that of a fine cigar in a well maintained humidor and as a result of all of this, this band that would not set foot in the Magic City, managed to take it on and deliver a dazzling set to a nearly sold out house on a Tuesday night.

Maybe the Birmingham scene it isn’t such a coin toss after all.

 

Setlist

Scrapple, Nematode, Uffi, Harps, Did Fatt > Shimmer & Out, Lou Carcohl, Blue Giant, Flower Sermon, Disappear in a Blood…, What Did I Do Wrong?, 128

Encore: Kodiak, Age of Inexperience

 

Click the thumbnail(s) for more photos from Birmingham by Brian DeGaetano & David Shehi

(Scroll down for the Synopsis & Photos from Athens as well as a video from Memphis)

 

 

 

Lotus
Georgia Theatre
Athens, GA
March 3, 2012

By Franklin James

 

Rolling into Athens, Lotus looked to continue the success that had run rampant in the south. It can be said, without equivocation, that success was found.

 

Packing the house to its brim, there were many who were left ticketless outside the Georgia Theatre that has seen nothing but massive success since its restoration from a 2010 fire that destroyed historic music landmark.

 

Steering from the one set formula, the band brought an extra level of heat to Athens, sandwiching the majority of the first set between “Spiritualize” and breaking out one of the band’s finest compositions in its tenure, the highly sought after “Umbilical Moonrise.”

 

The night — that adequately pilfered the extensive songbook of the 12 year old outfit — served as a perfect introduction for a brand new listener just as much as it did a spectacular celebratory showcase for the most seasoned fan.

 

In short, the Theatre was as alive as it has ever has been and words from fans exiting all positive, with adjectives such as “amazing,” “blissful” and perhaps the best of all, “orgasmic,” being used to describe the outing.

 

Setlist

I: What Did I Do Wrong?, Spiritualize > Dowrn, Turquoise, Greet the Mind, Molluskunk, Behind Midwest Storefronts, Bubonic Tonic > Spiritualize
II: Massif, The Surf Sid > 128, Umbillical Moonrise, Sodium Vapor, Jump Off > Zelda > Jump Off

Encore: Kodiak, Sunrain

 

Click the thumbnail(s) for more photos from Athens by Michael Podrid

(Scroll down for a video from Memphis)

 

 

Lotus (Lights/Jam) at Minglewood Hall

 

 

 

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