PGroove and Lotus play to mess in Knoxville

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Perpetual Groove & Lotus
The Valarium
Knoxville, Tennessee
February 20, 2009

One thing is clear about Perpetual Groove – the atmosphere that these fine young lads have been able to create is inclusive, fan oriented, and astoundingly grand. They have done their thing in front of ten plus thousand and before less than a hundred. There has been the Huffer-Dome (named after Jason Huffer, Perpetual Groove’s lighting director) and they have jammed under little more than par can house lighting. They have caused laughter and they have induced tears. Their Trance Arena Rock signature style and the diversity that they bring continues to baffle, pierce, shed light, and cast shadows within the very depths of the souls who witness.

 

lotus1.jpgLotus, the acid jazz quintet from Philadelphia, brings a level of spiritual presence to their sound of which many other bands could only dream and fathom. Other than some strategically placed synth, lyrics are non-existent. Musically, they deliver tight, spot-on jams that carry their audience on a journey to a pinnacle and bring them down, ever so gently, to a resting place in a beautiful valley. Needless to say, many were exuberantly stoked at a co-bill with these two. Audiences have anticipated such a co-bill for years now, and on February 20 it finally came.

Unfortunately, it came at the Valarium in Knoxville, TN where apparently there is no Fire Marshall.

The night began with a set from Orchard Lounge, two DJ’s who warmed up the crowd by spinning house mixes loudly and a little bit too long. It seemed as though they would spin all night. The venue was oversold and the longer they spun, the more ridiculously crowded the place became.

lotus2.jpgAfter much anticipation and near deafness, Lotus took the stage. Of late, lead guitarist Mike Rempel has taken on an even further deepened role as a guitar wielding face-melting shredder, and tonight he met this definition. They opened with the somewhat subtle "Bellwether" before exploding into the title track from their most recent studio release, "Hammerstrike.”  However, this was far from the highlight which came when the opening riff of “Travel” graced the attendee’s ears and continued to send shivers down the spines as they segued into “Ball of Wax” and finally wrapping the set with a particularly funky-fun infused version of “Tip of The Tongue.” Overall, this presentation was a sound performance, but due to geographical location, the crowd was somewhat lackluster, as the majority of those in attendance were there for the main event.

The heat in the room was ample by the time that Perpetual Groove took the stage. They came on following yet another set by Orchard Lounge, who provided what again could have been some quality background music, but instead seemed like a full on raging rave. The majority of the crowd spent at least ten of the minutes of the set with their fingers in their ears as bass and mid range sounds uncomfortably rattled bones and brains. It was as though Guns N’ Roses and Particle had a one night stand and yielded a bastard child. It was so loud it seemed unhealthy.

pgroove1.jpgPerpetual Groove opened with the ever-fan favorite, “Three Weeks.” They continue to keep this song fresh with mild twists and turns as keyboardist and vocalist John Hruby gives the song new life. This song set the tone for the rest of the evening, as Brock Butler whimsically sang the words to his passionately lyrical gems, plucked his axe, and bobbled his head to the groove that was being spawned. Yes, Mr. Butler is quite the multi-tasker.

As the set progressed, the crowd was pleased to hear Adam Perry be turned loose for some freestyle bass thumping as Albert expertly maintained the beat in an excited version of "TTFPJ." Then came the surprise.

To the amazement of some and the mild dismay of others, PGroove brought the return of “Robot Waltz.” This song has had very little rotation since the departure of former PGroove ivory tickler Matt McDonald during last year’s Amberland. But, while the song itself was a surprise, the delight came as the tune was interrupted by the hearty and reminiscent Butler classic, “A Day the Way” before bouncing back into “Robot Waltz.”  On the whole, this was a solid performance from a band that continues to progress and build an ever-increasing devoted following.

Overall, this night was good. It would have been incredible had it not taken place in the venue that it did.  The Valarium (if you can find it) is a nice facility with quality house lighting, comfy couches, decent Red Bull prices, and extremely over-zealous security, who walk around with ear pieces and mugs that would make President Obama proud. The chief difference is that they are not protecting the President. However, they must have not gotten that memo.

Security's concern for rule imposition caused them to obviously overlook the fact that the venue was oversold by at least 200 patrons. Their “we turn nobody away support group style” way of operating made dancing nearly impossible and created for a riotous feeling throughout the venue. Trying to get outside to smoke a cigarette was impossible, and the dance floor felt more like a mosh pit. It was bad to the point that by the time the bands took the stage, the young-ish crowd had ceased even saying a polite “excuse me” to one another.

Both Perpetual Groove and Lotus have so much to offer our scene. Lotus has a very large following in the North and PGroove has the South all sewn up. The unification just makes sense, but for the love of God, Jehovah, Buddha, and Allah, and every other deity, please do not play at the Valarium in Knoxville, TN. If you must, be sure and literally bring the house down next time.

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