...And Yet They Dance [Lotus - Charlottesville & Baltimore Review]
…And Yet They Dance
Lotus - Charlottesville & Baltimore - 2/9-10/16
By Leo A. Jennings IV
The early afternoon of the 9th brought me to some very close friends and one of my favorite towns to see live music in, Charlottesville, Virginia. Lotus made their return here after less than a year, when they presented a beautiful two-night run amidst the budding spring Virginia weather. This year would be a one night stop amidst the cold of winter at the cozy Jefferson Theater, a return to one of last year’s Charlottesville venues. The high ceiling, sloped floor, and awesome acoustics always helps add to the experience, and makes the Jefferson one of my favorite venues.
After Michal Menert and the Pretty Fantastics put on a pretty fantastic set, everyone got their smokes in and drinks refilled, and put their game faces on. The lights dimmed again, and that was the signal that it was time to dance. Lotus grabbed the crowd’s innate desire to boogie immediately with a hard hitting “Juggernaut” to get the crowd moving quickly. “Middle Road” followed the fantastic peak of “Juggernaut”, and let the crowd catch its breath just a bit with its medium tempo and swirly funk vibe. A deep synth pad filled the room that slowly bled in to the Nomad classic, “Livingston Storm”, which was presented with a long, intense, and gripping jam that totaled over 15 minutes. “Storm” hinted at “Golden Ghost” but ended up at “Cannon in the Heavens”; the hip-hop tune had a few eyebrows raised, but more feet stomping than anything else. Lead guitar player Mike Rempel closed out “Cannon” with a ripping solo that left a few faces a little more than twisted. “Suitcases” followed, another fan favorite from studio album Nomad, and boasted a very tight but explosive improv section, where the band’s synchronicity really shined through on every level. The experimental synth, guitar, and percussion interplay neatly spilled into Mord Fustang’s “We Are Now Connected”, which was kept shorter than in the past, but more direct with where the music was heading. Wah clicks from Rempel sounded out the familiar “Opo”, albeit at a much higher tempo than usual, which had the crowd shaking a little quicker than they may have expected. As “Opo” concluded, the eerie sounds of D’n’B classic “Did Fatt” resounded throughout the room, entrancing the crowd as always. It was pretty clear at this point that we would be witnessing a single set show. Filled with ripping instrumental work from every member of the band, “Did Fatt” once again showed Lotus soaring into new heights of improvisational altitude, bolstered by complex guitar work and a tight rhythm section that had the band filling the entire sonic spectrum. A gradual increase in tempo and change in key brought the crowd back to the previously unfinished “Suitcases”, putting a seal on that jam for the night. The slow plucks of “Invincibility of Youth” followed, a song which has been seeing a more loud and intense jam lately; the night of the 9th proved no different. The ever so groovy “Mikesnack” came up next, and kept the fans on the move with its fun guitar and percussion smothered jam until we were hit with one of the most exploratory and fun “Jump Off”’s our ears have ever been graced with. A screaming guitar solo at the end of the song left the crowd begging for more at the encore break, and Lotus shuffled back to the stage to present us with “…And Yet They Fight”, a new post-rock jam with heartfelt melodies, and concluded the show with a fun and bouncy “Bellwether”. Lotus showed extremely strong working harmony as a unit with their improv, and only left us more excited for next evening’s show in Baltimore.
A late arrival to Ram’s Head the next night caused our crew to miss another set from Menert and the Fantastics, but we arrived just in time to get warmed up to Lotus. An exploratory “Wax” would lift off the night, helping fans warm up from the chilly winds rolling in off of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. A three level venue, Ram’s Head offers several vantage points and I soon found myself traversing all sides of the room before “Wax” was over to greet friends who had come from near and far to hear the wonder that is Lotus and spend time with the people they love the most. Sax-filled “Basin to Benin” was up next, followed by the hard-rocking, infamous segue setter, “Lead Pipe”. After a span of heavy synth and vocoder work, standing on the shoulders of some very speedy and solid play from the rest of the band, “Tip of the Tongue” fell upon our ears, giving way to yet another dance party, which has become very commonplace for this song, consistently leaving a lot of room for the band to improvise throughout. The sweet melodies of Caywood sprung forth, displaying some more pronounced and slightly altered, yet very pleasing guitar work in some sections that tickled many of the ears in the room. Organ and guitar spiced Expired Slang crashed in, leading to an expansive jam that had the crowd grooving at its highest capacity thus far in the evening. The drums of Ratatat’s “Cream on Chrome” crashed in, a cover that has been making appearances at shows since mid-2015. Lotus always seems to have a great deal of fun with this cover. Following a short set break was the perpetually grin-inducing “Sunrain”. Even that grumpy bartender upstairs was smiling. A lengthy, blissful expedition through “Sunrain” tunneled its way into “Slow Cookin’”, which brought the house down with fun synth improv interspersed with strong harmonic support from the rest of the band. An in-your-face conclusion to “Cookin” slammed its way back into the outrageously joyful tail end of “Sunrain”, leaving smiles stamped on faces all over the venue. New tune “Pachyderm” was next, which has very fun, whimsical vibe reminiscent of a lot of early 70’s funk and fusion. Billboard single “Eats the Light” came to the proving ground for the crowd following “Pachyderm”. Featuring (sampled) vocals from Pan Astral’s Gabe Otto, “Eats the Light” is a fun dance-rock tune which has a hint of Talking Heads influence, but fully retains the Lotus flavor, and lent itself to a precise groove that showed the band thoroughly utilizing their talents. “When H Binds to O” slowed down the vibe in the room for a moment, though this was not a bad thing at all. “Eats the Light” presented superb danceability that had many of us catching our breath at its end. “Plant Your Root”, another Nomad classic, serenaded the fans into its twirling sonic depths, extensively entrancing us until familiar echoes of “Flower Sermon” hit our ears. A Lotus classic and fan favorite, “Sermon” displayed some vastly fun melodies and high speed interplay between percussionist Chuck Morris and guitarist Mike Rempel, which dropped into a dark, encapsulating sonic journey that took the crowd by the ears and kept us immersed to its end. Beautiful “Colorado” was our first encore tune, followed by the reflective post-rocker “Gilded Age”, and the show was brought to a close.
Lotus put on two amazing shows, and displayed amazing improvisational prowess both nights. Every segue between songs flowed seamlessly, no band member overstepped their bounds, and most importantly, it seemed as if no stone was left unturned. Lotus has been displaying a keen ability to explore the improvisational space of their music to the fullest, especially as of late, and this tour has thus far seen the band exponentiating that ability. Between the amazing music, time traveling on the road, and reconnecting with the most amazing people I know, there is no experience in live music more fulfilling than the Lotus experience. Don’t leave yourself excluded from the pure sonic glory and heartfelt memory making that is Lotus. Stay tuned to The Passion Collective for another in-depth review of Lotus’s show in Columbus, Ohio on the 20th!