Epic Articulations of Sonic Richness Bring Us Around the Sun Again [Lotus NYE 2015 Review]
Words by Leo A. Jennings IV
Photos by Don Carpenter
New Year's Eve is one of the most anticipated weekends of the year for any live music fan. For several of us, this meant Lotus would be ringing in our new year once again, in the most blissful way possible. The 30th would have us partying at Mr. Small's, followed by ringing in the new year on the 31st at Stage AE. The last time Lotus took the stage at Mr. Small's was in 2013, for a two night run that included a full live play through of their studio classic Nomad. These shows were excellent, and getting to see them at this venue again after two and a half years had several fans, including myself, raw with anticipation for the jams we were about to be immersed in.
Waiting in the venue had me getting goosebumps. The excitement was almost too much. With the way Lotus has been playing this year, several of us were lit with chatter about how excited we were for what we knew was going to be an amazing set. Before we knew it, the lights turned down and the boys took the stage, ripping into the high speed, wide open jam Juggernaut, a fan favorite, especially for an opener. Deep synth and lead guitar interplay led by a stampeding bass line led our ears into a grin inducing Nematode, which ended up being one of my favorite jams of the weekend. The band really dug in deep and explored with this one, sending the majority of the crowd into a frenzy early on in the show. Lotus then hit us with four classics: eerie yet hard-rocking Scrapple, a spacey Expired Slang that included a very deep improv section, funky Opo, and Invincibility of Youth, all with a subtle yet noticeable new twist of flavor being thrown in by the band. The first set ended with a bouncy L'immeuble that segued back into Juggernaut to close off the sandwich of a set.
After a short break, set two opened up with the emotional, reflective Wooly Mammoth. The beautiful lights combined with the touching sound of this song made for a very heart warming jam, with guitarist Mike Rempel seeking new boundaries to break once again throughout the song. As I dried my eyes after Wooly, Lotus broke into one of their most popular covers, the dance tune Inspector Norse by Todd Terje, followed up with the complex and gripping Kesey Seed. An exploratory Contagion kicked off a very long segue to end the second set. As Rempel filled our ears with a beautiful lead guitar sequence, keyboard and rhythm guitar player Luke Miller imparted interplanetary synth sounds that would drop us into a swinging and funky Philly Hit. A classic funk get down ensued, and found us seemingly being pushed over a cliff with an enormous drum roll from Mike Greenfield into the eerie DnB fan favorite, Did Fatt. The enormous sonic attack that Lotus can put on this jam is a dark, enamoring feel that is brought on with a raw intensity that really grabs the listener by the lapel. The calming wave of that jam led into yet another beautiful excursion, Lucid Awakening, which encompassed an uplifting and groovy performance to close out the second set. Lotus handed us an encore of the newer track Tarot, followed by a foot-stomping Tip of the Tongue to leave the crowd on edge for the night of the 31st.
Showers, food, and sleep (for some of us) had the fans more than ready to go for the last show of the year. After piling into Stage AE through a long but surprisingly quickly moving line, we were off into blissful sonic territories once again, as Bubonic Tonic swelled through our ears, getting our dancing shoes warmed up as the band segued into Mord Fustang cover We Are Now Connected. Following a fun and moving jam was one of Lotus's oldest and most cherished, Sunrain, bringing smiles to every face in the room. Horn samples crashed through to bring in one of the most extensive and exploratory Bush Pilot jams I have ever witnessed, leaving myself and several others with refreshed feelings about this song. Bush Pilot was pushed beautifully into an unexpected stack of perfectly executed covers, Radiohead's 15 Step and Jack White's 16 Saltines. The band really showed their ability to effectively cover another artist's music and meld into their own when they cascaded into their explosive classic, Flower Sermon. This song closed out the set with a patient, prolonged execution featuring extraterrestrial sounds coming from every instrument. Just 10 minutes before 2016 was upon us, the second set began, opening up with what many have said was Lotus's "Unofficial Song of 2015", the alien-sounding 128. A personal favorite of mine and several of my compatriots, I thought it a perfect way to call in 2016 as the countdown started. As Luke counted "1" and wished us a Happy New Year, and hugs, kisses, etc, were distributed amongst all us who love each other and this band so much, the latter half of In an Outline off of the self-titled effort filled the room with a soaring, tear-jerking, spine chilling sensation as 2016 was brought to life.
We would start out funky as usual with the always fun Neon tubes, which sandwiched a beautifully executed, very unexpected cover of New Year's Day by U2, leaving several fans' jaws, including my own, in need of gathering from off the floor. An enchanting Plant Your Root followed, filled with beautiful guitar and piano sounds being driven by a wandering bass and a clamorous-but-tight rhythm section; this dropped in to the funk expedition Mikesnack. While the band built the foundation, Mike Rempel really took off here and showed us one of the most intense, expressive, and outright fun versions of this song we have ever heard, before crashing into a percussion and vocoder-laden Age of Inexperience. The lustrous and bittersweet Marisol followed, gracing our ears with its heartfelt and driving riffs. The set closed out with the hit Jump Off, which spiraled itself into an expansive and howling guitar jam that harkened back to Escaping Sargasso Sea to close out the second set. For our final taste, Lotus broke into Commodores classic Machine Gun, conjuring memories from Summerdance 2013 when Machine Gun was segued into 3 times and played in full once, followed by a very appropriate 72 Hours Awake, as many fans were approaching their 72nd hour in the waking realm.
As the show closed, I found myself along with my usual crew in the usual nomadic modus operandi, seeing as many of those we get so little time with as we possibly could with the precious hours we had left. Epic articulations of sonic richness are certainly one of the main draws for events such as this, but what really keeps me and so many others coming back for Lotus is the people. When at a Lotus show, surrounded by so many like minded, warm hearts, the foremost thought in many a fan's head is, "This must be the place". As another year closes, a new one now opens before us, with friends new and old, at our side and far away, we await the thoughtful, intense, euphoric jams that Lotus has ready for us.
Video by AJ Nicholas
12/30/15 - Mr. Small's
I: Juggernaut>Nematode, Scrapple, Expired Slang, Opo, Invincibility of Youth, L'immeuble>Juggernaut
II: Wooly Mammoth, Inspector Norse, Kesey Seed, Contagion>Philly Hit>Did Fatt>Lucid Awakening
E: Tarot, Tip of the Tongue
12/31/15 - Stage AE
I: Bubonic Tonic>We Are Now Connected, Sunrain, Bush Pilot>15 Step/16 Saltines>Flower Sermon, Gilded Age
II: 128>Countdown>In an Outline (middle)>128, Neon Tubes>New Year's Day>Neon Tubes, Plant Your Root>Mikesnack>Age of Inexperience, Marisol, Jump Off
E: Machine Gun>72 Hours Awake