Hitting all five nights of the Lotus NYE run last week seemed distant even up until the last second, but soon became anticipation became reality. Starting out in Chicago (the city I grew up in) then flying to Pittsburgh and then driving to Baltimore to catch the shows was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Filled with love and light and great friends along the way, I couldn’t bring in the new year any better. My love for this band grows exponentially with every show I experience, and this five night run catered to what serious Lotus fans are always asking the boys to play (throwbacks, new songs, reworked songs, covers, etc.). I met up with homeboy Steve Ledgers and we hit the last stop on the Lotus NYE train in Baltimore for one of the most epic Lotus two-nighters ever witnessed. This is what Steve had to say about it…
If there is anything that can be said about Lotus, let it be this: they rise to an occasion. That’s pretty much what the NYE run was all about. Each show was good in its own right, each worthy enough to stand-alone. As the run progressed, there was a sense of exploration in the music. The jams grew richer, went deeper. New territories of funk and groovy electronic were discovered, evident in the debuting new songs, extended jams, and the combination of not only the two styles of play, but of old and new songs.
They pushed the limits of their sound beyond the standard already set in place, intensely enhanced by the crowd’s attachment to the music, strengthened by a culmination of energies that pretty much tethered them to the dance floor with each show. Anyone who has ever seen Lotus knows, full and well, they are a band that thrives off what the crowd is feeling, what they are thinking. And somewhere in the back of the cerebral mysteries of the fans, off in the distance of thought, floated the idea of the New Year and the looming count down. The music, the jams, every ounce of heart and soul poured into the notes by the band, served as a catalyst that moved the crowd toward that moment, that act of bringing in a new age.
Lotus knew what was coming, understood even, and they shaped and molded and forced the direction of their music toward it. There was so much tension, and Lotus, being masters of direction, exploited that fact, building and building and building upon it, until the crowd was practically begging for release.. And the climax? Well, it was in Baltimore at the Ram’s Head. Strangely out of character for a band that hails from Philly, but strangely just as fitting.
What a venue! What a place to come and get down and celebrate such a moment in time, a moment marking renewal and growth, new beginnings, new paths--new lives. The moment I stepped into the Ram’s Head, I felt alive. Having been to the venue to see Lotus before, I knew the next two nights were going to be incredible. Most people filled the dance floor in front of the stage, while others needed easier access to the five different bars (three at ground level, and two upstairs, with one at each side of the building). In reality, they probably wanted more room to dance and spin, finding space either on the floor, or somewhere in the two upper levels overlooking the crowd, which sort of wrapped around those below. I found a nice little pocket, Mike side, on the second floor near the balcony, where I was surrounded by almost fifty friends, some new, and some old.
Lotus did not hesitate in getting the crowd immersed in the music, opening the first night with a song off their new album ‘Build,’ titled ‘Kodiak.’ Once finished, before anyone could get comfortable, they went right into ‘Nematode,’ which skyrocketed the energy and blanketed the crowd in a bliss that told them they were just warming up. Next was ‘Neon Tubes,’ a song that puts a twist on their infamous space-funk, the track being a mix of that, with a little progressive-electronic edge. This version is a great example.
Then the vibe slowed down and they dropped ‘Kesey Seed,’ leaning a little more on Jesse’s bass than usual. Here came a moment where everyone in the venue smiled, while Rempel channeled his heart through his guitar, producing such a sweet and somber, yet captivating melody that cooled the dancing feet of the crowd and set the tone for the rest of the night. The next two songs, ‘Lead Pipe’ and ‘The Oaks,’ kept up the pace, while also allowing the crowd a moment to relax. This was where they started exploring more of the dark, electronic side to their music, following those two with ‘Travel,’ extending the space and mood of the song in a jam, before seamlessly segueing into the set closer ‘Hammerstrike,’ which left the crowd wanting more.
The second set is where the initial sparks took flame. Lotus came back and played ‘Massif,’ followed by ‘Plastic Lemons,’ both new songs that have found a place in their repertoire, and a place in redefining their image as a band. After, Lotus surprised not only the crowd, but themselves as well, by playing a super weird and lively ‘It’s All Clear to Me Now (IACTMN).’ All of the set lists I have seen had the song ‘Plant Your Root’ in place of ‘IACTMN.’ As I said, Lotus feeds off the crowd, and it seems Luke could not load the right samples for ‘Plant Your Root’ and made a game-time decision. Once deep in ‘IACTMN,’ they let loose, and out came an explosive segue into ‘Intro to a Cell,’ which had the crowd jumping and screaming. The previous jam had me so lost and in the dark, I did not see it coming.
I don’t think anyone did. The energy stayed as they moved right along into a bass heavy ‘Dowrn.’ Jesse really shined here, handing the crowd plenty of bite-sized womps that were not only tasteful, but also easily digestible. After ‘Dowrn,’ they took a second to catch their breath. This was where the first star-song of the run came--‘Caywood.’ This widely chased song nearly had me in tears, for it put me in such a state of joy, all I could do was hug the balcony railing and watch the song’s up-beat and cheery melodies come to life. It seemed to almost connect the first set’s ‘Kesey Seed,’ while also creating a dreamy ambiance.
Lotus then gave the crowd a chance to absorb the mood before going into a funky, ‘Bellwether.’ Half-way through, they segued into a powerful ‘Umbilical Moonset,’ and then came back into the end of ‘Bellwether,’ which closed the set. The encore was an extremely colorful and funky ‘Strawberry Letter 23,’ a Shuggie Otis cover. This was followed by, ‘Invicibility of Youth,’ and forced us to walk away anticipating the next night.
And night two did not disappoint. Not at all. I remember walking into night two thinking to myself, “What could possibly be next?” But Lotus had a few tricks up their musical sleeves. Night two started with ‘Harps,’ a standard opener that wasn’t much different from any other, but was energetic enough to get the crowd moving. The rest of the set ended up catching everyone by surprise, for no one had expected to hear three of the band’s funkiest songs in one set. A smooth ‘Tip of the Tongue’ went right into an even smoother ‘Turquoise’, which was followed by one of my absolute favorites, the infamous, ‘Sid.’ I had been waiting so long for oneof those.
The jam inside ‘Sid’ created a space that took my normal feeling of comfort--that sense of being at home, and placed it somewhere distant and foreign, yet pleasant all the same. I would not return home until the end of the show. For out of the jam in ‘Sid’ came ‘We Are All Connected’, another new song, that finished with the sounds of Greenfield’s and Chuck’s drumming. The band paused for a minute before playing a rather pretty and drawn out ‘72 Hours Awake.’ After which they only stopped long enough to adjust their settings, and then bounced right into an extremely happy and experimental ‘L’immueble,’ a song I had been chasing since the last Summer Dance.
This eventually transitioned into another favorite of mine, ‘Jump Off.’ However, here is where something happened that kind of took me out of the moment. The ending jam in ‘L’immueble’ had such a beautifully rising structure I was turned off when the band cut it short and transitioned into a different shade of sound. The jam took on a shape that felt out of place. Fortunately, I didn’t have a chance to think it all the way through. The segue into ‘Jump Off’ caught my attention, and the climax where Rempel shreds and Chuck’s percussion explodes revitalized my body and got me dancing again.
The tension had finally reached its peak, and we were about to jump into a sea of new beginnings. Lotus opened the second set with ‘Spiritualize,’ preparing us for what was to come, raising our emotions, taking us into the New Years and the countdown. At midnight, they switched gears and hit us with an incredible ‘Umbilical Moonrise,’ flooring everyone in the venue, forcing smiles on everyone that stretched all the way around their heads, while bringing our spirits down from the clouds.
At this point, I had come out of a ten-person group hug, and started pretty much hugging anyone in sight. The rest of the crowd was doing the same. But Lotus didn’t stop, segueing into an insanely funky ‘Greet the Mind,’ with the usual, yet always pulsating ‘Umbilical Moonset’ tease near the end, followed by a new song called ‘Uffi.’
‘Wooly Mammoth’ brought another layer of beauty to the already intensely melodic and emotionally taxing set. We couldn’t even catch our breaths. I think we all had stopped breathing entirely. This lead into a superb ‘Plant Your Root,’ (I knew it was going to show up eventually), which melded the energy in the venue with their sound, and formed a brilliant drum and bass jam that segued into the end of ‘Spiritualize,’ completing the knot, and unifying the crowd with not only each other, but the music as well. Lotus gave us a moment to allow the rebirth of our souls to take place, and then went into ‘Cannon in the Heavens,’ which is a remix of ‘Golden Ghost’ that has Lyics Born gracing the track with his wordsmithing. They closed the set with the up-beat ‘128,’ a song where Lotus really got down on some dark and groovy electronic.
When they came back on stage, I kept saying to my friends they really had only one song left to play. Something inside me knew it was going to happen, knew that it would be the perfect note to end on, for it embodies everything the transition from old to new stands for--reflection and growth.
‘Colorado.’ In forty-seven shows, I have only seen this song played three times. You remember that feeling mentioned earlier? That sense of being at home? Within the encore’s opening riff, I discovered two things. I realized that Lotus had brought me back home. Then, I realized I had been home the entire time.The relatively new song of theirs ‘Bush Pilot,’ with its funky-flaring trumpets and walking groove, closed the show, yet, it didn’t matter to me. I was still in awe. The feelings incited by ‘Colorado’ alone still linger as I write this recap. During the song, the hairs on my skin stood straight, and chills swam up and down my spine as hug after hug came and went with the softly building and warm melody that is ‘Colorado.’
‘Colorado’ is extremely sentimental, probably because it’s a representation of what the state means to them, or maybe it’s just a representation of what music means to them. Or maybe it’s a reflection of who they are as people. Who knows? For me, it’s just a representation of what it means to love and be loved, to have friends, to have family. To feel at home, to be in the moment.
For there’s something to being in the moment. I mean, really, being in the moment. Now, by moment, I mean where you are present, experiencing everything that exists, lost inside a space that transcends feeling itself. A space where you realize--no, understand, that life is nothing but a series of rooms, filled to the brim with the furnishings that make life rich. A space made of all the good things, and all the bad things. A space where nothing matters. A space where everything matters.
A space where your friends are your family. That’s a space I like to call home, for home is where my family lives and breathes and smiles and cries and hugs and dances. It’s a place where they walk and run and laugh and spill drinks. And yes, sometimes, they fall down, but it’s all good, because there’s always someone there to pick them up. I might even laugh for a minute before I help their silly ass off the ground, then hug them, and get them dancing again.
That kind of home only exists inside the sounds of Lotus. And with that encore, and this New Year’s run, I felt like I was living in a Hollywood mansion. It was definitely one for the record books. Until next year…
12/30/12 Rams Head Live
Set 1: Kodiak, Nematode, Neon Tubes, Kesey Seed, Lead Pipe -> The Oaks, Travel -> Hammerstrike
Set 2: Massif, Plastic Lemons, It’s All Clear To Me Now -> Intro to a Cell -> Dowrn, Caywood, Bellwether -> Umbilical Moonset -> Bellwether
E: Strawberry Letter 23, Invincibility of youth
12/31/12 Rams Head Live
Set 1: Harps, Tip of the Tongue, Turquoise, Sid -> We Are Now Connected -> Drums -> 72 Hrs Awake, L’immeuble -> Jump Off
Set 2: Spiritualize -> Count Down -> Umbilical Moonrise -> Aue Lang Syne -> Umbilical Moonrise, Greet the Mind, Uffi, Wooly Mammoth, Plant Your Root -> Spiritualize, Cannon in the Heavens, 128
E: Colorado, Bush Pilot
VIDEO: “L’immeuble --
VIDEO: “Countdown>Umbilical Moonrise”