Lotus at Higher Ground Ballroom
Jan 28, 2015, Burlington, VT
written by John Mikeska
photos by Josiah Schlee: https://www.facebook.com/JosiahSchleeMedia
In a scene that is inundated with mediocrity, notable and inspiring acts can wash away the dust of preconception and renew our faith in the sublime. On a frigid Wednesday evening in South Burlington, VT; Lotus took the stage at Higher Ground and did just that.
Lotus’ unique brand of groove-based, thought provoking catharsis ignites the fires of the mind and hips alike. The seemingly endless stream of transcendent beats produced by the Philadelphia based jamtronica group reach exhilarating heights–thanks to an original tongue-in- groove style of improvisation that utilizes different aspects of rhythm and melody to lock in and form a cohesive, amorphous jam of polychromatic volatility. In so many words, Lotus is a powerful amalgamation of color and sound. Their incorporation of sampling and electronic elements makes them one of the best arguments regarding the creative and artistic integrity of electronic-infused improvisation.
The crowd was slow to fill up the ballroom on Wednesday night, like they had taken a good beating the previous night and were coming back for more. Amidst the meandering of acquiring beverages and making elbow room, the room neared capacity and Lotus took the stage.
The band opened with “Bush Pilot” to an enthusiastic crowd. The danceable synth-driven groove featured deep, primal interludes that exhibited the percussionistic prowess of Lotus’ rhythm section. In order to precisely pull off the intellectual dance-party that is a Lotus show, the drums have to be tight. Especially during the “looser” passages that navigate the waters between where Lotus is, and where Lotus wants to go. To give it a name, the percussion section is Lotus’ secret weapon; a pulsing heartbeat that serves as an involuntary connection to the divine. With proper execution, the melody-makers are free to explore the endless, heavenly expanse while the percussive powerhouse circulates the life-force of the jam.
“L’immueble” showed off some jazzy-chord funk served over a smooth-buttery groove. Lead guitarist Mike Rempel polished it off with a sultry jazz-melody, rife with syncopation and creative note placement. Rhythm guitarist Luke Miller handled the chord presentation and some of the more tonic-centered lead passages. Luke transitions from guitar to keys with a swing of the guitar and panache reminiscent of a 16th century swordsman. Brandishing a particularly wry smile, Rempel lead the group into a 4×4 dance-groove that plunged the crowd willingly into a dark well of disco-funk.
Bassist Jesse Miller commands the attention by means of showmanship and musical versatility alike. Miller’s brand of bass-playing more than makes up for in style what it might lack in technicality. The ingenuity and originality of his bassmanship is undoubtedly a vital element of Lotus’ sound. Miller’s elastic groove features seductive syncopation capable of pumping out globular bass tones and uptown popcorn-funk with impressive versatility.
The undisputed musical champion of the first-set was the expansive, genre-bending foray into “Expired Slang > Zelda > Tip of the Tongue” that featured Miller’s greasy bass globs amidst a primordial stew of jungle-funk. Rempel’s scratchy guitar led the rhythm section around Luke Millers synthesized lead lines. Prompted by full-stereo power chords, the jam devolved into a crunch-rock section that ultimately faded to its timely conclusion.
Hammerstrike stepped-up as the first-set closer to the delight of all in attendance. The dance-party was in full swing as the bassist took a knee to manipulate the myriad of electronics in his arsenal, resulting in some of the more interesting sonic-based explorations of the evening.
The second-set opened with “Nri” and worked its way into the riotous cacophony of color and sound that everyone expected after the first-set. Extended jams came early with “Contagion > Lucid Awakening” and didn’t stop for long before launching the monster jam vehicle of “Sid > Lead Pipe > Wooly Mammoth” before ascending through the ether to higher levels of consciousness where “Spiritualize” resides. The closing selection of the second-set took on an effervescent quality that played like a cerebral slide show of the evenings events.
The patience and poise with which these gentlemen craft their art is as inspired in nature as it is dignified in expression. The “intellectual dance-party” of a Lotus show, ultimately serves as a meditative practice that brings the mind back to the here-and-now. This process yields other-worldly conclusions and perhaps a catharsis that stimulates and expands the collective-consciousness of their enthusiasts. Admittedly, at times those in attendance resemble voracious vagabonds hell-bent on consuming anything with a beat and some lights. I say, if Lotus elevates the audience through the obscurity so they might cast an infinite gaze upon musical possibilities, it is only because Lotus is standing on the shoulders of musical giants. Lotus shamelessly utilizes influences that are varied and vast to facilitate exposure to the finer elements of musicality that are contained within a core of legitimacy and artistic integrity.
I: Bush Pilot, L’immueble, Expired Slang > Zelda > Tip of the Tongue, Spiraling Line of Light*, Hammerstrike
II: Nri, In an Outline, Contagion > Lucid Awakening, Sid > Lead Pipe > Wooly Mammoth, Spiritualize
E: Marisol, Greet the Mind
*last time played 3/28/2003