2/9/16, The Jefferson, Charlottesville, VA
2/11/16, The National, Richmond, VA
written by Leslie Caneda
photos by Roger Gupta
Winter shows are special in that they draw the pale faced, bundled up music lovers from hibernating in their nooks to shake the cold off and warm up with their closest friends and summer travel buddies. It is a time for reconvening, rejuvenation of energy, and a reminder that although the months have passed, your comrades and your band are still going strong. Lotus, especially, is a band that keeps their diehard and casual fans warm by dedicating themselves to fierce touring and recording, keeping the experience fresh and blooming. I was fortunate to catch the Virginia run of their tour in Charlottesville and Richmond.
As expected upon walking into the Jefferson Theater, I couldn’t help feeling how historical it was. Here I am going to see one of the most definitive bands in jamtronica, while noticing how so many others had walked the same path to see music that was then new. What a gilded age we live in. I embraced almost all of my fellow Lotus lovers from Virginia, and could barely make it onto the floor without sparking conversation. As always, I thought, “Virginia rolls deep.” My friend was photographing, more were vending outside, one was painting, and I even got to share some time on a canvas with one of the best artists in the scene. I heard several people exclaim, “this IS a reunion,” and that set the mood for this very special night.
Michal Menert and the Pretty Fantastics opened their tour with Lotus in Charlottesville. I’ve always appreciated Menert’s work with the Pretty Lights Label, and I heard his definitive Dever sound of electro-soul dance mixed with a tasty new blend of afro-beat, funk, and hip hop. It was a sound I was familiar with, but was pleasantly surprised and inspired with this new fusion filling the high hundred year old ceilings.
Lotus’ captivating lights shined on The Jefferson and everyone rushed to greet them. They started the night off with a Juggernaut of a good time, generating the energy with this rage-heavy oldie, then moving into the deep groove of Middle Road, which was perfectly placed before a dreamy Livingston Storm. The blissful jazz continued into Cannon in the Heavens, a proper name for this drop-it-like-it’s-hot, hip hop, party track. Throw in a traditional Suitcases to keep them dancing, and bring everyone together with club beats for We are Now Connected as the lego lights flashed blue. I heard a few exasperated, “whoos,” and whistles, and it’s onto Opo, an old funk fusion track that seamlessly drifts into a sensual softer groove. Once you’re floating on a feather, it was time to catch a ride and get down with Did Fatt and back into Suitcases. An Invincibility of Youth was plugged in as a perfect segway song into hip swaying Mikeshack and Jump Off. Our encore consisted of their second playing of And Yet They Fight in 2016, and rounded off with one of my newer favorites, Bellweather, a robotic dance song from Hammerstrike that acted as an ode to this brand new year: “Out with the old, in with the new, bring no regrets, and start anew.”
The National in Richmond was guaranteed to be a crazy night as so many familiar faces filled the space. You could take your pick of being in the middle of the floor, or relaxing up top, both being an ideal view. Menert killed the opening again, lending his voice to tracks and displaying his latest hard work. Their sound initiated the party, as it was sure to be one.
Lotus kicked off the set with Uffi, a groovy number to set the vibe. It’s always an act of good measure to include a thirteen minute Spiritualize to showcase the Nomad album favorite. It was the perfect time to introduce a new synth saturated jazz track called Cold Facts followed by an ever-building triumphant Destroyer. Then they brought the funk back with the crowd pleaser, Sid, which always reminds me of the Peanuts theme song: bright and joyful. The tempo picks up with the transition of the oldie, but goodie, Intro to a Cell. The jam gets heavier and flows into an energetic Umbilical Moonset. The crowd has gone into full rage mode as they dropped us back in Intro to a Cell, as I heard one fan proclaim, “it’s getting real!”
A set break was taken, and the second set started strong with a blissful Nemotode, which served as a delicate lead into the bluesy Sift, then Soma, Debris, and Ashcon, another crowd-rocking song I favor. Age of Inexperience was the dance fuel of the second set, in my opinion, especially when paired with Bubonic Tonic’s retro tune, then oh, wait, back again into a robotic Age of Inexperience. The encore blossomed into the melodic and soothing Cain and Abel, illuminating the love and nostalgia in the room. You could feel the energy swaying as the bodies followed. The crowd was closing their eyes, embracing their friends, and like so many, the everyday hustle and bustle didn’t matter to me anymore. Lotus can always bring you back to the truth: This moment has the power to change everything. To solidify a roller coaster of a night, they finished with What Did I Do Wrong, and got our knees shaking again to the heavy synth. In traditional National fashion, the house lights came up at midnight, I gave my hunny a birthday kiss and we were off to find our friends. Just like so many Lotus shows before, people were buzzing about how awesome it really was, and already making plans to get together at the next show. Lotus’ success is due to their fantastic musicianship, a hardcore dedicated fan base, along with ever-evolving hybrids of style and sound. For a lot of us, it was the dose that the doctor ordered in these chilly months, sure to keep us warm for a while.