Lotus, Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY- 4/14-16
Photo by T. Harris
Waking up in Brooklyn, NY on a Tuesday knowing I had 2 nights of live music ahead was like a wake and bake without marijuana. I felt happy and relieved that I no longer had to travel and the venue was now just a short 10 minute walk from the Hostel we were staying at. A sunny, crisp and cool day turned into an even cooler night, but inside the Brooklyn Bowl Lotus quickly warmed all of us up.
In just its third appearance in 2014 ‘Scrapple” was a welcomed opener for a set that would be littered with deep cuts, swirling segues, and some serious jamming. Making its 2014 debut the classic build and release of “When H binds to O” is a track that diehards have always been pining after for years. The xylophone work of Chuck Morris was extraordinary in and of itself, but as the other four members of Lotus rallied around the lollipop shaped stick and tiny keys, they made its simple sounds serve a much larger purpose. Being able to bust a song out like ‘When H binds to O’ is a perfect example of the supreme musicianship of Lotus. Luke Miller spoke to me specifically about ‘When H binds to O’ and had this to about the song…“‘When H Binds to ‘O is a bit difficult mainly because it is in 9/8 time [musical signature]. It’s not necessarily super hard, but making it groove in 9 is the tricky part.”. Each of the five members of Lotus are so well practiced and such dedicated musicians that they are able to pull out songs from their catalog and play them with such bravado it almost sounds like a fresh track. New and added flares, plus maturing styles, make each and every one of the bands “older rarities” sound right on par, if not better, than when each made their debut however many years prior. Having this uncanny ability allows the band the freedom to mix in old songs with new ones almost seamlessly.
The second sets ‘Wooly Mammoth’ was the perfect breather for what was to come, but not before Luke Miller laid down a spirited, synth-heavy ‘Alkaline,’ with Mike Rempel showing off his guitar chops, which was just another example of his ability to change his style of play at the drop of a hat. With the show nearing its end, it was time to bring on the funk and to bring it hard. The band set sail on a ‘Suitecases’ that would segue into a late set ‘Slow Cookin,’ that gingerly slid into the beautiful funk machine ‘Sid’. But wait, it was not over there. As the boys held court to an all out funk dance party we were brought back to the docks on the ‘Suitecases’ we originally set sail on. The set ended with a ‘Different Dream,’ one of the cuts off their new experiential release ‘Monks,’ and they finished things off with an uplifting version of “In an Outline’.
Another crisp cool day in Brooklyn would have many fans heading over to the venue early to take part in some bowling and to enjoy the venue one final time. The final night of Lotus at the Brooklyn Bowl was sold out and it was packed. The first two nights you were able to move about the venue with ease from the front to the back, but not tonight.
Kicking this off with ‘Uffi,’ one of my favorite new tracks off the self-titled album opened the show. Jesse Millers bass groove had everyone hopping and moving to the beat. More quality set writing lead to a marching ‘Nematode’ into a sexy Mike Remple dominated ‘Spaghetti’. A thoroughly rousing ‘Bellwether’ then brought all of the members out to play. The boys shined as they made seamless time and structure changes throughout the song. With the final notes of ‘Bellwether’ ringing out through the speakers, the deafening screaming and applause from the sold out Brooklyn crowd let the band know that even though it was night three, they were not going anywhere.
Speaking to Luke Miller after the final night he said that “groove and timing” had much to do with a perfect “Grayrigg”… “I like to think of band tightness like film lighting. People should only notice it when it’s bad. Otherwise I think tightness is just a means to expressing musical ideas more clearly.” The technically challenging song builds and builds such a climax and brings about such raw emotion it would find its place perfectly in a movie’s love scene of two long lost lovers running full sprint into one another’s embrace in the middle of a crowd after having not seen each other for almost a life time. The rest of final set saw impeccable jamming with the band working like a perfectly in tuned steam engine, churning away tunes like ‘Lead Pipe’, ‘Flower Sermon,’ and ‘Umbilical Moonset’.
Keeping fans on their toes the band debut a cover of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s ‘Ffunny Friend’. The song was a bit of a odd choice and did bring down the excitement in the room just a little, but not knowing what will be played next by a performer is half of the fun and needless to say they pulled off the odd cover anyways. In pure Lotus fashion the ever funkified and at times spacey ‘Wax” closed the show, but the night was not done yet, not even close. After a short curtain call the band came out for a single encore, playing ‘Gilded Age’. The guitar driven unreleased track is a very thought-provoking emotional song that started a hug fest among the Lotus faithful. For many there was no better way to end what was an amazing three nights of music.
Looking back over the run it’s easy to see why Lotus is so successful right now. The five member band is able to blend all of the different types of music that seem to be big right now. When they want to they get right down with that dirty funk and could easily stay that way, if they wanted to, but to keep you coming back for more they slip into a more guitar driven rock song.
Lotus easily breaks it down with the best electronica out there, and what makes them one step ahead in my opinion is that they do it LIVE and with real instruments. Over the course of the three nights there we plenty of blissful moments of feet-stomping, trance EDM, and these guys know how to do it right. That is what puts them above the rest, and more importantly, it’s what will keep them there.