Atlanta Scene: Lotus 4.29.10

Lotus-New Earth Music Hall, Athens, GA (4.29.2010)
Article & Photos By Tyler Sporer

It had been one of those days… one of those days where all the elements seem to be against you. The people, they’re trying to drag you down. You’re mind; it’s locked up in a cage of negativity. You try to carry on but consume yourself in thought, wishing for nothing more but to find the source of this ailment and somehow eliminate it. On days like this I turn to music. Music has this uncanny ability to heal. At the very least, it can offer a complete escape or removal from the concrete world for as long as you deem necessary. It was a Thursday night, and driving to Athens was the last thing I felt like doing. But in the back of my mind, I knew that Lotus was the only cure. So Athens it was.

I began my journey in the midst of rush hour. I kept thinking to myself what a horrible time of day it was to try and navigate this sprawling metropolis. Atlanta, our nation’s 3rd largest city, has a metro that plays host to nearly 6 million people. It’s like that ant hill you find on your sidewalk that is just swarming with these six legged insects, all trying to get where they are going, but without enough room to move around. They move back and forth, trying to find an open path, crawling over top of one another in this selfish manner. They are busy. They have a job to do… places to be. Was it a lack of infrastructure? A sudden and uncontrollable influx of inhabitants? Whatever the case, I just don’t understand why someone would ever want to live with this many neighbors. I sat on this seven lane expressway for miles upon miles, choking on fumes, taping my feet and unable to clear my mind. Heat rising, gasoline burning (Mighty Buick sounding like its going to bite the dust at any moment). The volume of my music was barely loud enough to drown out the disharmonious sound of car horns. The trip to Athens is actually a fairly smooth and scenic one once you get outside the perimeter. I arrived at UGA just in time to do a little walking around.The main strip that runs through downtown has everything a college town would ever need; clothing stores, record shops, and enough watering holes to satisfy a herd of thirsty buffalo. I trekked into one of these holes looking for some food and the owner directed me across the street to this very cheap, very phenomenal Mexican joint. “Grab something and then bring it back over her… we do it all the time!” she told me. I did just that, taking note of the Bell’s and Founders Brewery stickers plastered on one of the walls. Small world. After filling my belly, I did some more wandering and eventually found myself being pulled by some unknown magnetic force towards the sound of distant music. I’m not even sure I was aware that I was moving… I just walked. When I discovered the source I found a huge house with Greek letters on the front, a parking lot full of Mercedes, and a gated front lawn scattered with red keg cups. I turned and walked the other way.

I got to The New Earth Music Hall just as they were letting people in. I always like making it to a venue early. Seeing the inside of a place before it becomes overcrowded with hundreds of sweaty animals will give you a new perspective. I snapped some pictures of the different murals lining the inner walls and then made my way towards the bar to grab a PBR. There he stood – Mike Rempel, guitar case in hand. I wasted no time and quickly approached him for a handshake. A young lady took a regretfully blurry picture of the two of us and I took a minute to chat with him. “I’m not really sure if I’m supposed to be saying this” he said in regards to the cancellation of the 2010 Rothbury Festival, “but I heard they kind of put all their eggs into one basket. They had Phish locked in to headline, and then they backed out at the last minute. The Rothbury people didn’t have the resources to recover.” I swear if I ever find this rumor to be valid, I will hereby boycott the music of Phish for as long as I live. Okay that might be a little extreme. But seriously… the nerve! Mike was a super cool dude. He never gave me those “stop bothering me” vibes that you often times receive from a man of his… “prestige” if you will. He was mellow, laid back, and totally content with sitting and shooting the shit with me for a bit. I was glad I had gotten there early.

The opening band was a group called the Givers and they definitely gave it their all. They had a particularly charismatic front-man whose eyes seemed to roll back in his head as he sung and played guitar. I’ve seen a number of musicians do this before and I can never decide if it is authentic or simply part of the act. I mean, give it a go, it’s not the most pleasurable sensation I’ve ever experienced. But maybe for some people, it works. The group did a pretty decent job and seemed to be entertaining at the very least. They stood up in the face of adversity and sung a few acoustic tunes during a short period of technical difficulty and the crowd seemed to be pretty receptive. Maybe they liked the idea that the lead singer was having a near-orgasm on stage. Whatever tickles your fancy, I suppose. They played a quick set to an increasingly crowded venue and then began packing it up. It was time for Lotus.

I secured myself a spot at the front left side of the stage and waited with bated breathe for the band to take the stage. Every time I see these guys, I am absolutely blown away and I couldn’t wait to see the progression they’ve made in the last year or so. Lotus is one of those bands that you can ALWAYS get excited about seeing. The subtle variances they intertwine into their song structure and the constantly shifting and evolving nature of their improvisation work make for an experience that seems to always be fresh. Lotus doesn’t have some massive catalogue of songs to choose from or anything like that. It’s in the delivery of these tunes where the band provides these touches that make it all feel new again. As I stood directly underneath Luke Miller, the band’s keyboard/rhythm guitar player, I couldn’t help but notice the impressive light show we were witnessing. Lotus always has the coolest set-up with these layered, flat panel lights as a background and these wild, spinning, multi-colored lights that only serve to enhance the effect of the music. After a song or two, Luke yanked his guitar from behind his back and started getting loose. This drunk girl next to me kept plopping her purse down right on stage in a careless fashion and didn’t seem to notice that the strap of her big ugly purse was sprawled out directly on top of Luke’s pedal board. He tried to make eye contact with her as he kicked it aside and even ended up having to bend over and adjust a couple of knobs that had been tampered with throughout the process. At one point he even caught my attention and we gave each other a “what is this girl doing” sort of look. So the next time it happened, I saved Luke the trouble, took her purse from off the stage, and politely asked her to get her shit together. Can’t you see the man is trying to concentrate?

Lotus’s music is out of this world. It is honestly the most mesmerizing blend of instrumental rock that your ears might ever discover. These sounds will disconnect your spirit from its body and set you free on the joyride of a lifetime. Deeply rooted in the realm of jam music, this band exhibits an organic spread of electronic beats, textures, and overtones that merge and gallivant with a smooth blend of jazz-funk that almost always reverts back to the pure instrumental post-rock sound that Lotus fans know and love. The sheer versatility of this music makes it just as likely to be found in the headphones of a studios pupil hitting the books at the community library, as it is on the dance floor at the house party down the road.

Lotus closed the first set out with three of my favorite jams. “Bubonic Tonic” made me feel like I was deep underwater, enclosed in some weightless bubble, floating around in pure bliss. This transitioned seamlessly into the sample-rich and undeniably raucous “Tarasque” and then back into that same underwater utopia for an unbelievable “Spiritualize”. Lotus has this unparalleled ability to completely immerse you in their music and if you don’t force your eyes open for the entire performance (which is virtually impossible), there is a good chance you are going to become entirely lost. It feels good though, to close your eyes, and I welcome the feeling of uncontrollable immersion. The negatives, however, include walking away from the experience not entirely aware of what just hit you. I kept saying to myself “that was amazing! That was AMAZING!” but couldn’t offer any explanation for why it had been so utterly remarkable.

When the band came back out and opened the second set with “Shimmer and Out”, I nearly lost it. This song instantly brings me back to the opening notes of their 2009 Rothbury appearance and it quite literally gave me the shivers. Jesse Miller, with his bass hanging almost down to his knees, takes flight with a blissfully melodic baseline while Mike Rempel delivers a guitar riff that I can recognize over almost any of Lotus’s material. By this point, I had made me way over to stage right, directly in front of the always-smiling Rempel who was seemingly attacking his guitar in the most harmonious manner. This jam was nothing short of extended and the guys even meandered into a song called “Lead Pipe” before bringing it back into “Shimmer” and closing it out. I was absolutely thrilled to hear them play this one. Then when they followed that up with the “Oil on Glass / Feather on Wood” bass thumper “Simian”, and ran through another handful of tunes including the pulsating “Juggernaut” and the set closing “Jump Off”, I knew the night had been complete. But the crowd hadn’t had enough. A “Hammerstrike” encore had me wide-eyed, mind-boggled, and struggling to find words for how insanely good this show had been. These are the moments my friends. These are the moments. I came in search of an escape… in search of a cure. I left on Cloud 9. It was the music that sought the source of my ailment. It was the music that eliminated it. And it was the music, at least for a brief moment, that set me free.


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