Lotus & Poolside 2.7.14

The Fillmore Auditorium
Denver, CO

Words By J. Picard
Photos By Justin Gardner

An early arrival at The Fillmore Auditorium for Poolside yielded a completely empty venue. It appeared as if we were the first to the party, which was not typical. One by one a few rail riders turned out and claimed their space at the front of the room as Poolside began their set. The young duo had the challenge of playing to one of the most relatively empty rooms that I had ever witnessed, based on size. Approximately thirty people danced, building up the energy in the nearly 3,500 person capacity room. The music was funky, tasteful, tactful and reflected a solid compositional approach, though there was not all that much happening on stage. Those who had turned out early seemed pleased and ready to get the party started. As their set continued the room slowly began to fill in. Though Poolside had the 8:00 start time working against them, in the end they utilized their time to tap into the hungry crowd. An interesting point came with a mix of Neil Young's "Harvest Moon," which I had heard prior, though really enjoyed. As the duo's set came to a close, the several hundred people in The Fillmore showed their appreciation and braced for Lotus.

Much like any band, Lotus has gone through different musical phases outputting a plethora of styles and crossing an array of genres. What would Lotus give us that evening? Would it be the melodic jam of pre 2007? Or would there be utilization of hip-hop samples per the release of Monks this past year? At the time it didn't seem to matter as everyone was genuinely excited for Lotus, in any form. The band took the stage with a cheesy Olympic procession, with folks waving flags. The set began with "Bellweather," to the delight of the room. Riffing guitars lead into Luke Miller on what sounded like a vocoder. The composition opened up in the middle with some danceable drumming from Mike Greenfield and percussion from Chuck Morris. The jam took off with soaring guitar from Mike Rempel, before the low end of Jesse Miller fell into place. The tempo slowed and the band transitioned in "Dowrn." Some interesting distorted digital tones were heaved at the audience before some dub bass kicked in, followed by hip-hop samples.

"Sid" began featuring a climbing guitar with funk swagger and percussion fills that moved the crowd. The composition meandered along with noodling instrumentation before gaining steam, taking off and transitioning right back into "Bellweather!" Lotus welcomed Justin Jones and Andy Smart to the stage for some added horn work on "Break Build Burn." Somewhat subtle horns mixed with samples and digital effects made for a production heavy output. A trumpet solo from Andy opened up to Mike's guitar ripping towards the close of the track.

"We recently re-started playing one of our oldest funk songs so we thought we would have these horn guys come and reach it's full potential," Jesse Miller exclaimed.

"Opo" followed in true funk fashion with riffing guitar work and a storm of percussion from Chuck at the back of the stage. Horn chops transitioned into trading licks and a consistently solid groove from a band that doesn't often tap into the funk. "Opo" was fantastic and an unexpected addition to the opening set of the evening. Towards the middle/end of the track Justin stepped up for a ripping sax solo. "Contagion" came next slowly building to four on the floor madness and triggering a massive get down from the packed Fillmore. The intensity built as the band went right into "Jump Off" to close the first set. Fluctuating bass tones interplayed with the song's melody and groove for a fascinating extended version of some classic Lotus material. Tension built and that release was nothing short of intense and captivating all the way up to the song's conclusion.

A short time after the first set ended, the band returned to the stage for "Tip of The Tongue." The version included some very loose improvisation that opened up to vocal samples and some killer drum and percussion work leading to the closing of the song with ripping guitar. Lotus welcomed the horns back to the stage for "Uffi." The incorporation of horns add a certain depth to the songs and altered Lotus' sound leaning towards funk. In fact, since they had the horns on stage, the band figured they would just do Earth, Wind and Fire's "Shining Star," as an unexpected treat. That point in the show confirmed that it was indeed the funkiest Lotus show that I had seen to date. Talkbox vocals delighted the young crowd and before Andy's trumpet took over followed by Justin's sax, for one last run of alternating solos.

"Bubonic Tonic" came next triggering a little bit of a needed slow down as Chuck tapped away on percussion. Stimulating tones and synth fills helped round out the composition before things started to get heavy. Deep layered drum rhythms clashed with descending synth in an all out jamtronica breakdown. The song slowed and an element of ambiance entered the picture as the song transitioned into "Sunrain." The more rock oriented tune was met with high end notation that made it feel like a dream. Ambiance turned towards destruction as the band output an incredible sonic wall of sound! "It's All Clear To Me Now" followed to the delight of the salivating crowd. Rempel's guitar work was well timed as the band nailed every cue and musical transition through out the composition. The jam was the perfect vehicle for some chaotic exploration and shredding guitar. The song took on a bit of a swagger as it transitioned into "128."

Menacing tones criss-crossed with the click of the drums before the track opened up. The energy shot up before coming back down for the midsection of the song. The band then started to build, slowly climbing to the song's inevitable peak. The upswing was captivating, danceable and reflected a band on fire. Soaring guitar, precise drumming and tight instrumentation took the set to it's eventual close. Lotus returned to the stage a short time later and began their encore with "Marisol." What started off as subtle and a bit mild, quickly became thrilling and disorienting, in a good way before leveling out into a sort of rock ballad sound. The final selection of the evening came in the form of "Spiritualize," triggering a massive roar from the crowd! Goosebumps overtook my arms as I felt it was the perfect choice to close the show. It felt like a beautiful dream as we collectively floated before Lotus brought us back down to earth to dance. As should have been the case, we were then treated to one last climb. When we reached the peak, it was an incredible feeling. This was the Lotus that I loved.

For Lotus fans, the setlist read like a fantasy and the band's execution was nothing short of impressive. The show reflected a lot of the 2006-2008 era sound and energy that folks always refer to. Moreover, it was tighter, more skillful and more thought out than the anything that I have heard the band output. Surrounded by a bunch of our friends, in our hometown, we danced the night away to one of the scene's true juggernauts. The general consensus is that Lotus is peaking... again.

Justin's Photo Gallery


Set One: Olympic Intro with Flag procession, Bellwether -> Dowrn, Sid -> Bellwether, Break Build Burn*, Opo*, Contagion -> Jump Off

Set Two: Tip of the Tongue, Uffi*, Shining Star*, Bubonic Tonic -> Sunrain, IACTMN -> 128

Encore: Marisol, Spiritualize

*Andy Smart & Justin Jones


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