Lotus’ 2-Night Stand in Buffalo
The date: September 20, 2012. I walked up to the Town Ballroom in Buffalo, New York; the energy, palpable. In less than three hours, Lotus would take the stage for the first night of their 2-Night Stand. Only six days prior, I had seen Lotus headlining their “mini festival” at FDR Park in Philadelphia, PA. For the six days following that event, I had numerous conversations with both old and new fans of Lotus. Many of these conversations, particularly those with old fans, revolved around complaints about the FDR Park event. People indicated their frustration with what they saw as a “catering” to the so-called “electronic scene” in Philadelphia. They felt Lotus had taken a new, and in their view undesirable, approach to their music. While I felt that the set list did reflect both the roots and evolution of Lotus, I found myself agreeing with comments that lead guitarist Mike Rempel had seemed somewhat held back and restrained in his playing (though perhaps not of his own accord), that the set list may have been more skewed toward the electronica genre than other set lists of late, that the opening acts (particularly MiMOSA and Michal Minert) brought with them a less-than-respectable crowd of younger fans whose true interests seemed to lay in concerns other than the music.
However, I try to stay positive, and I had high hopes that despite the issues at FDR Park, Lotus would “come out swinging” and show their fans that they had no intentions of completely jumping onto the electronica bandwagon and leaving behind their jam-band roots. A word to the critics – you may miss the “old days.” Perhaps you don’t listen to rap and aren’t sure how you feel about the upcoming hip-hop inspired album Lotus will release in the near future. Maybe you worry that Lotus will abandon their roots and move away from the instrumentalism out of which the group started. After witnessing Lotus’s 2-Night Stand, I am here to advise you to dismiss any such fears. Although Lotus has and will continue to evolve, the band has shown that they have no intention of turning their backs on their roots. The sets they have played over the past several weeks, particularly those at the Catskill Chill Music Festival and Red Rocks Ampitheatre in Colorado during the first week of September, have proven that Lotus will continue to blend old with new, to experiment with new sounds and genres while refining and continuing to play their older, more traditionally jam-inspired works. The sets Lotus offered up in Buffalo were no exception.
Lotus does not wed itself to one genre or style, one of the qualities making the group so unique amongst its fellow jam and jam-tronic brethren. In any given set, you will find yourself mesmerized by an amalgam of musical influences. Those able to catch Lotus on Thursday night danced their way through the musical rainbow – from the rap-inspired beats of their newly reworked song “Ridalin” (now called “He Ain’t Well”), to the melodic post-rock instrumentals of “Destroyer,” to the nostalgic resonance of the beautifully composed “Behind Midwest Storefronts” (in which the band implements samples of orchestral string instruments). In the same set, the band tipped their hat to those of us diehard fans who can never get enough of their older tunes – the rare and psychedelically spacey “Blue Giant” comes to mind.
After Thursday, many of us had trouble believing Lotus could top the previous night. At approximately 10:00 pm on Friday night, we found ourselves proven wrong. The band blew its oldest fans away with a set list heavy on their classics: they brought nature indoors with “Livingston Storm” and “Lucid Awakening” (which incorporate, respectively, the sounds of rainstorms and chirping birds), they captivated the audience with the ethereal and trance-inducing “Did Fatt,” and they brought down the house with the brilliantly composed, darkly complex, rare old gem “Kesey Seed.” Yet the band stayed true to its mission of continued evolution, playing “Break Build Burn,” which stands not only as a stunning composition incorporating brass instruments through sampling, but also as a nod to the band’s experimentation in new genres with its use of hip-hop vocals and electronic elements, as well as revealing the brand new song “Plastic Lemons,” which satisfied long-time fans with its pure instrumentalism.
Did I mention the lights? One word describes them: superb. The addition of lasers perfectly complements the already other-worldly experience Lotus brings to the table each and every time they perform. The pictures barely do them justice. Perfectly timed, perfectly colored, and perfectly patterned, the lights assist in telling the story of each and every song – stories told, for the most part, without the use of lyrics, making Lotus’s music that much more impressive.
A note to visitors to the area – the Town Ballroom, a theatre rich in history which has featured musical acts since the 1940s, is a fantastic place to see a show. Just make sure you follow all the rules, as smoking indoors and underage drinking will get you booted from the venue immediately, no questions asked. Although small, the venue has two levels of balconies, which create multiple ideal viewing points, and the building has great acoustics and architecture. Additionally, the venue is in the backyard of one of the most beautiful places in the country – take a twenty-five minute drive north and you’ll find yourself in Niagara Falls. Definitely check out the Falls if you are ever in town for the weekend to catch a show. If you have your passport on you, you can even visit Canada!
Suffice it to say, I left Buffalo on Saturday afternoon utterly satisfied and completely at peace. For those of you who have yet to check them out, I strongly suggest you do so as soon as possible. For those of you who have questioned Lotus’s path of late, I suggest you reconsider your uncertainty. Lotus has further proven during this 2-Night Stand that they are here to stay, and that the musical experience they present will continue to achieve greater heights without abandonment of the funky and jam-inspired instrumentalism out of which they arose.