Lotus Takes on Brooklyn Bowl With Three-Night Tour-de-Force
When Lotus HQ announced that the band would play three nights in a row at New York’s Brooklyn Bowl from April 14-16 (a mere two hours from my home), I immediately knew I would have to find a way to make it work.
To my knowledge, this would be only the second time Lotus has ever played three nights in a row at a single venue (the first being a three-night run at Boulder Theater in Boulder, CO in April 2013). And nowadays, a 21+ age limitation at a Lotus show is rare indeed. Missing this run was not an option. Even if I had to drive home after the show each night, I would make all three.
The effort proved worthy as soon as I arrived. Brooklyn Bowl is no ordinary concert hall: it melds an intimate 600-person-capacity venue with a hip bowling alley and a deliciously tempting gastropub (their fried chicken is simply divine, and you can sample local brews on tap direct from Kelso of Brooklyn and Brooklyn Brewery). You can spend an entire day hanging out there without ever succumbing to boredom. Eat, drink, bowl before the show. Hell, bowl DURING the show if it tickles your fancy (you have a clear view of the stage from the bowling area). Add to it the eclectic décor, like their wall of bowling-pin-dolls, and you have a recipe for entertainment that succeeds on all fronts.
Lotus came ready for business with an upgraded lighting setup. Brooklyn Bowl’s size prevented the use of the new setup in its entirety (keep an eye out for a review and pictures of the band’s two night run in Baltimore from this past weekend, where they were able to utilize the whole shebang with mind-blowing results). Yet the partial setup did the trick here, particularly the larger lights reminiscent of glowing psychedelic turtle shells or giant fish eggs. Each large light appears to contain over thirty smaller lights, yet each of these smaller lights also hold numerous lights. Lights within lights within lights, and the effect was spectacular. Additionally, the quintet performed without opening acts on all three nights, adding an extra layer of uniqueness to the run. Over the course of seventy-two hours, they proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they can keep it fresh and leave the same crowd begging for more for days at a time, without the assistance of any opening or co-headlining acts.
On second thought, the term “performed” doesn’t do justice to what went down last week. Lotus annihilated the crowd with their classically diverse palette, fusing funk, electronica, post-rock, hip hop, jazz and more within their six sets. On Monday night, the band invited Mike Wilbur and Wenzl McGowen of Brooklyn’s own Moon Hooch onto the stage. The saxophonists joined the band for several songs, including an ultra-jazzy version of the old-school gem “opo” featuring Wilbur and a dueling sax solo by both men that made for a stunning rendition of the funky, electro-flecked “Middle Road” to rival any other. The sax duo seemed much at ease with the band as they danced and played on stage, and the level of unspoken communication between the two sets of musicians was impressive to say the least.
Tuesday night included a fantastic segued sequence that ranged from seductive to explosive to happiness in pure form. Beginning with a sultry “Bubonic Tonic,” the band seamlessly transitioned into an “It’s All Clear to Me Now” with a perfectly executed decrescendo that patiently developed the most intense anticipation before energetically dropping into the song’s characteristic hard-and-heavy play on its main theme. The band then moved into a fun and sparkly “Shimmer and Out” complete with a brilliant disco ball in full force and the audience clapping along. An epic force of funk sexiness came in the form of an all-S segue featuring “Slow Cookin’” and “Sid” sandwiched in between a “Suitcases.” The sandwich featured some classic-piano-style jams by guitarist and keyboardist Luke Miller, an element he has been incorporating into a number of songs lately to the delight of many fans. The encore included the rarely played and emotionally-packed post-rock ballad “Orchids” with its hauntingly gorgeous string samples.
Wednesday night came with a wonderful surprise at the end of the first set, when a long-time friend of the band’s drummer Mike Greenfield asked his girlfriend, who he had met years ago at a Lotus show, to marry him on stage, nearly bringing many in the audience to tears. The entire band shined in a stellar “Grayrigg” to open the second set, driven by an intense and precise percussive force delivered by Greenfield and percussionist Chuck Morris, which was flawlessly amplified by Jesse Miller‘s bold bass lines. The band pushed the boundaries of their music and took risks the entire run, and the final night’s encore was no exception. They pulled out one of their newest tracks, “Gilded Age,” for a single-song encore and managed to exponentially amplify its exquisite lightness and beauty to the delight of a number of self-proclaimed “Gilded” fans. The ethereal chimes and bells featured in this song seem to have been doubly layered; along with synced perfection from the guitars of Mike Rempel and Luke Miller throughout, this enhanced version of the song made for a conclusion nothing less than heavenly. The encore told the story of the Brooklyn Bowl tour in its entirety: great risks can and do lead to the greatest of payoffs.
The band seems to be scaling back a bit on its tour load this summer, but does have a number of festival appearances scheduled. Check out their current tour dates here. Lotus continues to reach new heights with each performance, so if you see a date you think you can finagle, grab hold of the opportunity.
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