Lotus couldn’t of come through Chicago at a better time. All week leading up to the show(s) it was progressively getting warmer everyday. People were wearing lite jackets instead of heavy coats while knit caps were being replaced by flat bills and snapbacks. The day of their first performance it was actually too hot to be walking around in a sweatshirt and hat. Even though it all ended up being nothing more than a tease (Chicago has since gone back to Chiberia) there appeared to be a light at the end of a very long winter tunnel. What was already going to be a fun gathering for 2 nights of Lotus was also now a reason to celebrate because spring was finally in the air.
Lotus took the stage at approximately 10:45 on Friday night and opened with “Bush Pilot”. The hard rock meets funk meets electronic fusion track was the perfect song to open up a 2 night run. As the lyrics in the song state, “If you came to the jam with some sun in your hand put her high in the sky let it shine with the land and say we’re here, yeah, we’re here.” Lotus was indeed “here” and everybody in attendance brought a little bit of spring sunshine with them, ready to jam. The funk kept coming in the form of “Wax”, a big fan favorite. I noticed couples dancing past me without a care in the world and the silliest smiles on their faces. With so many incredible jam bands out there I’ve made the observation that people seem to always have the most fun at a Lotus show. The vibes and the energy of the people mixed in with the sound and raw talent of the band don’t just create a formula for a good time but the best time possible. I honestly don’t ever think I’ve seen a single, solitary frown inside of a Lotus show. If anybody ever catches one they should take a picture because it’s a rarity I promise you. “Lucid Awakening” was a real highlight with its happy, uplifting guitar licks and bass lines that meant serious business. For this particular version the breakdown saw the tempo of the song change from happy go lucky to heavy metal thrasher. Everybody was banging their heads like they were at a Metallica (1970s Metallica, of course) show and before we knew it Lotus had smoothly transitioned right back into happy go lucky mode. Lotus received a great ovation before they went into “Marisol”, the first song off their 2009 Feather On Wood ep. This particular ep is a collection of 5 of the most down tempo and beautiful Lotus songs in their catalog and anytime you get one live it’s very special. The sound of the guitar crying over a soft melody is enough to overflow your heart with joy and make you appreciate how diverse how Lotus really is. The first set was closed with “Strawberry Letter 23”, a super funky track that featured some awesome vocoder coated singing from the voice of the band Luke Miller. It would end up being a little bit of foreshadowing for all the funk we were about to receive in set 2.
After a short little set break that allowed everyone to drink some water, use the bathroom and get ready for round 2, Lotus came out and essentially punched the entire crowd in the face. “Blacklight Sunflare” got us right back into the swing of things with its high powered synths that heighten your senses and put you on another level. Everything that came after, though, is what proves that raging a Lotus show is like running a marathon. At any point they can go on a 5-6 song tear with no breaks in between that just keep going and going until they deliver the ultimate climax. Even if you’ve seen Lotus before it always feels like your cherry’s getting popped and on this night it all began with “Sift”. This much older Lotus track does not get busted out often, which makes it all the more awesome when you’re lucky enough to be there for a live rendition. The older, funky cut led into “Neon Tubes Pt 1”, a much newer song that’s just as funky and has a little more electronic influence. One thing that can be said about Lotus’ progression as a band is that at their core, no matter how many other genres & sub genres they mix into their sound, they are a funk band. This 2nd set did a phenomenal job of showing that evolution, going back and forth between different realms of Lotus brand funk music. We flowed, danced and jived through neon tubes in order to feel the glistening “Sunrain”. Another bustout if there ever was one, the crowd erupted when it heard the opening chords of the old favorite. The high plucking guitar strings and grooving percussion just screams spring time and maybe, just maybe, that’s why they deemed it appropriate to bust it out on a warm Friday night in the windy city. From old to new again Lotus led right into “Neon Tubes Part 2”. Part 2 is a little crazier than part 1 and whenever it comes on it’s essentially like yelling “Fire!!!” in a crowded cafeteria; everybody loses it. The whole crowd was hooting and hollering for more and more is what we got. “Flower Sermon” is a tremendous track and really shows off everybody’s talents. Incorporating everything from dark guitar riffs to the use of the xylophone to all sorts of electronic nuggets getting peppered in, it really is the full Lotus experience in just one song. Being nearly 15 minutes long makes it pretty easy to blow some minds when you know what you’re doing, too. The grand finale of the 2nd set came when they led into the ending of “Sunrain” to close it all out. This received a thunderous roar from the crowd, the ultimate sign of appreciation a band can receive. There was no doubt that everybody at The Riviera appreciated the entertainment they got from Lotus on Friday night. They came back on the stage and encored with “Gilded Age”. This newer track relies strictly on old fashioned rock & roll with no electronic add ins required. If I had to sum it up I would say the song sounds like 70s Americana. It’s a song you grab a loved one and dance to, soaking everything in at that moment and appreciating everything you have. It was a tremendous encore that left everyone thirsty for more. Luckily we knew exactly where to find Lotus on Saturday…
After a full night of rest (or lack thereof in most cases) it was back to the Riviera for Lotus part 2. “Kodiak” opened up night 2 and picked up right where Lotus left off. The song is comparable to what I would imagine a war fought with ray guns would sound like. This particular war had only just begun and would ultimately result in everyone winning. “Intro to a Cell” was instantly recognized by everyone, another fan favorite from Lotus’ extensive catalog. The fast paced funk jam really gives percussionist Chuck Morris a chance to shine with his lightning quick hands making booties groove up & down and left to right. It’s another one of those marathon like Lotus grooves that really get your blood moving. “The Surf” came next and really lightened the mood while bringing an incredible sense of joy to a crowd that was happy to begin with. That’s something Lotus is really capable of, elevating their audience to a natural high that only live music is capable of taking you to. When “Jump Off” came on literally everybody roared in excitement. When it comes down to it, “Jump Off” has to be the most fun song Lotus has in their library. The opening riffs are so playful that they sometimes make adults forget they have responsibilities. Then they got crazy with it when they led into “Mikesnack”, a superb example of exotic funk that isn’t played nearly enough. Leading back into “Jump Off” put the cherry on top of a sweet cake of a first set. “Harps” opened the final set of the weekend. The best way to describe this song would be anthem rock meets minimal dubstep; a perfect case of not too much meets not too little. “Tip of the Tongue” sent everyone in a boogieing frenzy while taking us on a deep trip into the mothership (or at least it felt that way). When Lotus gets trancey they get really trancey and breakdowns like those are just as heavy and deep as anything you’ll hear in any club. Whoops, I meant 20000 seat arenas. The final 2 songs of the fourth set were real barn burners, quite literally setting the Riviera dance floor on fire. “Did Fatt” makes you feel like your at a circus, taking you on a wild ride. 15 minutes later it was time to “Greet the Mind”. Lotus’ album Nomad is an absolute classic from start to finish. You’re always bound to get at least 1 or 2 songs from Nomad. Fans never get tired of it though as every song gets a tremendous ovation whenever they’re played. On Saturday night it was “Jump Off” and “Greet the Mind”, 2 of the most fun and memorable moments of the entire run. They played 2 songs for their encore and started with a song that’s only been played 3 times in the past 3 years. “A 3-Legged Workhorse” is a cover (originally done by This Will Destroy You) was a very dark and methodical track. It crept slowly throughout, the guitar crying while sparks, clicks and drum beats (along with dark lighting) helped make the riviera seem very eerie for 6 minutes. It was a song that definitely stood out not only because of it’s rareness but because of how powerful and moving it really was. “Bellwether” took us home on a very happy note and another 2 night Lotus run in Chicago was in the books. Lotus are truly one of a kind, no other band sounding anything like them. Not to say they are the best but there is no doubt that they are, at least, one of the best jamtronica bands going right now. As long as Lotus keeps being Lotus their popularity will grow because everybody loves a good time. And that is what Lotus always is, the soundtrack to a good time.