Sold out splendor: Lotus dazes Town Ballroom
Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
The ring of the subway and roar of sirens cast over the fluttering lights of Buffalo’s entertainment district. A few die-hard fans wait in the sharp air that bites through their jingle-skirts, peacock hats and hemp shoes.
Eric “Starchild,” Elmwood’s famous jewelry salesman, is out early tonight.
“Do you want to buy some jewelry I made?” Starchild asks a grey-haired man who is eyes-deep in his Blackberry. The man waves in protest.
It’s 40 minutes before the doors open, and security is turning ticketless fans away as the staff sets up barrier gates. The venue’s 1,000-person capacity will reach its limit; the show is already sold out.
This was the scene on Friday at the Town Ballroom as MNM Presents hosted its second installment (the first coming on Thursday) of international touring jam band Lotus. The band brought its lavish melodic phrasing, an aggravated electronic funk dynamic and simplistic-yet-enticing dance force. Rochester DJ Papi Chulo, who opened the show, joined Lotus in invigorating a ballroom filled to the brim.
Papi Chulo’s primary flavors included dubstep, electronica, breakbeat and trip-hop. He began playing to a mere 50 people. However, Chulo’s crowd started filling in toward the end of his set. Once the crowd was 350-deep, Chulo took the microphone and segued into Cypress Hill’s “I Wanna Get High.”
“You wanna get high?” Chulo asked. “I do.”
The DJ inspired lots of swaying and drink raising.But few would be satisfied with anything but Lotus – not to mention the line was still slowly spilling into the venue.
Heavy fog spewed onto the stage and a few screams from the audience reached up to the ceiling. But their screams were only for guitar and drum techs, who tuned the guitars and set up the sequencers before calmly strolling off stage once more. A few minutes later, Lotus guitarist Mike Rempel walked on stage and the screams erupted twice fold.
Jesse Miller, Lotus’ bass guitarist and sampler, strapped his white Fender jazz bass over his shoulder and moved into position at the center of the stage.
The fog was almost too thick to see Mike Greenfield, whose head was nearly hidden behind the cymbals of his drum set. As the first note dropped, the lower level of the ballroom floor became a heavy mess of sweat and motion. Miller’s bass gained momentum through eight 18-inch subwoofers on each side. The pressure was not just heard but felt.
While most bands keep their percussion in the back of the mix, Chuck Morris – Lotus’ percussionist – was loud and clear with each conga slap.
Lotus has made their name as a flower child of the jam band scene, coming from influences such as Phish and the Allman Brothers. However, the band’s new self-titled EP has more grit than previous releases. Lotus’ earlier work could be described as tight, organic rock with some MOOG synths to add electronic flow.
Now it seems as though the electronics have been brought to the foreground, according to Philip Dreisin, a junior economics major.
“[Lotus is] trying to make [their sound] very modern and progressive, which I applaud them for,” Dreisin said. “I liked the older [songs] a lot better, but the new ones were still danceable and fun.”
The lights added to the movement, with patterns of yellow and green that danced on the ceiling. Beams shot through the fog on stage and created a red glow when heavy songs like “Bush Pilot” hit.
While Lotus’ keyboardist, Luke Miller, made early use of his vocoder – a device used to filter vocals with synth melodies – the band primarily used the microphones to talk to the crowd between songs. There were vocal samples that, while appropriate, added confusion when no one on stage was seen singing into a microphone. However, the combination of instruments and electronics was spot on and the band was well received.
Lotus’ self-titled album is now in stores.