Fall in Colorado is a bittersweet time. It’s beautiful, but the long days are coming to an end. Ski season is rapidly approaching, but Red Rocks Amphitheatre closes its doors for the season. Before that happens, however, Lotus blesses us with their annual fall revue. This year’s 4th edition featured DJ duo Orchard Lounge, up-and-coming Jamtronica heavyweights Papadosio, and Lotus themselves performing their Talking Heads Deconstructed show back to back with a full set of classic originals.
Orchard Lounge hit the stage first and definitely got the crowd going in a big way. Originally a trio of DJs, the group is now down to the Husband and Wife duo of Spencer and Bethany Lokken. The tag-team approach that they utilize from song to song is unique, refreshing, and played very well with the slowly growing audience. While their stage show was minimal, no more than a DJ table and white lights, it worked with their aesthetic. This was my first time partying with Orchard Lounge since their transition to a duo and I can say that I was pleasantly surprised. Bethany continues to be the powerhouse of the group, with a propensity for Big Bass and an ability to read and feed on the energy of the crowd. Spencer was definitely holding his own on this go round, however, and the highlight was some of the first side-by-side collaborative mixing I’ve seen from this group. While the set was short (just shy of 40 mintues), Orchard Lounge brought fun, sexy, bass-heavy goodness to their debut performance at Red Rocks, and everyone loved them for it.
Papadosio quickly took the stage following Orchard Lounge and continued to stir the crowd into a fever pitch. The Electronic/Prog Rock/Funk five-piece wasted no time in demonstrating that they were the perfect band to open for Lotus. Leaning heavily on material from To End The Illusion of Separation, their sprawling 2012 double album, Papadosio tore through their one hour set with a level of intensity rarely seen in live acts today. The funky groove that permeates their music is difficult to avoid dancing to, yet they balance the high points out with beautiful and low-key Trance-like segments that are reminiscent of early Sound Tribe Sector Nine concerts (a sound that I feel has been missing from the Live Band Electronic scene for some years). Their stage show is nothing to take lightly, either; the phrase “Oppresively Psychedelic” comes to mind. As if you needed another opportunity to become immersed in their concert they offer one of the most compelling visual experiences that I have had the pleasure to witness in recent memory, a full screen fractal explosion that seems impossibly timed to match their complex beats. They also do a great job of putting the ‘Jam’ back into ‘Jamtronica.’ The set featured several well executed yet clearly improvisational segments that were as impressive as they were tight and cohesive. The performance culminated with a Jam-Heavy shred-fest for the ages featuring Lotus Guitarist Mike Rempel, who had no problem lending his signature style to the complex tune. This was my second experience with Papadosio and coincidentally their second performance at Red Rocks. We should not be surprised to see them pick up one of the coveted headlining slots at the historic venue within the next few years. They work hard and they certainly deserve it.
Finally, Lotus took the stage for the Main Event. There was much speculation regarding what role Talking Heads songs would play throughout the evening. This would be, after all, only the second show that they played under that title (the first being at their Gathering of the Vibes set earlier this year). The Gathering had seen them mixing Talking Heads classics seamlessly with original material throughout the single festival set while welcoming a pantheon of special guests. For their headlining Red Rocks show Lotus took a slightly different approach, first performing a full set of Talking Heads covers featuring Gabe Otto (of Colorado’s own Pan Astral) filling in David Byrne’s big suit before plunging into a career-spanning set of crowd pleasing originals. For those of you out there who might be skeptical about hearing Talking Heads classics through the filter of Lotus’ early 90’s house style, let me tell you right now that it works better than I ever could have imagined. Although some of it approached sounding like “the bastard jam band that the Talking Heads never wanted to be,” by and large it was fun, high energy, and extremely satisfying. Well known songs like ‘Naïve Melody (This Must Be The Place)’ and ‘Crosseyed & Painless’ seemed fresh with an undeniable tinge of Lotus’ signature sound, while deeper cuts like ‘Moonrocks’ and ‘Pull Up The Roots’ were introduced to the younger crowd for what may very well have been the first time. I feel that it was an equally fulfilling experience for die-hard Talking Heads and Lotus fans alike. It was fun for me to hear some of my favorite songs teased out into big, explosive jams, all while maintaining the distinct “Lotus Vibe” that I’ve come to know and love over the past 8 years. ‘I Zimbra’ and ‘Girlfriend Is Better’ both contained extensive jams that earned the Deconstructed title touted by the show, while ‘Naïve Melody’ delightfully teased the imminent ‘It’s All Clear To Me Now’ that would be performed during the second set.
The second set itself was pure, unadulterated Lotus at their best. It IS all clear to me now, that being able to play the songs that inspire them has opened up a new world for Lotus. They sounded inexplicably fresh and invigorated. From the opening notes of ‘Kodiak’ to the final pulses of ‘Age Of Inexperience,’ the second half of the evening was a non-stop dance party. Featuring a well-curated collection of songs that highlighted the best moments of their 15-year career it was hard not to bounce around with a massive smile on your face. Even the weaker moments (namely ‘The Oaks’ and ‘Sunset of the Giant Dipper’ from 2014s disappointingly mediocre release ‘Golden Age’) played better in a live setting than one could have hoped. The triumphant segway from ‘It’s All Clear To Me Now > Spiritualize’ gave me goosebumps while taking me back to my earliest memories of seeing Lotus throwing down at small clubs in the Pacific Northwest. The true highlight of the evening, however, came in the form of the final song and Talking Heads cover of the night. Again featuring Gabe Otto, the band brought the house down with ‘Once In A Lifetime,’ reminding us once more just how lucky we had all been to be there and share the evening with Lotus and their friends. Red Rocks may be closing for the season, Winter may be coming, but I’m already looking forward to next year’s party of the summer. I can’t wait to see what Lotus has in store for us next time.
Lotus – Red Rocks Amphitheatre 2014/09/19
Set I (Talking Heads Deconstructed): Moonrocks Found a Job I Zimbra (w/ It’s All Clear To Me Now teases) > Naïve Melody (This Must Be the Place) Girlfriend is Better > Pull up the Roots Warning Sign > Crosseyed & Painless
Kodiak Suitcases The Oaks It's All Clear to Me Now > Spiritualize Blacklight Sunflare Age of Inexperience
Encore: Sunset of the Giant Dipper Once in a Lifetime