Two nights of Lotus at Belly Up Aspen
If You Go …
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Sunday, Feb. 19 & Monday, Feb. 20, 10 p.m.
How much: $45/general admission; $75/reserved seats
Tickets: Belly Up box office; http://www.bellyupaspen.com
Something clicked for Lotus guitar and keyboard player Luke Miller a few years ago, when he and his Denver- and Philadelphia-based band brought its wild “Talking Heads Deconstructed” show to Red Rocks Ampitheatre.
“Just seeing the energy in the crowd of being able to sing along to these words that they know — there’s something different about it,” Miller said recently from Denver.
He walked away from the Talking Heads cover sets knowing he wanted to create a different kind of Lotus song. The band’s new album, “Eat the Light,” is filled with them. And it brings Lotus to Belly Up Aspen for two nights of concerts today and Monday.
That simple sing-along connection with a crowd was something Miller and his band had already been searching for, and occasionally finding, in its lengthy instrumentals.
“Sometimes I’ll see people mouthing the main guitar riff, but there’s something different about singing lyrics — it’s something we thought would be a cool energy for our show to bring it to a different level,” he said.
Lotus has earned a massive following over the years with audacious, ambitious live shows that pushed the envelope of its instrumental jam-tronica sound. On its records, alongside its signature cross-genre electro-rock instrumentals, the band has often tried out a few more conventional, vocal-based songs.
But “Eat the Light” is a creative leap into more tightly structured pop and dance songs from the livetronica outfit that made its name with long, meandering and metastasizing jams that married rock and electronic.
Taking these new, more radio-friendly songs on the road, the band chose some moments to expand upon, left some open spaces for improvisational jams within these tighter compositions and also actually sat down and wrote extra parts for live performance. On the new song “Fearless,” for instance, they appended an extended instrumental outro.
“It’s been trial and error,” Miller said. “We kind of know what the feeling is, what it’s like in the live concerts, so we know when we’re getting close to that in rehearsal, finding where we know we want to be.”
The new record also — unlike most previous Lotus efforts — uses singing parts from guest vocalists as its center-point. The band is bringing singers along for some shows, but for this two-night run at Belly Up, Miller said, the vocals will be recorded and sampled. And with two nights and the intimate setting of Belly Up, Miller said, he plans to go deeper into the Lotus back catalog and rarities than he might elsewhere as “a treat to the hardcore fans.”
Though Lotus is best known for its live shows, when the band is writing and recording, Miller said, they don’t worry about the stage.
“For the last couple records we haven’t been thinking about that at all,” he said. “We just think about what works in the studio and cross the live bridge when we get there.”
Living in Colorado has helped the band continue to challenge itself.
“It may not be as diverse as a place like Atlanta, where there’s a great hip-hop culture, or Philadelphia, where there’s a really prominent indie D.I.Y. scene, but as far as the electronic and jam band stuff, Denver is the epicenter,” he said. “There’s a sense of always wanting to up our game. I’ll go to Red Rocks in the summer and see all these great bands putting on great shows. It stokes my fire to be like, ‘Oh, we can one-up that on the light show!’ There’s a lot of people doing great stuff here. We need to try even harder.”
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The Youth Art Expo will run Feb. 27 through March 14 at the Aspen Art Museum, showcasing work by young artists from Aspen to Rifle.