Double dose of jamtronica from Lotus at Belly Up Aspen
IF YOU GO …
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Thursday, Feb. 22 & Friday, 23, 10 p.m.
How much: $45/general admission; $75/reserved
Tickets: Sold out for Friday. Thursday available at Belly Up box office and www.bellyupaspen.com
Lotus has earned a massive following over the years with audacious, ambitious live shows that pushed the envelope of its instrumental jam-tronica sound.
In Aspen in recent winters, it’s multi-night runs at Belly Up have become the stuff of legend for the Colorado jam-band faithful. The five-piece Denver- and Philadelphia-based band returns Thursday and Friday, Feb. 22 and 23.
While wild genre-hopping electo-rock instrumental jams have long been Lotus’ calling card for the live shows, the band’s records over the years have occasionally featured a few more conventional, vocal-based songs.
They made a creative leap two years ago on their most recent album, “Eat the Light,” crafting more tightly structured pop and dance songs.
Keyboard player Luke Miller says the shift was inspired by the band’s popular “Talking Heads Deconstructed” show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre several years ago, when the band felt what it was like to have fans actually sing along with their performance.
“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 told The Aspen Times during last year’s run of Aspen shows.
He walked away from the Talking Heads cover sets knowing he wanted to create a different kind of Lotus song. The band filled “Eat the Light” with them.
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.
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 sat down to write extra parts for live performance. On the new song “Fearless,” for instance, they appended an extended instrumental outro.
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 says. “We just think about what works in the studio and cross the live bridge when we get there.”
For most live performances, the band uses recorded and sample singing parts from the new songs.
Living in Colorado, steeped in its storied jam tradition and Denver’s fertile electronic scene, Miller said, has pushed 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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