By Josh Herwitt //
Even since their early beginnings at Goshen College in northern Indiana, Lotus have always been considered an East Coast band. With strong ties to Philadelphia, where the group moved to after college and most of it still resides, the quintet has garnered its biggest following in the Northeast, where plenty of other jam bands have and continue to thrive.
But Lotus have always been good about keeping in touch with their fan base on the other side of the country, and it seems that just about every other year, they’re back in California touring in support of a new album.
After trips to Los Angeles in 2011 and 2013 to debut songs from Lotus and Build — both times at the El Rey Theatre — Lotus returned to LA on Thursday with more new material to share with their West Coast family after releasing Gilded Age last July.
At the soon-to-be-defunct House of Blues Sunset Strip (the music venue, after more than 20 years in operation, will reportedly be demolished toward the end of 2015 and replaced with a brand-new hotel complex), bassist Jesse Miller, guitarist/keyboardist Luke Miller (Jesse’s twin brother), lead guitarist Mike Rempel, drummer Mike Greenfield and percussionist Chuck Morris strung together a 16-song performance that spanned a good portion of the five-piece’s impressive catalog over two sets and an encore. They even got some help from the night’s opening act, as Pan Astral lead singer Gabriel Otto joined the band for a cover of Talking Heads’ “I Zimbra,” offering his best David Byrne impersonation by stumbling around the stage in between verses and guitar riffs.
Of course, it’s no secret that Lotus have an affinity for Talking Heads. The “jamtronica” outfit, which also cites old-school electronic artists like The Orb, Aphex Twin and Kraftwerk as important influences, performed a “Talking Heads Deconstructed” set on a couple of occasions last year — including one in September at the historic Red Rocks Amphitheatre with Otto once again handling the vocals — and it’s clear that Lotus have made a point of reigniting that flame over the course of their current 32-date, nationwide tour, which has seen them cover everything from “Crosseyed and Painless” to “Once in a Lifetime” and more.
For a group that has made its name in the jam band scene through relentless touring and continues to methodologically put together tight, concise studio albums at an unbelievably fast pace (Gilded Age was released just more than 10 months after the band dropped 2013’s Monks), watching Lotus cover one of rock’s most influential bands without ever hitting a snag remains a testament to their versatility and talent as some of the hardest-working musicians in the business today.
Somewhere, David Byrne has to be grinning wide.
Grayrigg, The Oaks, Scrapple, Suitcases, Turquoise, I Zimbra (Talking Heads cover with Pan Astral’s Gabe Otto on vocals and guitar) > Spiritualize
Neon Tubes > Around the World > Neon Tubes, Tarot, Plant Your Root > Greet the Mind, Marisol, 128
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