Lotus Interview and Review: January 30th at the Westcott Theater

Lotus, the notorious EDM act-turned-jamband played a solid sold-out show at The Westcott Theater on a Wednesday, January 30th, making quite the comeback with their tenth album, The Build. The band continues to enchant listeners as they genre-bend their way into an idiosyncratic combination of funk and EDM, proving to be more relevant now than ever.


Before the show, I got the chance to talk to Jesse Miller, the bassist and sampler for the band.

Gauraa Shekhar: Your new record The Build is recorded live to analog. How did that come along considering the wide range of instrumentation?

Jesse Miller: We have been following the process over the last few years. It is a classic 70s thing, you know—with basic tracks and everything.

GS: That’s really cool. In The Build the rich texture really comes through, especially in songs like “Middle Road”. How do you guys produce music within a budget without compromising the quality?

JM: Most of it was done by myself and Luke. We rehearsed the process before we went into the studio and relied on a lot of software to help us. So we didn’t waste time and money on extra studio hours.

GS: That’s very practical. What kind of a demographic are you catering to with such genre-bending music? Is it easier to find the venue that matches your sound or do you have to pay special attention to it?

JM: I don’t think there is a specific demographic that we cater to but venues are definitely important. We aim for high-energy shows. Sometimes, we play for a younger crowd but there really is no specific age.

GS: Performing live is obviously a great aspect of your music. How do you mix it up on stage to keep the audience entranced . . . I mean, besides the lights of course.

JM: Improvisation, for sure. We try to mix it up by changing the instruments and arranging the songs a little differently.

GS: Since you guys incorporate a lot of computer generated digital sounds in your music, how do you put a different spin on it whilst performing live?

JM: There are certain things that are important to pull out of line…sometimes, we play around with the melody and sometimes we change up the instruments. We also trigger samples on stage.

GS: Oh, wow! Well, what is it like having a 47 days tour?

JM: 47 days in a tour can be hectic. But it allows us to develop a sound and a rapport.

GS: I’m sure. Bands have issues but you guys seem to stuck together as a band through all these years. What are some of the main things that glue you guys together?

JM: Well, it’s mostly the work ethic and the drive. We’ve been at this for such a long time and we’re really passionate about the music.

GS: As are we! Looking forward to seeing you in ’Cuse on the 30th, Jesse!

JM: Looking forward to the show!

As promised, Lotus gave those looking to get a high-energy head start to their weekend more than what they had bargained for. As I walked straight off the campus to their venue, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had walked straight into a Tim Burton set with all its entailing paraphernalia. I watched inebriated girls in princess costumes flail their way to the front row and men leaping out of crumbling bathroom doors with glowing light sabers. The night was fecund with possibilities  as if anything could happen. Excited fans drove in all the way from Rochester and Watertown, yelling out to anybody willing to listen: “This is the fourth time I’m seeing them perform”, “I just watched their show in New York last week” and “They just keep getting better each time”.  It was more than evident that Lotus’ electronica sound sustained their fan base over a span of fourteen years. And let me tell you, the infamous interplay of stage lights was only the beginning. Only a band like Lotus could turn a dance party into a religious experience. Lotus fueled the room with time-transcending energy and a motley crowd checked their baggage at the door, walked in, simply wrapped their heads around the music— and let their hair down.

We Came, We Saw, We Chilled! Catskill Chill Music Festival 2012

This was my first time attending the 3rd annual Catskill Chill, a 3-day, 3-night music packed weekend located at Camp Minglewood in Hancock, NY. By fate, I immediately found my friends out of the other 5,000 people that attended the festival. Each year, the Chill grows and extends the family to include even more outgoing, fun loving people. The concert-goers ranged from all ages, showing that people of any generation can appreciate great music.

Friday September 7th

Wasting no time after settling in, I rushed to catch the first band of the weekend, Caravan of Thieves. The four members each played stringed instruments with a unique percussion set behind them, consisting of large buckets and empty paint cans. Caravan of Thieves was a great way to ease into the weekend, helping to loosen up the dancing muscles after being stuck in a car. The band sent out gypsy melodies full of swing and mischief, energizing the crowd by playing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” as well as Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees. JGB with Melvin Seals took the Main Stage paying tribute to Jerry Garcia by playing his songs and staying faithful to his style. Intense energy radiated from the organ, especially during “My Sisters and Brothers.” The music of JGB was a breath of fresh air with everyone praising the groove and throwing their hands up to rejoice that the weekend had arrived. We all were here, it was finally ok to breathe and boogie down.

DrFameus, better known as the drummer from The Disco Biscuits, Allen Aucion, threw down some serious beats on the B Stage. DrFameus played drums and worked off computers at the same time, creating a glorious range of electronic music with plenty of bass. It was his first time at the festival and hopefully not his last. Kung Fu’s late night set elicited positive responses from fans, including “Kung Fu was amazing! A jazzy improv jam band with funky… costumes. Chris Michetti from Conspirator came and joined them and tore his guitar apart.”

Saturday September 8th

Consider the Source was the first to take the Main Stage on Saturday and featured multiple guest appearances throughout the show. The sound wave sorcerers brought chills to the crowd with their exotic, funky rock. Frank and Ryan Members of Shwizz, jammed out on one of the songs. John from FiKus joined the band on trumpet. Rob and Tim from Kung Fu came in on the second to last song. Consider the Source gave the audience a choice of two short songs or one long last song, the response was unanimous for a long jam.

After Consider the Source ended at 1:40pm, announcements came on the loudspeakers that there was a tornado warning for the area. All concert goers had to be inside of the stage areas or a cabin and the music was going to be put on hold. People quickly stashed to bring any items inside to nearby friends cabins and prepared to wait out the storm. The rain fell hard for only a few minutes but continued for about 2 hours and the wind picked up but not to the extreme. The weather finally calmed down and word spread that the music would resume at 4:30pm. The schedule would pick up where it left off, but each set would be shortened to provide each artist a chance to perform.

A friend had recommended that I make time during the festival to check out the Alan Evans Trio. The trifecta is led by Alan Evans from Soulive on drums, with Beau Sasser from Akashic Record playing the Organ and Danny Mayer from On The Spot Trio on Guitar. Alan Evans Trio was our salvation after the storm. The fans were soaked but smiling after hearing “Baby, take my hand.”  The soulful organ, funky beats and groovy guitar was just what the crowd needed to forget the rain delay and to turn the party back on. With only 10 minutes left in the set, Alan asked if they should play two short songs or one long song,  the crowd again cheered for one long song. A new song by the group, “Cosmic Hazeldust” was inspired by Eddie Hazzo and Jimi Hendrix, was a great set closer and psychedelic music gold. One of my favorite discoveries of the weekend was The Indobox, a great rock dance group who quickly won me and the rest of the crowd over just after their first song, “Colours”. The Indobox played a few songs off their new album, Dig Safe, which was released back in March and quickly flew off their merch table. The band hailing from Boston, MA sounded similar to a band like Passion Pit. The music was full of ranging synth beats, catchy pop lyrics and groovy guitar jams especially during “Please don’t say no!” and “Covering up the sky”. The Indobox has a mechanical sound, each instrument working perfectly in sync with the others and well-constructed.

Shwizz was the first act I caught playing at the Club Chill stage. The Club Chill is on top of the festival hill and is on the one side of the Tunnel of Light, a pathway full of strung up lights. The stage is in an enclosed building with red stadium benches and a big dance pit, a very unexpected and thrilling venue. My friends and I had great timing by walking in just as the band had started to play Frank Zappa’s “City of Tiny Lights.”  Followed later on by a song they said was inspired by their friends, “Slow Down” and stated that they were happy to be a part of the ever growing Catskill Chill Family. Shwizz ended the set with Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar.” During the show, Shwizz had the chance to show off their rockin wild guitar solos and fusion of funky electronic jazz beats. Frankie Coda, the bass player had this to say, “The festival was magical. It has grown into one hell of a family over the past 3 years. The Club Chill set was a ton of fun. The late night cabin jams were off the charts and the vibes at this festival are something special. We are looking forward to the next one.”

Rumor had spread over the weekend that one of Ithaca’s top electronic rock bands, SolAris was going to perform on their cabin porch on Saturday. The 3-piece all instrumental trio grew a crowd once their light show went off and their music started oozing over the camp grounds. During the performance of their original song, “Harkonnen”, drummer Daniel Lyon’s beats were so hot he was literally steaming. Jared Raphel was glued to the keys as he electrified the crowd with his notes and Vinny Naro shredded on his deep bass solos. Besides playing Radar and Cosmo, SolAris used funk and trance house music to make a serious improvisation set.

Yonder Mountain String Band was this year’s main headliner and my first time seeing this band from Colorado; after Saturday night on the main stage, it will not be my last. YMSB’s music calls to you like the open road, giving you a need for adventure and an aching in your heart. The set started with an intense energetic song called “Casualty” at which time the band stated before how amped they were to be playing in Upstate New York. The acoustic foursome blasted into “Heading back to Colorado” to which I’m surprised their strings didn’t break from the hardcore strumming they were all doing. Yonder took some time to thank everyone at the Catskill Chill for putting on such a great festival and providing everyone with such a diverse lineup. They felt that it was “a force to be reckoned with” and that “you’ll never know what you’re going to get.”  YMSB commended the audience for having such a wide taste in music and for discovering new artists that weekend. Their fast paced blue grass tunes lead us into “Another Day” followed by “On the Run” during which they added a jam singing about the festival. The crowd went wild as they sang, “Tent to tent, RV to RV, it’s all about variety!”

Particle had travelled all the way from California to play at one of their favorite festivals, The Catskill Chill and with knowing this, no one wanted to miss their last night set on the main stage. The floor and stadium benches were packed and rowdy with excitement. As soon as the lights went out, fire dancers ignited the VIP standing area and neon glow sticks were in full force. Particle wasted no time by starting the show with “Triple Threat” and “The Golden Gator” both amping up the already crazed crowd. After their original grooves, Particle took the crowd on a Pink Floyd wonder ride consisting of “Have A Cigar” into “One Of These Days” and directly into “Pigs.” The flow and segway into the jams was spot on and had shown the crowd that is was not the same Particle back in 2005. Ending the set with “Ed+Molly”, an upbeat hard electronic rock groove,  left my mind numb.

After the serious jams from Particle, I headed back to my tent while my friends checked out Wyllys at the Club Chill late night set. Wyllys was described to me as “it’s like taking a child out of Disney movie, kicking and screaming and throwing them in a deep, dark dungeon and giving them only electronic music equipment to play with.” Anytime Wyllys is on a festival line up, don’t miss out on the dance party throw down that erupts.

Sunday September 9th

The weekend was finally coming to an end and there was still more music to be heard. Timbre Coup opened up the B Stage that afternoon to blue skies and a cheerful crowd. One of the first songs, “August” was off their new album Knuckles and Valleys, providing simple, inspiring lyrics and a Zen like sound. There was much excitement for fans as Timbre Coup busted out a rendition of the New Deal’s “Deep Son”. Fans of the New Deal claimed that Timbre Coup provided a great cover and it was one of the best of the weekend. This was followed by “Arnold Schwarzenegger”, a more laid back, dark raging guitar jam.off the album, Check out This!

There was much hype built up about the band, The McLovins, a young quartet from Connecticut who knew how to make the crowd dance. McLovins opened with “TETOP”, a soft, jazzy jam that instantly showed me that The McLovins did have as much talent as everyone said they had. It was incredible to watch such young musicians create jams with such soul and nature flow.  Fans described “Tokyo Tea” as their most badass song. The McLovins ended their set with the ever popular Grateful Dead’s “Shakedown Street” and Dylan’s “The Mighty Quinn”.

I grossly underestimated how spectacular Cornmeal was going to be.  The Bluegrass rock/Jamgrass group ignited Sunday night with a fitting farewell festival performance. Cornmeal brought fierce country energy to the crowd, with plenty of foot stomping and non-stop cheering. One of the most memorable songs was “I’m Coming Home” containing an all-consuming, strong jam that I never saw coming or thought possible from a bluegrass band. Followed by that was, “When the Worlds Got you Down” an enchanting melody that has you singing along instantly, even the first timers. The encore was “Long Hard Road” once again, displaying their amazing finger picking skills, their goddess of a fiddle player, Allie Kral, showcasing her speedy rhythms; Cornmeal is definitely a band worth following. The perfect Cornmeal follow up was at Acoustic Junction in the middle of the camp grounds. The Brummy Brothers quickly drew a crowd with their upbeat original bluegrass tunes as well as modern pop hits such as “Fuck You” by Cee Lo Green. My favorite song of their’s that I can’t get out of my head is “Weed, Whiskey, Women” due to the beautiful harmonies and the repeating chorus line, “Nothing like being home, drunk, stoned and laughing.” The B Brothers are sure to have a bright future ahead of them with their attention grabbing talent.

Possibly the biggest excitement built up for the day was for Lotus.The set started with the ever popular, beeps and boops of “Suitcases.” A mellow start that quickly picked up speed from the heavy dance beats pumping out the speakers. “Livingston Storm” picked up the crowd with the funky guitar notes and rolled them over into “Dowrn”, the groovy electronic tune that had everyone dancing. One of the highlights for fans was “Tip of the Tounge” taking to the next level with exotic drumming and spacdy guitar riffs. The popular set closer was “128”, which shredded faces with fast rhythm and serious synths.

At the end of the weekend, it made total sense to name the festival Catskill Chill. The laidback attitudes and friendly nature of everyone, made the festival that much more relaxed and enjoyable. This was another successful year that proved the Catskill Chill family are true party professionals. The Catskill Chill dished out everything you could want in a festival and much more. I know that I am already counting down the days until next year’s Chill.