Lotus will always have a place in the history of jam-band music. The group was one of the first to grab elements of electronica and synth-based music and drag them into the world of jam-band music. The band can be called one of the progenitors of jam-tronica. Whatever the band does, this place in history is reserved for them. Thursday’s show, the finale for the Thursday at Canalside summer series, drove this point home.
The band brought its marriage of techno, Daft Punk-style electronica and jam-band-based improv to a full house at Canalside. Folks were freaking out, dancing, throwing themselves around from the front of the stage to the back of the venue, near the water. The group – brothers Jesse and Luke Miller, percussionist Chuck Morris, drummer Mike Greenfield, guitarist Mike Rempel – seemed to own that area of modern music that splits the difference between straight-up DJ-controlled dance music and the sort of hippie sounds that thrill Grateful Dead fans.
How did this happen? Well, the Lotus lads were smart enough to grab hold of the dance crowd – the crowd that gathers at bars on Chippewa Street in Buffalo to dance to machine-dictated grooves for hours and hours on end – and introduce them to folks who dig improvisational music with guitar solos. It’s really that simple.
Canalside was packed, and all in attendance seemed to be digging Lotus during the band’s set. Whether the group offered straight-up synth pop a la Foster the People and Passion Pit, or world-beat styled grooves, or dark alt-pop, the crowd grooved, danced, offered their salvos to their heroes. The band could do no wrong. This was dance music for the jam-band crowd.
Lotus’ set never let up on the dance beats. There were solos, there were interesting breakdowns, and sometimes the arc of the tune shifted. Most of the time, however, things stayed close to the vest, a sturdy dance beat in the area of 120 bpm ruling the festivities. This was not necessarily music to think about, but rather, music to feel, and to react to.
Opener Aqueous, however, dished up something different. This Buffalo band, which has been touring extensively for the past year, brings a marriage of prog-rock, funk and straight-up jam band stylings to the table. These guys have songs – well-constructed pieces that move through several moods and harmonic settings, with solos that always build toward a release of tension.
Thursday’s show drove home an interesting point – that point being that Buffalo bands are at the very least the equal of any band in the world. Aqueous pretty much stole the show. The band is simply exploding currently. The talent in evidence, the quality of the songwriting, the versatility of the jams – this was very close to Phish-level stuff. The large crowd that turned out early for the band’s show was well-rewarded with a muscular set that was immaculately mixed – quite possibly the most clear and clarified sound I’ve heard at Canalside this season – and confidently delivered. Move over, moe. It’s time to make room for Aqueous.