Lotus - Raleigh 2/22/2023

The Rebirth of the Historic Jam Band is Well Under Way!

Lotus, who formed at Goshen College in Indiana, have released numerous albums and are a popular headliner at the world famous Red Rocks Ampitheatre in Colorado.  The band's 2004 release of Nomad went to the top of our Home Grown Music Network charts and by the end of the year was our top selling CD. This release was also nominated for a "New Groove of the Year" Jammy award. The current tour was the band's first time out since COVID.  After so much time off, it was a little stressful to go out on the road again.  A new tour manager needed to be recruited as well as a new lead guitarist.

The current lineup still features founding members, twin brothers, Luke Miller and Jesse Miller.  They both play multiple instruments. Jesse, who is the band leader plays what looks to be a five string Fender Precision bass.  He also makes expert and extensive use of an Analog Modular Synth. This synthesizer allows him to capture and loop a bass line and then move over to the Synth for additional sound generation. Modular synthesizers allow an artist to mix together sounds (samples) and functions to create a patch. Throughout the night, Jesse mixed in some modulated vocal samples, sequences and often created loops. The instrument was often used to modulate arpeggios and runs in interesting ways. Other typical synth functions he may have used include voltage-controlled oscillators and envelope generators. This instrument is an integral part of a Lotus performance and is why they are often labeled a jamtronica band. Their songs had some genre diversity and overall had a consistent hypnotic quality. Brother Luke does dual duty on keys and guitar. I liked his bare bones, melodic, leads guitar style. Mike Greenfield (drums) and Chuck Morris (founding member percussion) fill it up sonically.  Chuck has one of the most extensive percussion set ups you would ever encounter.  I think he even has a form of electronic wood blocks.  Another unique observation about this band is that they use vocal mics to que one another about musical direction during improvisation sections of a song.

Tim Palmieri is a major new addition on lead guitar. "Tim Palmieri has made a name for himself as one of the most impressive guitarists on the national music scene today. His dynamic career has been enriched by touring with Kung Fu, The Breakfast, internationally with The Z3, playing alongside artists such as Phish's Mike Gordon and Jon Fishman, Oteil Burbridge, Snarky Puppy, Soulive, Umphrey's McGee, Vic Wooten, Fareed Haque, Robbie Kreiger, Jeff Pevar, and Stanley Jordan..." (Official Bio)

Tim's performance at the Lincoln Theatre was spot on.  I really enjoyed his energy on stage, use of a Wah pedal and the chemistry that is developing with Jesse..  Tim often sports a wry smile which is very engaging.  The band had a bit of the nerves about introducing a new guitarist for this tour. Their fanbase was disappointed about original guitarist Mike Rempel's departure for personal reasons (retirement). The band members have been delighted with audience reaction to Tim's playing.  While staying true to the roots of the music, Tim is more of a guitar virtuoso and often adds a new dimension to the band's repertoire of songs. .  He used what appeared to be a black Paul Reid Smith guitar all night. Check out this clip of "Tip of the Tongue" for a taste.

Scott Huston is responsible for setting up and running the bands awesome on-stage lighting.  Scott's show uses a variety of fixtures.  The profile / spot lights are able to mix colors.  The Gobo fixtures are able to break a light beam into patterns on walls and in the air.  Wash lights add color to the stage. 3 strobes with white+ RGB provide backlighting to produce silhouettes on stage.  Everything is controlled through a Chamsys lighting console.

Huston has a theatre degree from Goshen College.  He and Luke were roommates their senior year.  While the show is happening, Scott uses palettes (pre-sets) to trigger light positions and movement.   Smoke is another essential ingredient to make the display highly engaging to fans. At Red Rocks and other large venues, space lets the light show expand.  Scott shared that the twins have always been super motivated to be successful musicians.  The new lineup should be able to expand upon past success. Scott mentioned that free show recordings are often accessible at livedownloads.com. 

Playing together on tour has allowed the artists creativity to flow. The new line up and light show are now in the zone as a team.  The band, as well as their fanbase, should be excited about their upcoming west coast tour in April. Much of the information contained in this article is based on our 2/26/23 interview with Lotus Lighting designer Scott Huston. 

- by Mark Winston

- photos by Tim Hobert