Words and Photos by Emily Stout
(Chicago, IL) It was a joyous day, way back before Thanksgiving, when it was announced to the world that a trifecta of talent was to converge on one special night in the heart of the Midwest. Happy dances were performed, friends were called, and travel plans were secured. A comfortably welcoming yet energized melting pot such as Chicago would play the ideal host; a place where one can combine synthesizers, violins, guitars, and laptops, and attract a crowd with appreciation and excitement for each. And so it was written.. Lotus, Conspirator, and Emancipator were to take the Congress Theater by storm on February 17, 2012.
Each leg of the trifecta has made a name for themselves by challenging those that try to limit them to a single genre. Emancipator (Doug Appling) has the innate ability to layer softly technical drum beats with waves of organic and fluid melodies in such a manner that one could pulse on the dance floor just as easily as they could sit calmly and meditate. The addition of violinist Ilya Goldberg to the stage brings a haunting depth to their live performance. Interestingly enough, though perhaps not very surprising, is the fact that Appling is a classically trained violinist in his own right. It is his wide range of musical knowledge and exploration that gives his songs the depth and texture to reel in listeners of all backgrounds and preferences… be it downtempo, instrumental, electronic or beyond.
When crafting the anatomy of a high-energy ensemble, it is important to get the cocktail just right. Mix two parts Disco Biscuits (Aron Manger and Marc Brownstein), one part RAQ (Chris Michetti), and one part of the finest seasonal ingredients to form the genre-busting band that remains in constant flux: Conspirator. The progressive rock riffs stemming from Michetti’s guitar are agitated by the electronic and sometimes psychedelic spins of Manger’s synth knobs. On this night at the Congress, the group utilized one of their favorite drummers, KJ Sawka, of the drum and bass powerhouse Pendulum. If the importance and influence of a drummer was up for debate, Sawka’s animation and intensity on stage puts the issue to rest. The group’s undeniable vivacity transferred from the stage to the jam-packed dance floor with ease.
The night continued to build with musical talent and infectious drive, coming to a peak with one of the most energetic and passionate performances by Lotus that I’ve witnessed since Summerdance. Maybe it was the anticipation that had been brewing since November, or maybe the first two acts had masterfully set the stage and buttered the crowd; whatever the cause, the fallout was an overwhelming wave of passion and delight that surged through every corner of the theater as Lotus nailed the night’s final set. The set raged from warped electronic tones and hip-hop laced vocals to soul-lifting ballads and buoyant melodies. The beauty of Lotus’ music is that for all the numerous genres they choose to perform, each song is decidedly upbeat and filled with rapture. The night culminated in a encore to appease all attendees: a Spiritualize sandwich with a healthy slathering of Zelda in between. This level of encore showcased the chemistry and depth of their collaboration: progressive melodies built within a soundscape of electronic delicacies sure to tickle any palette. Any band that understands (let alone audibly manifests) my necessity to annihilate beasts and earn rupees in the process is an ace all day long.
As the night came to a close, I felt truly excited to know that unique bands could still exist and thrive in the over-saturated world of music. What a pleasure to absorb even one of these alliances on any given night, let alone three on one stage.
Lotus’ Setlist, via facebook.com/lotusvibes:
Flower Sermon -> Dowrn, Behind Midwest Storefronts, Massif, The Oaks, Plant Your Root -> Sunrain -> Umbilical Moonset -> Sunrain, What Did I Do Wrong?, 128 Encore: Bush Pilot, Spiritualize -> Zelda -> Spiritualize
P.S. If you didn’t catch the limited edition print for this weekend, I highly suggest you check it out.