There’s Magic In That Quarry: Summer Dance 2015 in Review
Labor Day Weekend had its fill of amazing music opportunities (I’m sure you’ve all heard about Phish’s epic eight-song THANK YOU encore by now), but at the magical slice of nature known as Nelson Ledges Quarry Park in Garrettsville, OH, the weekend brought some of the best music from Lotus fans have witnessed in years.
Let’s begin with the rest. Friday brought with it a headlining performance from the New Deal, who came back onto the scene in full force over the past year or so. Despite a bit of rain, fans rejoiced in fervent dance as the band played longstanding crowd pleasers like “Octobong” in addition to their popular new track “Mercury Switch,” all while dealing heavy doses of improv. “Sabotage the System” closed the set, featuring a phenomenal jam by keyboardist Jamie Shields. The following day, Beard o Bees, the electronica solo project of Lotus bassist Jesse Miller, paid tribute to “Mercury Switch” with his own remix of the song, which fit quite well into his upbeat set. Lotus guitarist and keyboardist Luke Miller provided an equally dance-worthy performance with his disco-driven alter-ego Luke the Knife on Sunday, including his remix of “Boogie on Reggae Woman” – always a perfect choice for a beach-side dance party. Under the shade of the forest, the party continued with the return of the legendary Bacon Party. Scroll down the Summer Dance event page and you are sure to find more than a few people asking the Ledges if they could expect another Bacon Party – little did they know that it was not Nelson Ledges who brought the bacon to the forest but some of Lotus’ most dedicated fans. Word has it that they cooked up over forty pounds of bacon late Saturday night to a soundtrack of foot-frenzied, soul-rocking funk. Rumor has it that Luke the Knife appeared for a late night forest performance as well.
But the real news has everything to do with the band that makes this festival what it is. Lotus gave fans two nights of improv-driven musical madness, starting with a night of top notch covers both old and new. The band began each set with covers they debuted within the past year or so, playing a heavily jammed out version of their cover of “Inspector Norse” by Todd Terje to begin their show and “Elephant” by Tame Impala (which made its debut appearance earlier this summer) to open their second set. The band then debuted new covers toward the end of each set – “Wake” by Tycho during the first (which had a number of fans screaming Tycho’s name), and “Shackbu” by Plaid during the second. Both were expertly executed, leading many to conclude that they (along with the cover debuted the following day), may be some of the best covers in Lotus’ repertoire. Woven around the covers were a number of Lotus classics including “Wax” and “Bellwether” in the first set with dark and explosive breakdowns driven by the lightning-quick, methodical beats of drummer Mike Greenfield, as well as an improv-heavy version of recently revived rarity “Contagion” (brought back into rotation under two years ago). “Did Fatt” had some impressively intricate interplay between bassist Jesse Miller and guitarist Mike Rempel and seamlessly segued into a “Flower Sermon” featuring an extended solo jam by percussionist Chuck Morris that is without a doubt worth checking out. The band without a doubt pulled off a solid performance, but it was not without its critics – more than one fan called it a standard, albeit solid, festival set.
Not one of them would say the same about Night 2.
We could talk about the cover of Ratatat’s “Cream on Chrome” that had fans of both Lotus and Ratatat giddy. Or the scarcely played vintage track “Soma” (which recently returned to the rotation this past January) that had Luke Miller channeling a sexy jazz lounge piano vibe during one hell of an extended jam. Then there was that encore – an explosive “Intro to a Cell” that went to places it rarely goes, or the beautiful and composition-driven “Behind Midwest Storefronts” that ended the weekend of music. We could also talk about how the band brought back two songs into rotation that haven’t been played in years: “Epidemic” came back strong after its last appearance in 2007, and “In the Bliss” made its triumphant return after a thirteen-year hiatus, harkening back to some of the band’s earliest live performances. True, fans lost it for both of these songs, in which the band took the very same risks it seemed committed to taking the entire weekend. These were all quite magical moments.
It was the first set of Sunday night as a whole, however, which truly embodied the risk and magic so prevalent during Lotus’ performances this past weekend. Over an hour long, the set featured only four songs. It is the strongest feat of improv Lotus has achieved in recent history. Some would argue it’s some of the best of Lotus to-date. “Middle Road” may not be everyone’s favorite song. One of the better tracks off the band’s second to last album, Build, it has its critics. Not a soul complained about “Middle Road” on this night though. At 30 minutes long it is perhaps the longest Lotus has ever jammed out a song. The jam by itself is over twenty minutes long and broken into two parts on the official recording on LiveDownloads. Regardless of how well one knew the band’s music, not a single person had any idea where the jam was taking the crowd for the entirety of its twenty minutes. Are they going into “Juggernaut”? Surely this is “Sid.” No, wait … listen to that bass line … I think it’s “Shimmer and Out.” … ”Expired Slang”? This jam seemed to tease just about every classic Lotus track and stopped fans dead in their tracks with mouths agape at what they were witnessing. Longtime fans who often forlornly reminisce about the “good old days” of 2007 found themselves calling it the best Lotus they’d witnessed in years. No one left that show unimpressed. With good reason. Sunday night’s performance was, in one word, otherworldly.
And so it was that Lotus fans left the Ledges renewed of spirit and faith, many recommitted to their favorite band after an unforgettable weekend of music, laughter, and love. With Sunday night forever branded in fans’ memories, falling head over heels once again for this band seems the only possible conclusion. Many thanks to the band, Nelson Ledges Quarry Park, and the many additional musical acts that came together to make this weekend as magical as it was. It is surely one for the history books.
You can buy both of Lotus’ Summer Dance performances on LiveDownloads for a discounted package price here.
Photography by Eric Madar