Just like the city that never sleeps, Lotus vibes are electrifying. If you were at their show in Times Square on January 26th, you know exactly what I’m talking about when I say this combination is fire. The ambiance perpetuated by the crowd was brought to the after-party, where Luke Miller of Lotus made his East Coast debut of Luke the Knife live.
Still high off Lotus’ live set, fans were greeted by the thrill and buzz of midtown as they shuffled over to Lucille’s at B.B. Kings for some late night funk and disco-themed beats. LtK fuses elements of funk, disco, and indie dance together, creating an eclectic and energetic style. Electronic music can trace its roots back to disco, funk and experimental rock, so it’s interesting that he choose to revisit these genres.
Coming from an electronic jam band, which blends live elements with electronic music, it’s no surprise that Miller decided to explore a hybrid of live elements with an emphasis on music production. Since Lotus is constantly adapting and has thus been migrating toward electronic music, this type of project makes perfect sense for Luke. “When we first started doing more electronic stuff or more post-rock stuff there was a push back from certain portions of our fanbase,” said Miller. “And I will admit we had some missteps while delving into new areas. But at the end of that process now when we drop an electronic-oriented song with sampled vocals like Bush Pilot, or a post-rock song like Behind Midwest Storefronts, and the crowd explodes.” This makes me wonder what kind of influence LtK will have on Luke’s composition for Lotus, and vice versa. I’m sure he has already learned a great deal from this undertaking.
As LtK organically takes shape, more than just music has been mixed, such as live elements. Ever since the first performance in Denver on December 14th, each gig has been different. At his second show, Miller added live guitar and keys with Chuck Morris (of Lotus) on drums. Saxophonists Clark Smith (Dynohunter) and Nick Gerlach (Cosby Sweater) sat in at different shows as well. Other performances included saxophonist Pete Wall and percussionist Athony Fugate. On the flip side, his focus remains solid, which according to Miller is to have a “show where the crowd can’t help but dance because the music is drawing them in with the groove.” At the same time, guest musicians and live instruments such as guitar, keys, drums/percussion, and saxophone have been consistently augmented, which lays down a solid framework for the live setting.
Miller left his guitar and keys behind this time around, mixing a two and half hour set accompanied by Chuck Morris on drums. After setting the track order in advance for the first few shows, he now improvises the set list by feeding off the crowd’s energy. “You can kind of sense when a crowd wants to take the energy higher, or if they need a little break and I need to slow it down a little bit,” said Miller “I like to have multiple peaks during a show, but you don’t want to have the climactic moment come too early in the show.”
As opposed to his shows in Colorado where he leaned heavier on the funk, his set list in New York was laced with indie and house tracks. He also tossed in a remix of The Talking Heads’ “Crosseyed and Painless” and some Deadmau5 material. Most of the tracks he used that night can be found on Luke the Knife’s Soundcloud.
The lotus epitomizes purity and spontaneous creation, which is evident in LtK’s development. “I think paradoxically that spontaneous creation takes a lot of pre-planning and practice,” said Miller, right before he shared a personal story that reflects the dynamics between practice and spontaneity.
“About 8 years ago I was at a Lotus show and there was a psychic there just in some van. We were struggling to get by as professional musicians, not getting paid and sinking all the money back into the band to buy equipment and repair our van and stuff. I told the psychic I was worried I’d have to stop doing this and she said it would all work out. And lo and behold it did. I don’t usually buy into that stuff, but she said it with such certainty I kind of just believed her.”
I walked away with the realization that any level of uncertainty requires spontaneity in order to push forward, and I think good electronic music achieves just that. It brings you for a fast ride, so a sturdy backbone, such as a well-planned rhythm, is a must since it’s all there is to rely on. Luke the Knife Live draws a parallel to Lotus’ live performances in which spontaneously improvised elements are key for setting the vibe. For this exact reason, I would definitely recommend catching a Luke the Knife live set whenever possible.
Photography by Dave Moshkowich