On Friday night, Lotus took the stage for the first time since the pandemic began for a drive-in show on the grounds of Philadelphia, PA’s Citizens Bank Park as part of Live Nation‘s Live-In / Drive-In concert series.

Lotus typically spends Labor Day Weekend with fans and friends at their long-running Summerdance festival, but 2020 is not a typical year. While the normal festivities were put on hold along with virtually all mass gatherings, the veteran jamtronica quintet jumped in on the growing drive-in trend to ensure that they could still perform to a live audience this weekend.

Related: Lotus Dives Into 10th Studio Album, ‘Free Swim’ [Interview/Stream]

The venue team, set up in the parking lot of the mostly-dormant Philadelphia Phillies stadium, arranged arriving cars in checkerboard rows with clearly marked spaces between all parked vehicles, and the spectacular sunset over the stage served as a perfect primer for an evening of music—something everyone in the crowd sorely needed.

Attendees were only permitted to leave their allotted spaces to use the bathroom, and masks were required to do so. Security maintained a continuous patrol through the rows to ensure that groups weren’t forming and distancing protocols were being followed. You don’t often come away from concerts celebrating a heavy security presence, but the friendly staff seemed to help ease the nerves of a tentative crowd just starting to get out after months in isolation.

With no PA system on hand, fans tuned in to the concert audio via their cars’ FM dials. The lot full of different audio sources playing at different volumes coupled with the slight delay between the FM signal and the echo from the live drums was distracting at times—take a step to the left or the right, and what you’re hearing changes noticeably.

Much of the power of the live concert experience comes from the rapid exchange of energy between the performers and the audience, the many connected fibers firing all at once. Inherent in the socially distant drive-in concert model are several added layers of separation—from the physical distance between fans to the audio delay from the stage—and each of them dilutes that connection just a little.

Anyone who’s been to a drive-in concert in the last month or two will surely tell you that this increasingly prevalent format is a band-aid, not the future. A drive-in concert is still, by all means, a real, live concert, but it’s genuinely difficult to liken it to a “normal” show; it’s more like a concert experience with a show on the side.

For that reason, it’s tough to dive too deeply into Lotus’ performance here—other than to say they played their hearts out and had the whole lot smiling (me included). In all likelihood, that “normal” concert feeling we all miss so much is still a ways down the road, but standing in a parking lot listening to a band with other people on a mild summer evening—and feeling safe while doing it—may just have been the most “normal” I’ve felt since March. Get out there and try one.

Lotus – “Land of the Lush” – 9/4/20

[Video: Lotus]

Live Nation’s Live-In / Drive-In series continues this weekend with performances by Dark Star Orchestra on Saturday, 8/5 and Sunday, 8/6. Tickets are available here.

Scroll down to check out a gallery of photos from the Lotus drive-in show from photographer Dan Drufovka. Make sure to check out Lotus’ new album, Free Swim, available on all major streaming platforms.

Setlist: Lotus | Live-In / Drive-In | Citizens Bank Park | Philadelphia, PA | 9/4/20

Lucid Awakening, Earl of Grey, Livingston Storm [jam in G] > Wax, Caywood, Bjorn Gets a Haircut, Spiritualize

Catacombs, Straight Blade, Sift > Expired Slang > It’s All Clear To Me Now > Hammerstrike (intro) > Flower Sermon > Land of the Lush

Encore: MacGuffin