Lotus Blossoms: The Return of Red Rocks

At 9:50 AM on a Friday in early April, I logged onto my AXS account and found myself overcome with a feeling that had evaded me for over a year.

 Ticket anxiety.

It causes my heart to beat with such an intense combination of force and speed it may, one day, cause a cardiac event.  I hate ticket anxiety.  But that morning, I welcomed it.  The satisfaction of scoring tickets struck even more.  A few happy tears rolled down my face.  I hadn’t attended a large event, felt the collective energy of a crowd, wore a perma-grin of elation, since February 2020.

Music at Red Rocks was back!  Colorado’s most iconic music venue announced in March it would open, at a reduced capacity of 2,500 people instead of the usual 9,525, for its 80th year.  And, like any good octogenarian throwing a party, thought was put into its entertainment for the inaugural celebrations.    

The honor was awarded to a band sure to please the jam-loving community living in droves among the Front Range. Lotus, a five-piece band, guaranteed a nonstop dance party with their high-energy instrumentals.  Originally slated to play two nights, two extra shows were added almost immediately due to ticket demand.  

Ticket anxiety and ticket satisfaction were far from the only things I missed about live music.  On Friday, April 23, I finally experienced it all.

I missed the lot.  Having a few drinks with friends before the show, filled with excited anticipation for the music ahead, is a quarter the fun of going to a show.  Contentment washed over me as I sipped White Claws in the foothills among the red sandstone surroundings.  As a Denver resident, I’ve attended countless shows at Red Rocks, but will never grow tired of gazing at the gigantic slabs that form the amphitheater and give it its name.

I missed the fashion.  Always eager to don a sundress and large baubles of jewelry, I opted to attend this late April show dressed in layers for winter comfort.  My sweatshirt provided warmth but possessed zero eye-catching ability.  Others chose the latter.   Animal print ruled the scene.  Faux leopard skin covered coats, pants, and hats.  A few women wore animal-themed onesies. Jewels and glitter-adorned cheeks and eyes.  Though Colorado no longer has an outside mask mandate, I noticed many, myself included, opted to wear masks when not in their spot.

Photo by Tara Gracer

I missed the friendliness uniquely found within our community.  The bond over our deep love of music is powerful in how it unites strangers.   I was wrong about my attire.  It caught the eye of the young man working entrance security.

“Oh man, I love your sweatshirt,” he said as he waved the metal detector around my body and bag.

“Thank you!”

“Let’s go out to dinner and see a movie,” he briefly sang.  “Let’s go Dicks.  Do you think it will happen this year?”

“I manifest positivity every day that it will,” I smiled.

“Yeah!”  He cheered as I walked away and entered the venue.  “Me too!”

To allow for social distancing, the venue was divided into assigned quarters.  Each quadrant provided a specific entrance, concession stand, and bathroom.  Our City Pop section came lower stage right.  We settled in less than twenty rows from the stage. With the audience sitting in every other row, we had an unobstructed view of the stage and plenty of dancing space.

A big thank you to all Red Rocks employees who worked so tirelessly to keep social distancing efforts in place.   They ensured empty rows remained clear of people in a never-ending game of “whack the mole.”  As soon as one group of “row crashers” was asked to exit, another moved in to fill the void. 

Photo by Tara Gracer

If we had to assign Lotus a specific genre of jam, it would be jamtronica.  But the band offers so much more than electronic inspired music.  Okay, so maybe-after walking onstage to raucous whoops, cheers, and applause -the first notes to sound happened to be the stereotypical synths one associates with electronic music.  But “Suitcases”, the opening song, quickly diverted from electronic to a smooth swingy guitar swaying against a pounding rhythm section.  Two newer songs, “Phantom Tooth” and “Sepia Rainbow”, made their live debuts in the first set and both were played as funky as bell bottoms.  The former offered a shoulder shimmying bass and guitar while “Sepia Rainbow” is reminiscent of 70s funk.  The beginning notes of the set closer, “Gilded Age”, produced a ripple of appreciation through the crowd.  The song, a more traditional guitar centered jam rock song, made the perfect set ending.

Through it all, my body moved, almost involuntarily.   I missed dancing as much as I missed the music.

When I saw Lotus for the very first time, I was an out of shape and overweight young twenty something, but I spun, shook, and wiggled my hips through the entirety of their two sets.  I woke the next morning with calf muscles so sore I was forced to limp through my day.  I am now over fifteen years older with a daily exercise habit, but it’d been fourteen months since I put on my boogie shoes.  Would I wake up tomorrow with similar pains?  I spun, shook, and wiggled my hips enough to merit such muscular aches.

My husband, who only dances at shows after hours of imbibing, played designated driver and sipped on a single drink all show.  However, each time I glanced his way, his head and shoulders were moving.  Lotus dares you to stand still.

Photo by Tara Gracer

Set two opened with “Eats the Light”.  The vocals, rare for Lotus, resembled The Police so much one could swear Sting had joined the band.  “Condor”, another newer song to make its live debut, deserved its title.  I didn’t learn the name until reading the set list the next morning, but while played, I felt as if I were indeed soaring through the skies.  The final songs, set closer “128” and encore “Hammerstrike”, contained elements of Kraftwerk, prompting me to listen to the electronic pioneers when we arrived home. 

During set two, I conversed with a woman dancing near me in between songs.  After the show, we spoke at length as the venue cleared out.  We talked of shows past and future, of Covid living, and how “normal” our night felt.  Before parting ways, we confessed our vaccination status with an “I’m vaccinated” and “me too” and went in for a hug. 

Oh, how I missed those random, and safe, hugs too!

I am optimistic this is just the beginning, that this was only my first of many shows to come this summer and fall. That Red Rocks will increase capacity and postponed shows and complete tours around the state and country will occur.  That Phish Dicks will happen.  I choose to remain positive, albeit with some anxiety over what will and won’t happen.  I hope you feel optimistic too. 

And how about my calves?  You may be wondering how they felt when I woke up.  They were pain free.

Photo by Tara Gracer
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