All words: Ross Bonaime
At the halfway point of Deerhunter’s incredible Halcyon Digest album, “Desire Lines” comes out of nowhere and noticeably changes the album with an almost seven minute long song that sounds unlike anything before it. This is thanks to Lockett Pundt, who wrote the song, which I believe to be the greatest song from Deerhunter and possibly one of the best songs so far this decade. Yes, it is that good. While Deerhunter is mostly known as the project of its co-founder Bradford Cox, Lotus Plaza is the handiwork of Pundt, a more dreamy, ambient sound that is similar to the last half of “Desire Lines.” If I haven’t sung the praises of Pundt already in just the first paragraph of this review,Lotus Plaza’s second album Spooky Action at a Distance is hands down my favorite album of 2012 so far and after seeing Lotus Plaza at the Rock and Roll Hotel, they may have also claimed the spot of my favorite live performance of 2012 as well.
Opening for Lotus Plaza was Pygmy Lush, a five-piece from Sterling, Virginia performed to the few dozen people who came to the club early. With their first song, Pygmy Lush made the Rock and Roll Hotel the loudest I’ve heard it since seeing JEFF the Brotherhood and Fucked Up perform their last year. Pygmy Lush is somewhat shoegazey, a sound that doesn’t sound too far from a combination of Deerhunter and Explosions in the Sky. Their first and final songs had all five members coming together to make an insane wave of sound that was just fascinating to watch and hear. Pygmy Lush works best when they allow their instruments to do the talking for them. For anyone who decided to show up later, you missed out.
Following Pygmy Lush was Hollow Stars, who like Lotus Plaza, are also from the Atlanta area. Before playing, they started up a fog machine that spread a chalky smell through the crowd. Add to that the green lights that illuminated the band, Hollow Stars gave off a sort of spooky vibe. Their first song was quite hard to understand due to sound issues, but by their second song this was fixed, allowing the crowd to hear singer and former Deerhunter guitarist Colin Mee. Colin’s vocals sound droll, almost like Ian Curtis. For some reason, the keyboards in the songs felt like more of a distraction than a necessity. Most of their set was a combination of quick songs, but when they took their time with their last two songs and allowed these songs to breathe, the sound started to come together a bit more cohesively.
After this came Lotus Plaza, starting with “White Galactic One,” which kicks off with a powerful guitar part that is a perfect way to start off the set. Following was “Strangers,” an almost Real Estate sounding song. This led into two other older songs, connecting all three songs into one extended, beautiful stretch that led Pundt several times to get on his knees and work the whammy bar like crazy. This unified three part song was a sonic powerhouse that was incredibly loud yet still somehow dreamy. It seemed like once they stopped, the sound would reverberate for days after; a much more powerful sound than I expected could come from this band.
Following this impressive display were a handful of old songs, before getting into three newer ones. “Remember Our Days” is a song that just sounds like it could continue forever, while their greatest song “Monoliths” was probably their shortest song, but also the sweetest. The power of “Monoliths” and its beauty could be seen in the fans who wholeheartedly were loving everything Pundt was throwing out his audience. Ending this gorgeous set was “Jet Out Of The Tundra,” another song that has the capability of going on forever without sounding old.
In the nearly seventy-five minute set, Lotus Plaza only played about ten songs, but extended most of their songs to almost twice their length. Yet even with this extension, none of the songs overstayed their welcome, creating a wave of sound I could have easily listened to for several hours. Lotus Plaza not only expanded the length, but also the sound they could create. After listening to Spooky Action at a Distance, my mind was blown, but after seeing Lotus Plaza live, my mind blew right through the back of my goddamn head. Other bands:Lotus Plaza is the band to beat for best live band I’ve seen this year. Good luck trying to beat that.