Madison House’s Jesse Aratow realized he’d witnessed something special the first time he saw Lotus perform.

On a tip from the band’s manager, Aratow flew out from Denver to see Lotus play a club gig in San Francisco and ended up signing the band immediately after the show.

“This was back when the band was first touring the West Coast,” Aratow, who co-books the band with Jake Schneider, told Pollstar.

“There weren’t a ton of people there – I’d say it was a crowd of 150 to 200 people – but they were all in the venue before the show started and they didn’t leave the dance floor until it was over.”

The group, which features Jesse Miller on bass and sampler and brother Luke Miller on guitar and keys, drummer Steve Clemens, guitarist Mike Rempel and Chuck Morris on electronic/acoustic percussion, was formed while the guys were attending Goshen College in Indiana.

The Mennonite school had banned on-campus dancing as late as the ‘80s, but the old rule never seemed to stop the band from creating music that got crowds moving.

Through intense touring and shows filled with musical improvisation, the band became a regular fixture on the jam festival circuit. Along the way, Lotus also blossomed into new territory with performances that feature electronic-influenced dance rock (minus the laptops) backed by a killer light show.

If it seems difficult to categorize Lotus, it’s because the group has worked hard to avoid labels.

“We’re a rock band, but we play very danceable music with electronic influences so it can fit in a lot of places,” Jesse Miller told Pollstar. “It can be kind of frustrating when we’re just labeled a jam band because obviously, Lotus doesn’t sound anything like the Grateful Dead or Phish.” Opus One Productions’ Michael Sanders, who manages the band, agreed.

“They have that intuitive sense of themselves, of what they want, who they are, where they’re going,” Sanders told Pollstar. “Regardless of trends, they’ve done their thing.

“Maybe some people along the way were scratching their heads, but the band knows best. They’ve really forged a unique sound.” That sound has helped Lotus secure gigs that fall outside the traditional jam-band touring circuit.


Case in point: The group recently played an opening slot for Justice at a festival.

“The crowd was completely different than at some of the very jam-oriented festivals but the reaction was exactly the same – everybody was dancing, everybody was cheering at the times they’d cheer at the other shows, so it’s something that can definitely cross a lot of lines,” Miller said.

The band has connected the dots across the U.S. and Canada multiple times and visited Japan twice. Europe is another line the band would like to cross. Lotus headed to The Netherlands last March for a festival, but has yet to do a full run of dates in the region.

“There’s no sense of a jam band in Europe,” Miller said. “All the Europeans we talked to came out saying, ‘Wow, this is incredible. You guys are changing your set lists around and improv is something that just doesn’t exist in Europe at all.’

“I think a lot of Europeans would be into it. You see a lot of their festivals have a big electronic presence. … I think with Lotus being able to cross that gap in some ways, it could really go off.”

Sanders said the band is in the early stages of talks with labels and agencies in Europe, and hopes to make waves in the region in late 2009. If recent ticket sales are any indicator, Lotus could also make waves Stateside with a tour supporting its latest SCI Fidelity release Hammerstrike.

“It’s an exciting time for the band,” Sanders said. “There’s no doubt about it. The numbers in the last year have definitely exploded.

“With this tour they’re on now, the Mercury Lounge [in New York City], the Paradise in Boston and the Higher Ground [in South Burlington, Vt.] all sold out clean in advance. And that’s another sort of indicator – you think of the jam band culture and you think of huge walkup audiences and no presales.” Lotus will hit clubs and theatres around the U.S. through November, and Aratow said the band expects to visit larger markets at least a couple times in support of the new album.

“I think next year we’re going to see that the band is a top choice for a lot of bands for packaging and a top choice for a lot of festival talent buyers given the success we’re having nationally,” he said.

“We’re going to be looking for a lot of late night opportunities as well, because those are the shows that put the band in the best light. They’re designed to have a huge light show and play till the wee hours in the morning.”