Nelson’s Ledges may be one of the coolest venues in Ohio to experience a festival. Tucked away in the rural back roads of the northern region of Garrettsville, it’s a multifaceted park with shaded camping in the forest that surrounds the quarry itself. The stage is placed upon the sand, making dancing even more fun as you feel it beneath your feet. During the day, you chill on the beach and take in some serious relaxation by floating about the water as the daytime bands play. This year, Saturday gave rise to some new acts like Sweet Earth and Broccoli Samurai. But it’s not all relaxation in the daylight. Nelson’s Ledges also offers the excitement of cliff jumping off of one of the parks natural ledges. This aspect alone proves to be one of the best features of the venue. Take a running start and leap off into the beautiful day’s air, feeling the vibes and freedom as you fall and safely hit the water, only to resurface feeling exhilarated and ready for more.
Arriving at the gates, the excitement was pretty much palpable. Perfect weather all weekend. Hot and sunny during the day, cool and comfortable at night, making sleeping a glorious event in the woods. Turned out that The Werks were the secret mystery act of the festival, which only excited fans more. They played an awesome improv. set consisting of three jammed out tunes. The Werks were a great way to kick off Friday evening. The Ledges was pulsating with energy and positive vibes. Although recent changes with park regulations have somewhat altered the overall atmosphere of the venue as far as freedom goes, not all of the changes were bad. It appeared they had better developed a system for parking and camping. Tents were regulated to three per camping area, which definitely spaced out the campgrounds. I believe this provided a less crowded and more spatially appealing zen to the overall setup. It didn’t appear there was a bad vibe to be had as far as this author’s experience went. Mostly just respect and consideration from all attending that weekend. Save for the usual unnecessary sporadic air horn and the somewhat poorly tasteful music being bumped from camps nearby. Of course it wouldn’t be The Ledges without the inarguably best festival pizza you will ever have from Disco Pizza.Lotus – Bellwether by Madison House
Lotus took the stage and ran straight into Bellwether. Not much said, everyone in attendance knew that they were about to witness one of the most intimate and meaningful Lotus sets one could hope to have. Being the Lotus family festival, Summerdance never disappoints in providing a truly unique view of the spectacular archive that is Lotus’ repertoire. Every year he has laid down epically rare sets and mash-ups, original materials, and presentations of songs old and new as they have never been played before. Bellwether turned into a heavy hit of synthesized madness that upped the intensity level of the set, and sucked fans into the Lotus space-time continuum. A brief pause before The Surf eased the crowd into slow motion fluidity like water. The new tune was riddled with funky grooves and sharp shoulder shrugging synths, but fogged underneath airy vocal samples that nearly lifted you away on the breeze. Next came Simian, an older tune off of their album Oil on Glass. Simian was performed with subtle reggae dub fade-aways, providing a thread that would work its way through the fabric of their first set.
The time then came for a new original by Lotus off of their upcoming album release. Malabarista was a well crafted sound of bluesy southwestern flavor, simmered in a “dubby zipper style” sound with a little kick of fire. The beginning of the song provided the blues that would then lead into the dubbed out portions, which could use a little tweaking but is full of potential for those times where the crowd needs a little prodding and heat. Turquoise came after, which gave the audience a necessary cool down… especially for what was about to follow. Plant Your Root> Shimmer and Out> Flower Sermon> Shimmer and Out. Enough Said.
Set break came and went as most found themselves spending some quality time with the stars illuminating the festival that night. Nighttime star visibility adds a definite transcendental fantasy to the venue as the music seems to emanate from every natural being in the surrounding area. They opened to the second set with Blacklight Sunflare followed by Lou Carcohl. This set seemed to be a lot more clean cut than the previous mash-tastic jam packed set one. There was definitely an overall smoothness in each transition, and a constant throughout each tune. Livingston Storm was a long even-paced wave that picked up speed towards the end, bringing the crowd tunneling headfirst into Lotus’ intoxicating sounds. The next big surprise to come was when Lotus announced that they were about to pull out a song that had supposedly fallen out of rotation since 2006 the last time it was played. Dedicated to the “old timers”, it was awesome to hear the appraisal spouting from the long time Lotus followers as Spaghetti began. There was a tease during Spaghetti of Chicago’s song 24 or 6 to 5. Harps followed, only to give rise to an old relic of Lotus, Kesey Seed that has also been recycling throughout sets recently. Kesey Seed was a super intense jam, made more visually consuming by the fast flashing strobes. What could possibly follow such an awesome show so far? Lotus whipped out a sweet Kraftwerk cover, playing Computer Love. An extremely awesome pick by the band, Computer Love was most definitely a high point of set two. It wouldn’t be a Lotus show if they didn’t seamlessly transition into a nice breezy Spiritualize next, closing the night out with an Invincibility of Youth encore.
Saturday proved to be a jam packed day of awesome music as the festival was graced with a early evening set of Big G and Billy Martin. Great preliminary shannanigans for Lotus to follow up on. Lotus had a meet and greet poster signing event around 5 p.m. The prints were incredible and definitely worth checking out online. Also a great way to remember the festival as there were only 100 made. They started off the second night right by ripping into a Hammerstrike opener. With an additional jam segment in the middle, the crawling bass line in Hammerstrike rendered the crowd to a low creeping stance, as we got down in the sand. Next up was L’immeuble, maintaining the groovy jam it was a light funky tune with a twist of jazz fusion. Lotus dove into a driving round of jam-astics complete with heady bass and wailing guitar rifts. Disappear In a Blood Red Sky proved to be a sentimental tune that gave us blissful realization and gratitude for the truly unique experience we were fortunate to have. Next came a long Travel, followed by a high intensity Suitcases that pumped up the crowd. First rare gem from Lotus was to come, an Aphex Twin cover, Flim, that was a new cover for the band and was previously played by Ghost Stepper. A heavy hitter, Lead Pipe> pumped with vocal samples and a wompy bass line, and a 128 closed out the first set, hitting us hard with a monster-mash jam turned funk that brought out a hint of freakishness in us all.
Set two was the perfect amount of energy and content to close out the festival with. We got an energizing Bush Pilot opener, followed by a bubbly, happy and resurfaced Blue Giant. Nematode and then a new tune, Cutinuo. Cutinuo proved yet again that Lotus has been cooking up some great new tunage for their fans. Wax and A 3 Legged Workhorse came next, blending well together. A 3 Legged Workhorse was a cover by This Will Destroy You, executed in perfect Lotus form. With the high point of the set to follow, a long Jump Off> into a cover of the Zelda theme song back into Jump Off> laid down a thick layer of fun to the night, causing the crowd to loose themselves in the jam. Then an encore of Umbilical Moonrise. Lotus left us all feeling grateful and content, but with a slight twinge of utter anticipation for next year to come…already.
By Ali Lane
Photography by Brian Hockensmith. To see more of his photos from the event click here.