Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Vine Neighborhood series.
Rebirth, sanity, righteousness, and purity — throughout history, this is what the lotus flower has represented. The flower is distinguishable by its many petals, all conjoining in the center, with a golden crown connecting them. It grows in mud, or on water, and can truly be considered a symbol of what it means and how it can feel to work with one's circumstances to rise up against all odds. Now the image of a lotus also stands for one of the most energetic new music groups to enter the Kalamazoo music scene in a very long time, the Caged Lotus.
“Growing out the muck” is how Caged Lotus member Henry Parworth explains the group's creation, transforming something that could be considered ugly or grimy into a thing of beauty through music. Parworth performs under the stage name Headband Henny, and is one of the founding members of Caged Lotus.
The members of the group say it sometimes feels as if Kalamazoo is a “so-called cage” that they want to break out of, says member Benjamin Alvarez, known as Healix when performing. Healix hails from Long Beach, Calif., but seems right at home in Kalamazoo now — moving around the stage, mic to his mouth speed rapping with his shirt over his shoulder in the dog days heat of Michigan summer.
They see Kalamazoo as a city with a grungy but passionate music scene that since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic has been struggling to find its footing again. Before the pandemic, “you could walk up and down the streets in the Vine, and hear the house shows happening.” says Caged Lotus member Cade Wilson, or Mouse, as he is known on stage. Since 2020, that has all changed, with only a handful of house shows across several different neighborhoods, down from a house show venue on every street.
The members of Caged Lotus not only want to perform but also to provide an outlet for other musicians in Kalamazoo to show their talent. JR Sheriff, known in the group as DJR, says that “one of the big things I want to do with Caged Lotus is to hold our own festivals. Host music in the Vine.”
If you would like to experience Caged Lotus for yourself, check out the link below or the members' social handles.
Linktree For Caged Lotus here.
dannyraiderr, Benj__x, Jrsheriff7, headbandhenny, Taxicab___, lucasfigueroaaa
DJR seems to be a sort of glue for the group in which the comradery that was almost palpable as we all sat together for this story. When speaking of goals, outward and inward, members called back to DJR, telling Second Wave that he encourages his bandmates to be transparent with their feelings.
“JR has been essential to building inside the group, JR has organized the stems
of the lotus flower,” says Wilson.
The group photographed outside of their Pioneer St. home base.
Healix, when asked about Caged Lotus’s future plans, brought up the concept of communicating within the group. A lot of the members knew of each other but were not necessarily friends.
“We came together as strangers,” says Healix, who adds that setting boundaries is a huge part of being in a group the size of Caged Lotus with its eight members. Some other group goals are as simple as freestyling after every session, to make sure that the process of working together is still fun.
Second Wave Media sat down, literally, at a table with all of the Caged Lotus members except one, Nichael Todd, who was unable to make the interview. The group put this interviewer at the head of the large dining room table. They laughed because the meeting almost got postponed after I knocked a couple times at various doors, waited a few minutes, and then sat outside while emailing a group member to confirm the address. Inside, it sounded like a bunch of friends just hanging out — was this the right place? It definitely was the right place, and when sitting with Caged Lotus — it was clear they care about each other a lot.
Caged Lotus member Lucas Figueroa explained that one day he and Headband Henny were sitting in a Qdoba, and they had the idea to start a hip hop collaborative, in this case, a group of artists in which the majority all have their own solo acts, but who also perform and record together as a group. It started out as Figueroa being Henny’s manager, but soon it turned into something more. The two brought in several of their music connections — the other members of what is now Caged Lotus — and everyone agreed to be part of the project.
Caged Lotus member Danny Roeder, who performs under the name “Danny Raiderr” voices the group's excitement, “with each thing that we put on, we see exponential growth.” Community turnout, social media following, and creativity are all part of that growth.
One example is the Caged Lotus and Friends Showcase that the group hosted in July. The show was a series of performances by the Caged Lotus members, and other local acts who have connections with the group. It took place at the band headquarters on Pioneer Street in the Vine neighborhood and from what can be seen on the group's Instagram account, the show was a huge success. Most of the acts that performed at the showcase were hip hop based.
It can be hard to find hip hop music shows in this area, though it seems there is starting to be more acceptance of hip hop at Kalamazoo shows. And Caged Lotus wants to speed things up.
When it came to the Caged Lotus and Friends Showcase, the “networking had to be done ourselves” says Raiderr. There is no informative hub for Kalamazoo musicians to network with each other. Everything is personal. This down-to-earth, grassroots approach is a big part of what the Kalamazoo music scene is founded on, traditionally. However, it is one reason why the scene has struggled to stay afloat during COVID.
The Caged Lotus members spoke a lot about the opportunity they would like to see in Kalamazoo. The performer-to-venue-to-audience network needs to be streamlined in terms of communication and Caged Lotus wants to help turn this opportunity into a reality.
The group also wants to streamline the process of circulating information about Kalamazoo house shows. DJR wishes there “was more info on house shows” available. It is difficult to figure out when and where shows are taking place, and getting information by asking for the address often happens through a series of direct messages sent to the organizer on Instagram or Facebook. If one reaches out too close to start time, the message may not get returned, and that means one less person at the show.
As brought out in a previous Second Wave
story about the return of house shows with the slowing of the spread of COVID, without hip hop at Kalamazoo house shows and other local venues there is a huge gap when it comes to accessibility for People of Color. That is why groups like Caged Lotus are so important. They create opportunities for folks from all sorts of different socioeconomic backgrounds to come together to create not just music, but a sense of belonging and community.
The group made it clear that when it comes to the music scene Kalamazoo also does some things really well. Several members brought up that in Kalamazoo, it is easy to actually get to know the artists that you admire, and that the overall feel of the space is one of acceptance.
And despite difficulties in organizing a community-wide resource that details available venues, bands, and show dates, there are shows to be had. House show music in Kalamazoo did not die with COVID, and since last year, there has been a resurgence of performances, and even a couple of new venues to replace those that faded away.
Caged Lotus together for a publicity photo.
Caged Lotus wants to bring a fresh take to the Kalamazoo music scene, and they are using their creativity and friendship to do it. With members aged 19 to 25 years, they have enough experience with the scene here to make a difference.
That was the biggest take-away of the interview — they are in this together. The group truly wants to put Kalamazoo on the map for musicians and shows. Caged Lotus plans to continue organizing shows, and releasing new music.