With Real Dance Music, The Motet does Tahoe two-step

Tahoe Onstage
The Motet returned to the Crystal Bay Casino for two nights, March 1-2.
Michael Smyth / Tahoe Onstage

The Motet has a response to the EDM craze: Real Dance Music – RDM.

“It serves the same purpose; it makes people move,” said drummer Dave Watts. “I am surprised when kids are blown away that people actually play instruments.”

Ever evolving, The Motet has made people move with its live shows and albums since 1998. Watts is the remaining original member. In its early years, the band had a world percussive sound as Watts and other members immersed themselves into Cuba’s Santeria culture with its bata drums. Today’s music is flavored in funk. The opening track of The Motet’s ninth studio album, “Death or Devotion,” released on Jan. 25, opens like a soundtrack from Curtis Mayfield’s “Super Fly.”

“We love that disco and we love that ‘70s funk vibe,” Watts said. “It’s not that we’re trying to make a replica of that era, but it just comes out naturally for us when we go in that direction.”

Tahoe Onstage
Lyle Divinski of The Motet

The Motet’s penchant to explore different paths and try new ideas is what keeps the band and its fans inspired and more popular than it has ever been.

It has released three albums in six years, with the most recent being the first with vocalist Lyle Divinsky, saxophonist Drew Sayers and Parris Fleming as participants of the entire process. A song usually starts with a groove by drums, bass, guitar and keyboards, then Divinsky adds melodies and lyrics before the funky accroutrement of horns is included in the mix. Keyboardist Joey Porter, who has produced records for other bands, did so for the first time with The Motet.

While there is a wave of support by younger music audiences for electronic dance music, The Motet is part of a growing base of funk love for bands such as Lettuce, Dumpstaphunk and Jamiraquai.

The Motet brings its deliciously danceable creations to the Sierra Nevada from Denver and the Rocky Mountains. It has a two-night run at the Crystal Bay Casino, where it plays annually. It also headlined Squaw Valley’s Brews Jazz & Funk Fest a couple of years ago.

Dirty Revival from Portland, Oregon, opens on the first night. “They have great energy, great songs and lead singer Sarah Clarke is fantastic,” Watts said. “We love playing with those guys. It’s a similar thing to (our music). It’s the perfect kind of opener for our audience.”

The second night will open with a Los Angeles band with a Hollywood name – Organ Freeman.

“That’s a different path musically, but equally as satisfying,” Watts said. “There’s lots of improvisation and great musicianship and creative songs. I think it’s the first time we’ve played together. I definitely love listening to their music.”

— Tim Parsons

Tahoe Onstage
Drummer Dave Watts is the original member of The Motet.


Related story: Q&A with Dirty Revival’s Sarah Clarke.

    • The Motet
      Dave Watts (drums)
      Joey Porter (keys)
      Garrett Sayers (bass)
      Ryan Jalbert (guitar)
      Lyle Divinsky (vocals)
      Drew Sayers (sax)
      Parris Fleming (trumpet)

    • ‘Death or Devotion’
      Release: Jan. 25, 2019
      Press: Denver-based funk and soul ensemble The Motet has officially released their new album, Death Or Devotion, today, January 25th. The 10-track album, the group’s ninth studio album available via their own label, is a killer collection of feel good grooves featuring the singles “Highly Compatible,” “Whacha Gonna Bring,” “Supernova” and “Get It Right.”Death Or Devotion earmarks an important point in The Motet’s journey. For 20 years, the seven-piece (Dave Watts [drums], Joey Porter [keys], Garrett Sayers [bass], Ryan Jalbert [guitar], Lyle Divinsky [vocals], Drew Sayers [sax] and Parris Fleming [trumpet]) have been fusing boisterous badass funk and swaggering soul with a thought-provoking inventiveness to create something truly unique. The new album, recorded at Scanhope Sound in their native Colorado, marks the first time Lyle, Drew and Parris worked on a Motet record together from start-to-finish. Each member of the band brought something different to the mix with their own unique set of musical influences and styles. The new collection of songs finds the band pushing boundaries and breaking new ground, welcoming old fans and new audiences alike – continually providing a welcome escape for listeners.To support the album’s release, The Motet will make their way across the country this Winter hitting such markets as Salt Lake City, Seattle, Portland, Berkeley, Charlotte, Richmond, Washington, DC, Atlanta and Nashville, among others. Additionally, The Motet will stop in Boston, Philadelphia and Brooklyn alongside fellow funk band Galactic, with whom they’ll also co-headline Red Rocks Amphitheatre with on Friday, July 12. This summer’s date will mark the band’s fifth annual appearance at the legendary venue in their home state of Colorado.
    • In concert
      Feb. 22 – Berkeley, CA | UC Theater (w/ John Medeski’s Mad Skillet)
      March 1 – Crystal Bay, NV | Crystal Bay Club (w/ Dirty Revival)
      March 2 – Crystal Bay, NV | Crystal Bay Club (w/ Organ Freeman)
      March 7 – Charlotte, NC | Neighborhood Theater (w/ No BS Brass Band)
      March 8 – Richmond, VA | The National (w/ No BS Brass Band)
      March 9 – Washington, DC | 9:30 Club (w/ No BS Brass Band)
      March 14 – Jacksonville, FL | 1904 Music Hall (w/ Exmag)
      March 15 – Atlanta, GA | Variety Playhouse (w/ Naughty Professor)
      March 16 – Nashville, TN | Exit/In (w/ Electric Kif)
      May 31 – June 2 – Ozark, AR | Backwoods Camping & Music Festival
      July 12 – Morrison, CO | Red Rocks Amphitheatre (w/ Galactic and Moon Hooch)
      July 24 – 28 – Floyd, VA | FloydFest

      Images from the 2018 show at Crystal Bay Casino

      Taoe Onstage
      Serious fans of The Motet enjoy two nights in a row at the Crystal Bay Casino.

  • Album superlatives

  • “Death Or Devotion sounds like a musical time capsule that was contributed to by heavyweights like Teddy Pendergrass, The Neville Brothers, Zapp and Roger, Tower of Power, and Earth Wind and Fire.”
    Music Marauders
  • “They have a sound that is instant classic. The Motet combine funk, soul and attitude to create something special that classic soul lovers will dig.”
  • “From the down and dirty funk of ‘Whatcha Gonna Bring’ to the classic disco of ‘Highly Compatible,’ The Motet brings the party but also a message, one that is very much needed these days, of unity and acceptance. The funk may be dirty but the message is clear.”
  • “Death Or Devotion showcases the band’s reverence for the funk tradition through masterful execution of the style. Each track exudes booty-shaking energy, thanks to airtight grooves from the rhythm section, crisp but nasty horn lines, and soulful vocals.”
    BandWagon Magazine

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.


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