The Motet served up a funky bowl of goodness to the Crystal Bay Casino that was as delicious for the body as it was nutritious for the soul.
Denver’s funky child has always been a beam of positive force when it comes to the shores of Lake Tahoe. The band’s dedicated touring, rousing live show and intuitive music has developed quite a following in the basin and its concerts are a celebration of life, dance and music. The Feb. 4 show was filled to the brim with all those shaking hips and the energy in the room was buzzing with delight.
Syracuse native Sophistafunk joined The Motet on its West Coast run this time around. Adam Gold, Jack Brown and Emanuel Washington packed a huge sound that dabbled in blues, soul, hip-hop, funk and jazz. Brown was a magnetic MC and the cool tones of keyboards and slick drum lines felt like The Roots backing A Tribe Called Quest on a tour of hole-in-the-wall clubs. Everyone knows The Motet is going to come heavy and hard with the soul and funk and sometimes opening bands cater too much to the headlining group’s sound. Sophistafunk’s hip-hop infused sound came from a slightly different viewpoint than The Motet and its set was an eye-opener to a band that deserves some more ears.
With the crowd warmed up and sweaty, it was The Motet’s time to put the show into overdrive. Dave Watts (drums), Joey Porter (keys), Garrett Sayers (bass), Ryan Jalbert (guitar), Gabe Mervine (trumpet) and Matt Pitts (tenor sax) have been playing together for more than a decade and have developed an infectious deep-pocket groove. Over the last 15 years, the band’s instrumental prowess always has been balanced by the passionate vocals of percussionist Jans Ingber. Ingber left The Motet earlier this year and the group has been having friends guesting at vocals for this tour. Lyle Divinsky and Tanya Shylock graced the stage for this show and they proved to be a dynamic set of pipes.
The Motet was tight all night and never let one note slip from its fingers. The pulsing, diligent energy of the band vibes with the relentless rhythm of disco and club music in the 1970s and it never took a song off to dilly-dally with slow jams. The unfortunate passing of Earth, Wind & Fire founding member Maurice White that day was memorialized in fitting celebration of his music. Divinsky and Shylock led a jaw-droppingly solid “Serpentine” that evolved into a punchy jam of looping bass, guitar and horns and an ecstatic “Mighty, Mighty” that shined with the brightness of White’s everlasting spirit.
Each song popped with flavor and left a soulful aftertaste in your limbs. The band flexed its dance muscles on the driving original “Afro Discobeat” from its 2006 album “Instrumental Dissent.” Sayers and Watts laid down the dirty afrobeat rhythm as the horns peppered the groove with sharp blasts of power. Bodies answered to a higher calling, maybe Fela’s, as the crowd got lost in the music.
Later, The Motet took the crowd on a electronic R&B journey on the strength of Porter’s psychedelic talk-box. The squawking voice modulator just had a super funky texture to it that tasted good on anything Porter spread it over and the band switched in and out of soul, R&B and afrobeat grooves in the monster jam, culminating in an explosive drum solo from a determined Watts.
At this point, The Motet can always be expected to lay down a fantastic show when it visits Tahoe. Thankfully, history repeated itself last night to the joy of everyone bumping and grinding in the Crown Room.