Words by: Ann Marie Svilar :: Images by: Susan J. Weiand
The Motet/On The One :: 09.13.07 :: 12 Galaxies :: San Francisco, CA
If I had been someone other than myself, say a deaf woman or someone equipped with a pair of those white noise earphones while watching On The One's performance at the 12 Galaxies I would still feel inspired to write this critique. On The One is a lively band to watch. Maybe it's because I am a writer, but when I am at a live show I need what I like to call "a little character development." I don't arrive expecting the high energy and theatrics of a Rolling Stones concert, nor do I want the band to be so involved with the audience that I am being told to put my hands together repeatedly at the start of every song. What I want, in any style and at any tempo, is a performance. If it's a sad singer-songwriter, I want to see the pain in the nerves. If the songs are political, I long to hear the anger. If it's a straight forward hard-driving rock 'n' roll throw back to Led Zeppelin sort of thing, then let me see the party in the big chords and swaggering knees. It's about having "duende" – so much passion for what you are doing that it seeps through the skin, and therefore becomes obvious to others. As a viewer, what I want to watch at a show is more than fancy lights and boys staring at their Apple computers. This is not the half time show, but this isn't just what's playing from my Ipod either.
| John Staten - On The One :: San Francisco|
Music is the only universal language. What my eyes took from this show, that my ears had no part in, was the pleasure of watching a four-piece band really communicate while they were playing. I envisioned a conversation with musical sound. They were laughing and looking at each other. Often Andy Irvine spoke directly to John Staten by hovering over him, close enough for conversation conducted in 12-inch voices. With his drum kit parked at stage right, Staten - arguably one of the most entertaining drummers touring today - engaged the crowd from the very beginning by simply looking and playing right to us, not a common characteristic for drummers who are often tucked in the back.
Probably tired road dogs by now, On The One's first studio album, Love Addiction (produced by KDTU's David Veith and mastered by Soulive's Alan Evans), is due out this October. On The One is Staten (Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Giant People) on drums, Jesse Molloy (Giant People and Pink Floyd Experience) on the saxophone, Aaron Bleiweiss (Starshak) on guitar and Irvine (Giant People, Beanstalk) on bass. Their sound is a jazzy sort of soul-funk, and some of the most danceable music I have heard in a while.
| Jesse Molloy - On The One :: SF|
On The One keep things interesting by switching the momentum within the songs and not hovering on a jazzy sax solo or a fast paced rock & roll jam too long. Here, they gave different weight to different parts with improvisation often leading to a climax and then the resolution to the music's intention. Mid-set they played "Tuesday Night," a song that took the crowd on a hip shaking roller coaster ride for over 16 minutes. When the tempo was slow, OTO was the kind of band that belongs in a dark red lit-bar where people sit on swivel seats and smoke long cigarettes. When the tempo was up they grasped at a big band sound with a funky George Clinton soul breakdown twist. Highlights of the show included multiple James Brown samples and a rockin' "Pump Up The Volume" to close out the set leaving the dance floor smiling and sweaty. They are what I have missed since Karl Denson's Tiny Universe stopped touring. On The One are the recent winners of the "Best Jazz Album of the Year" at the San Diego Music Festival and I'm not surprised.
The Motet was next and I was eager for their show. A longtime Colorado girl, I've got a history of seeing the band tear up mountain town bars but had heard rumors about a totally different sound. I give credit to any band who takes giant leaps, and that is what The Motet seems to do. But, the Motet has jumbled up their lineup like some people switch shoes, all the while still being held together by songwriter-drummer Dave Watts, the sole original member after nine years. It's hard to recognize who The Motet actually is anymore. The Motet is now Watts (drums), Garrett Sayers (bass), Dominic Lalli (saxophone), Ryan Jalbert (guitar) and Adam Revell (keys). I'm not sure if it's nostalgia or the need to hang on to a marketable name, but one wonders why The Motet chooses to still call themselves "The Motet" when they aren't even close to the same band anymore – and that's just talking about the lineup. The Motet I heard at The 12 Galaxies showed little resemblance to the high-energy, Afrobeat, loud, jazz-funk and percussion driven band I remember. Gone are the days of world beats. The Motet has dived head first into the improvisational electronic world.
When you listen to The Motet, you hear many different, well-timed sounds. The beats you hear are coming from one of two computers on stage. Computers, like synthesizers, leave the musician even more room to experiment, sure, but I was distracted by how much focus The Motet seemed to give those shiny silver machines.
| Aaron Bleiweiss - On The One :: San Francisco|
Electronic music is like a deep forest of sounds - some big as tree trunks, some leafy and almost unrecognizable. Listening and reflecting on their last album, Instrumental Dissent, I have to admit I miss Scott Messersmith and his popping percussion that used to add a lightness to that forest along with something obtuse and capable of leading us through the frenzy of layered music. The mood that The Motet set in the beginning made me want to sway back and forth leaning on a friends shoulder rather than dance my ass off. At this performance I got a little lost in the smart musicians playing repetitive grooves with textures upon textures. I had trouble deciphering where one trail began and the other ended. In some respects, Dominic Lalli's saxophone was what I grabbed onto throughout the night. His improvisations and tailored horn grooves were great.
I applaud The Motet for being brave enough to dive into whole new territory. I can think of a handful of bands that I used to like back in '96 who still sound just the same as they did way back when. A band that isn't willing to evolve and take risks gets boring. However, fans can be truly fickle, and I admit to being that way sometimes, too. It's like when a romantic relationship starts to change, which can make us judgmental. In my opinion, The Motet has flipped into a musical handstand. I say, "Run, puppy, run. But don't forget your roots." We don't want to get lost in transition.
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