The Motet 08.21.02
Lincoln Theatre, Raleigh, NC
If I live to be 100, I'll bet on the last day of my life someone could walk in the room and turn me on to a dozen great bands I'd never heard. There are so many exciting, young bands making music these days that it's almost impossible to keep track. I also believe that more great bands are playing to 200 people in a club than 20,000 people in an arena. Last night I was lucky enough to stumble onto one of these new finds, a sextet from Boulder, Colorado called The Motet.
Led by powerhouse vocalist Jans Ingber, The Motet's sound owes as much to Latin jazz as jamband traditions. In fact, as with most jambands, their sound encompasses so many styles, from Cuban to jazz to funk to rock, that "jamband" may be the only quasi-category they could fit into. Comparisons to Stevie Wonder may be inevitable for Ingber, due to the tone of his voice and his obvious love for Stevie, but he has unquestionably developed his own style behind the mic. Besides singing, Ingber also has a passion for drumming, and during most jams will drift towards the back of the stage, hammering away on percussion while the rest of the band creates the driving, pulsing sound they're quickly becoming known for.
I've seen a lot of concerts in my life, as I'm sure most of you have, but I can honestly say this is the first time I've ever thought to myself "I wish the lead singer would sing more." Ingber is so ego-less on stage that for the majority of the set he's simply another percussionist. When he steps to the mic, however, The Motet's secret weapon is revealed, and helps take them over the top.
The sound they create is unique in the jamband world. The songs stretch out with plenty of improvisation, but much of their jamming is rhythm based, chugging away on all cylinders without necessarily having a soloist leading the way all the time. The energy is based in the group mind, creating movement and force, letting the beats of the tunes lead the way. Several times throughout the show they broke into massive drum jams, at times with all 6 members of the band playing drums and percussion together. The sound they created during these drumbreaks was powerful and inspiring. If every parking lot drum circle were this good, no one would go into the show.
The second set opened with several band members on the floor in front of the stage, mixed in with the crowd, pounding away on their drums. This went on for at least ten minutes, with fans dancing between them, twirling and dipping with drinks in hand, trying not to spill anything on the band. Then, just at the moment the drums stopped, the band members on stage launched straight into a supergroove vamp. Greg Raymond laid down some tripalicious keyboard licks, while bassist Garrett Sayers, the most recent addition to the band, joined in on the funky funky bass. Not only can Sayers solo like a madman, but he also relishes in providing the foundation for the sound, often playing more percussively than melodically. Drummer Dave Watts and percussionist Scott Messersmith held down the beats all night, sounding so good that the others couldn't help but put down their own instruments occasionally to join them on the drums.
Rounding out the group is guitarist Mike Tiernan, who alternates between funky rhythm, psychedelic leads, and slide guitar mayhem. Like the others, he views his solos not simply as opportunities to display mighty chops, but rather a chance to play in service of the song. If it calls for notes blazed by at lightning speed, so be it. If the groove is taking over, then it's funky rhythms with some of your favorite '70s effects. This is the true definition of "world music." A band that draws from all corners of the globe - be it Cuban jazz, Brazilian samba, or Motor City R&B - to get the sounds out of their heads and into ours. One ferocious jam sped up and up and up, resembling a looped out electronic piece, until it seemed they had summoned Sound Tribe Sector Nine into the room.
For the encore, they broke out one of my personal favorite songs of all time, an obscure funk/rock/jazz masterpiece called "Freaks for the Festival," by legendary jazzman Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Originally issued on Kirk's 1975 album The Case of the 3-Sided Dream in Audio Color, the song was a perfect way to end an amazing show, with the band wailing away over tasty chord changes and intense rhythms.
By embracing The Motet, the jamband community is basically stating that there is no limit to what this genre can offer, because The Motet isn't really a jamband in the traditional sense. They're touring all over the country these days, with an upcoming slot at The Disco Biscuits' Camp Bisco festival this weekend, and a new live album on the way. Treat yourself to a trip around the world.
JamBase | North Carolina
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