The Motet
Siskiyou Brew Pub | Ashland, OR | 12.10.02

Any being whose first sensual experience in this world was nine months surrounded by fluid heartbeats will be drawn to The Motet. I was thankful for my incarnation as a mammal, and shook, bounced, swayed and watched as various appendages jabbed at the air in controlled lashes to the percussion-driven sounds from the stage. Three of the six members pounded percussion instruments, and Dave Watts led on the drum set.

The music cannot be categorized in a single genre. Some songs were defined by the drums, creating a tribal, ritual sound that should be played around a bonfire, naked in the moonlight, then slipped into something completely different without a moment’s break. They swam between funk, Latin, jazz, Flamenco, tribal, carnival-style sounds begging for a conga line, and even dabbled with a few spacey interludes floating through jams.

Before this show I’d only seen The Motet in snippets at High Sierra Music Festival, and Dave Watts playing with one of my favorites, Keller Williams, in his trio with Ty North. I enjoyed Dave’s percussion addition to Keller’s unique sound, but it was difficult to pay close attention to him amidst the sporadic, loud and frequent “Keller,” yodels that inevitable fly from my mouth in his presence. I now understand why Keller chose him for the trio; he plays powerfully, with interesting, quick, sharp sounds while creating a blanket for bongos, congas, shakers and other percussion instruments.

The Motet’s music is ideal for enjoying outside on hot summer nights. It of course made sense then, that it fit in a small, one-room, underground pub in the middle of winter. I believe their ability to play joyful, thick, sunshine scented music at any time provides human beings reason not to hibernate.

The small venue of the Siskiyou Brew Pub in Ashland, OR, paired with the spirit enlivening drumming, soon created a sweat lodge atmosphere — very appropriate to the tribal sounds where a goat sacrifice or spiritual vision would have seemed commonplace events. Much of the upbeat, ethnic, clear-cut, fast-paced, hip-shaking energy of the evening was influenced by the opening band SambaDa. They joined The Motet in various forms throughout the show, spreading from the tiny stage like spilled honey, blending completely with the audience. Often, the only evidence of their link to stage was a periodic burst of a shaker, whistle or drum, and unified juts of their arms to the ceiling in-between beats. Their sound begged for parades and streets packed with sequent-covered dancers. A few songs embraced the marching band size of the ever-increasing number of musicians playing, and incorporated whistles to start and stop flows in their jams. The whole show was very different from the funk and vocals of The Motet’s most recent Live album.

Bodies moved continuously, and I wished for more limbs and joints to fully express all the different sounds pouring through the room. Distinct rhythms and clear waves of movement were born from the drums. The audience responded in coordinated flailings, as if we were dancing in the ocean. So many varied forms of dance and expression, all adhesively bonded by music. Standing at the back, the room seemed fluid and choreographed.

The Motet with SambaDa
Joyful energy purged from the stage, touching everyone in the room. It was a real treat to see so many people smiling. Some people bounced and swayed solitarily, others convulsed and shook old and stagnant beings from their flesh, and a few found partners to stomp fast rhythms with quick dips and turns (only missing a rose clenched between the teeth). They ended their one very long, non-stop set with all of SambaDa grabbing an instrument or two and spurting one last Latin-style tune, arms thrown up in unison between beats saying, "Hey!" It’s amazing that that many sounds and noises can come together and form cohesive and enjoyable music. Young and old, there were no distinctions between people by the end of the night — it was just a room full of people joyfully splashing to The Motet’s energetic beats.

Words: Reanna Feinberg
Photos: Zach Ehlert
JamBase | Pacific Northwest
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[Published on: 12/20/02]

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