The Motet at Mishawaka 6.18.11

Words By J-man
Photos & Video By Carly Marthis & J-man

After seeking an excuse to make it up to Mishawaka (a venue that we have heard only good things about), an opportunity presented itself in the form of one of my current favorite bands and a great group of gentleman. My girlfriend Carly and I were invited by "Pistol" Pete Wall to join the Motet horn section up to the Mish. March Fourth would open the show, DJ Mikey Thunder would play the tweener set and The Motet would close it down. The evening felt like a circus. With folks in costumes and others on stilts, The Motet performed one of, if not the best show that I have seen them play.

Our afternoon started near a street fair in Denver. We parked our car and were picked up by Pete who was joined by Matt Pitts (tenor sax) and Gabe Mervine (trumpet) in his sick-ass conversion van. The friendly trash talking began, only to increase on the drive through the curvy roads into the mountains.

We arrived at Mishawaka and I immediately fell in love. The venue was located on a river across from a beautiful scenic mountainside. The stage was made out of large logs and had a very natural feel to it. To my surprise, the venue was a lot smaller than I had anticipated and had a much more intimate feel than expected. Seeing it empty at the time, as it was 4:00 PM (several hours before show time), I looked forward to seeing it in full effect that evening.

Carly and I had a bite to eat on the restaurant deck over the river. As we sat and dined, we had plenty of time to take in the whole atmosphere... it was quite incredible. Following dinner, we headed to the greenroom where we were told stories of the previous owner and his parrot who used to fly around and shit on everything as well as nip at folks. We laughed at the absurdity of the stories and reflected on the improvements by the new owner(s). By all accounts, the place was in much better shape and operating order.

The greenroom was like a small apartment with a full kitchen and a couple of nice spreads. The atmosphere was really light as The Motet dined casually and prepped for the show. We headed over to the merch table followed by Dave Watts who carried a suitcase. March Fourth had an extensive merch setup with everything from shirts to hats to belts. The woman running the booth spoke of how the band had two sewing machines on the bus and made their own goods. We were impressed. Dave and Carly tried on hats before Dave settled on two.

Making our way back to the viewing deck, we noticed folks pointing at the mountainside across the river. A group of mountain goats had come down to graze on the grass and possibly catch some tunes (free-loaders). It was a beautiful sight.

The evening's music began with a short lead in by DJ Mikey Thunder. His tasteful selections of funk and jazz had me entertained. It takes a special kind of DJ to impress me, and I was thoroughly into it. The guys from The Motet looked on with smiles and good cheer.

March Fourth Marching Band took the stage as the sun set, officially opening the show. I wasn't sure how this was going to play out as the stage filled with rag tag looking individuals. But from the very beginning, I was a fan. The combination of the horns, the marching drums and the antics were extremely entertaining. More and more members of the band came out from backstage in costumes, on stilts and in dancing attire. It was an overloaded circus vibe with great tunes to back it.

Where as most closers could care less about the opening band, the majority of The Motet watched intently from the VIP deck. It was great to see such a great response from the crowd as the stilt walkers had everyone move back for a display of what they were capable of. Acrobatics, a stripper pole and organized dancing were all a part of the fun.

Following the March Fourth set, the crowd was buzzing as folks continued to arrive in large touring-class buses. DJ Mikey Thunder played a short set in between as The Motet prepared their equipment and took the stage.

It was apparent from the get-go that this would be a special show. Maybe it was the venue, maybe it was the crowd or a combination of both, but the band was excited and loose. From the very first song, it was clear that they would leave no one standing still.

From left to right; Joey Porter dug into the keys chopping away effortlessly and swaying back and forth. From his clavinet chops to his tonal bends, The sounds that came out of Joey's keys were some of the most enjoyable that I have ever heard. Joey adds one of the greatest contributions to the Motet... funk.

Garrett Sayers stood towards the back of the stage, not only holding down the low end but covering so much range. It was entertaining to realize that my jaw was hanging open, then to notice that almost everyone in the band was in the same position. Garrett is a musician's musician with an ability to completely captivate a crowd. I have seen some of the world's greatest bass players, but Garrett is without a doubt my favorite.

At the very back of the stage was the magic man himself, Dave Watts. Dave's role in The Motet is band manager, booking, merch, everything. His role on the drums is of the same level. Dave leads and guides the Motet directionally to places that only someone of elevated vision and ability could take them. Dave holds the band to a high standard musically and that's reflected in their output.

To Dave's left was percussionist Scott Messersmith. Percussionists often get overlooked but in a band like the Motet, Scott's contribution is immeasurable. I took time to focus on Scott as he powered through the sets. His playing was tight as he added such a danceable/tasteful/unique layer to the Motet's electro-funk sound. At times, the hand drums took the music to a pure afrobeat-sounding dance party. Additionally, Scott's timing and sense of musical direction was apparent.

At the front of the stage was guitarist Ryan Jalbert. Since the first time I saw Ryan play I dug his sound, but this night at the Mish, he absolutely tore it up. A special moment came in the second set as Ryan teased the Grateful Dead's "Dark Star". I'm sure most of the fans didn't catch or recognize it, but for those of us who did, it foreshadowed The Motet's upcoming "Funk is Dead" Halloween run.

Singer Jans Ingber captivated the crowd with his showman-like abilities. He danced as the Motet played, serving as a medium between the crowd and the band. Jans also contributed on percussion with a cool moment coming in the form of March Fourth. Jans and members of March Fourth stood at the front of the stage for a killer drums and percussion breakdown.

Lastly, the spice of the Motet... the horn section. Collectively, they sounded tight and didn't miss a cue, individually they were a force to be reckoned with. When musicians of this stature play in a section, it's easy to miss the full scope of their talents, but one thing that is unique to the Motet is their band's willingness to feature individual talent through solos.

Pete tore down the house with several solos, most notably solos featuring the soprano sax. The soprano is often associated with smooth jazz, a notion that Pete Wall has since torn down. His straight ahead, all or nothing style captivated the crowd and resulted in screams of joy. Pete also graced the crowd with some flute, baritone and some duel instrumentation featuring both the soprano and bari.

Gabe's trumpet playing was right to follow with impressive tonal quality and the brass to move the crowd. His solos were constructed well and his bright sound put smiles on the faces of so many eating up his display of talent.

Matt Pitts had one of the standout solos of the evening at the peak of multiple fire spinners in front of the stage. It could have been the surrounding environment, but Matt tore apart the tenor sax and contributed to one of the major highlights of the show.

Then there was Steve Swatkins of Juno What who guested. I had a great time talking music with Steve and observing his minor apprehension for having to cover for Ryan on guitar the following night in Statebridge. A couple of times I observed him playing along in the greenroom, putting the finishing touches on his chops. Steve joined The Motet for a couple of vocal tracks, a couple of tracks with Joey on keys and a killer Juno solos towards the end of the show.

That night was the best Motet show I have seen to date. It's great to see a band with such consistent energy and music. No man was the weak link as they collectively elevated the project to musical bliss. In addition to enjoying their music, I feel honored to consider them friends and to be welcomed into their circle. We're looking forward to this weekend's upcoming Motet with Kyle Hollingsworth tribute to The Talking Heads concert. I have a feeling that it will be epic, a must for any true Talking Heads/Motet fan.

To the staff of Mishawaka, we were overwhelmingly impressed with the beauty, efficiency and incredible vibe of your venue. Cheers to you and we look forward to many more experiences at the Mish.

Photo Gallery From The Show


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