The Motet's "Funk is Dead" 10.28.11

The Aggie Theatre
Fort Collins, CO

Words & Video By Nicholas Stock
Photos By J-man, Nicholas Stock & Greg Molitor (ReMIND Photography)

To finish my month of Deadtober, I decided to catch The Motet’s opening night performance of “Funk is Dead”, a celebratory four-night string of Colorado shows featuring funky interpretations of Dead music. It was the night before J-man’s birthday, and with MusicMarauders editor Greg Molitor in town visiting from Michigan, this was the first show that all three of us attended together.

The crowd was packed as Amy and I made our way in early so I could set up for photos. I found a spot up front, and as it became closer to show time, the sold out crowd of costumed kids filtered in. The Motet took the stage around 10:35 PM. Their full lineup including singer Kim Dawson was performing, and the hours of practice were evident from the “Samson and Delilah” opener. Even at the start, it was obvious that we were in for some funky weirdness. I say weird in the best way possible; it was not your typical Grateful Dead experience. They went into “St. Stephen” that was built on what sounded like the funk progression of David Bowie’s “Fame”. Getting into the groove early, Joey Porter busted out his Talk Box to give the vocals an even funkier feel. They went into a deeply gritty “New Speedway Boogie” that indicated The Motet had done their homework and had gone the extra mile to pick tracks that would work well with their funk styling. Additional highlights from the first set included an awesome “Loose Lucy”, as well as a “Fire On The Mountain” that sounded like it was built on a “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” foundation.

During set break, the costumed freaks headed outside for some air, soaking in what they had just witnessed. It was obvious that we were not getting a standard interpretation of the Grateful Dead. When The Motet has taken on bands that are more aligned with their native sound, they do mostly straight covers. This wasn’t what they were doing at The Aggie. For The Motet to take on the music of the Dead at this stage in their career, it says something about their progression and growth.

Having played the music of everyone from the Talking Heads to Herbie Hancock to Earth, Wind, and Fire, performing The Dead almost seems like a step backward, but by giving these classic tunes a funky work over, new life was breathed into the music , providing the audience something fresh to embrace.

The Motet opened the second set with an unexpected “Help on the Way > Slipknot > Franklin’s Tower”. “Franklin’s” is by far one of my favorite Dead tunes and seeing this funky rendition reinvigorated me. It was time to get down as the gigantic crowd swayed to the beat. The audience was definitely in the mood for a good time and that is exactly what they got. The highlight of the second set for me was the enormous “Shakedown Street” that clocked-in at well over 15 minutes.

“Shakedown” is a fairly funky tune by its own right, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch for The Motet to include this one in the set list. It really fired up the crowd. They went into a ripping “Terrapin” where Kim Dawson got a chance to shine. She slayed the song vocally, reaching far above the crowd and taking the set to an obvious peak. One more song to note from the second set was an awesome version of “The Other One”. All in all, it was quite the experience. As I previously stated, it would have been easy for The Motet to do straight Dead covers, but they put in the extra time and effort into creating a truly memorable experience. Their show at The Aggie was not only entertaining but also intensely innovative. I had a ton of fun and was glad to catch this opener. With another three nights on this run, they are bound to make lots of people happy on the Front Range.

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