The Motet & Euforquestra 12.12.15

Neptune Theatre
Seattle, WA

Words By Coleman Schwartz
Photos By Scott Shrader (J. Scott Shrader Photography)

Notorious Colorado funksters, The Motet, have spent several years building a Seattle following, throwing jubilant dance parties at intimate venues such as Nectar Lounge and Tractor Tavern. On a blustery Saturday evening in December, the band’s efforts were rewarded with their first headlining gig at the city’s historic Neptune Theatre, an iconic 885-capacity venue just steps away from the University of Washington campus.

The band was supported by fellow Coloradans, Euforquestra, (originally from Iowa City, IA). After missing one of their previous Seattle gigs, I was excited to hear what this euphoric funk orchestra brought to the table. Composed of Mike Tallman (guitar and vocals), Otis Lande (bass), Matt Wright (keys, vocals), Austin Zaletel (saxophone, vocals), Matt Bricker (trumpet) and Craig Babineau (drums), this group is known for groove-based, exploratory dub/soul/funk music. Starting off to a fairly empty room, they wasted no time getting those in attendance to move around and enjoy the vast swatch of dance space available.

Zaletel was particularly impressive as he constantly switched between sax and vocals for the entire show, contributing outstandingly on each. Their set started off focused on driving horn leads and gradually progressed to a groovier, lead-guitar based sound. Colorado vocalist Tanya Shylock sat-in, demonstrating some of the better vocal control I have ever seen, and fitting effortlessly into the group. By the conclusion of their set, they had a mostly full house dancing uncontrollably, and undoubtedly hundreds of new fans. I cannot wait to see them play a headlining show in Seattle!

Set break was a welcome chance to appreciate the wonderful community of Seattle funk music supporters that help to make shows like this possible. Our group locked down a great spot on the relatively open balcony with perfect views and plenty of dancing space. Everything was in perfect order for a legendary dance party, and once the show began, The Motet more than fulfilled their end of the bargain.

The Motet is an improvisational funk band with heavy disco and afrobeat influences. I have often heard them compared to acts such as Jamiroquai and Parliament/Funkadelic. Founded by Dave Watts (drums), the band also features Joey Porter (keys), Garrett Sayers (bass guitar), Ryan Jalbert (guitar), Gabe Mervine (trumpet), Matt Pitts (tenor sax) and Jans Ingber (vocals and percussion).

This was my 5th time seeing The Motet since July of 2014, and I am happy to say that the band is still surprising me and improving between each show. This set featured lots of new material, and re-energized takes on Motet classics. You could feel the collective sense of relief in the room as hundreds of people danced away their long December week of finals, work-related stress, and rain.

Highlights of the set included several more sit-ins from Shylock, who seems to have established quite the rapport with the group. She was all over it on their 2010-adapted, 70’s disco-funk anthem “Knock it Down,” serving as the ideal vocal contrast to make this version really sound special. Not only did she harmonize perfectly with Ingber, but she also freed him up to play more percussion, which always adds a certain intensity to the band’s sound. The rendition of original classic “123” revealed their ability to play more in the style of a jam-band with afrobeat instrumentation. Sayers stood out as an absolute machine on bass guitar, propelled along by his remarkably thick, furry tone. As his bandmates locked into a tight instrumental groove, Ingber proved himself to be among the best dancers in the room, pushing everyone in the crowd to utterly lose themselves. Near the end of the tune, Porter got his first chance to get down on the clavs, his lengthy solo inspiring such movement in the crowd that the building could be felt to shake. Jalbert matched him note-for-note at times as the group concluded a tour-de-force jam.

Shylock then departed the stage, replaced by the Eurorquestra horns, Zaletel and Bricker. Ingber stated their intention to play some afrobeat and donned his jug. The souped-up band navigated their Fela Kuti-inspired song “Cheap Shit” with proficiency and power, garnering extreme appreciation from the raucous audience. Bricker teamed excellently with The Motet’s own Mervine, propelling the funk extravaganza into the stratosphere in a way that I thought none but Lettuce were capable of.

One of my favorite parts of The Motet’s live show is the number of weapons in their arsenal. Many of these weapons are provided by Porter. While keyboards, synthesizer, and clavs played prominent roles all evening, Porter made the fans wait nearly 90 minutes before first busting out his hallmark vocoder on “The Fountain.” As his synthesizer notes took on the inflection of his vocals, the music took on a new dimension of expressiveness.

They closed the set with a wild performance of “Like We Own It.” This soulful track features intricate, interlocking horn parts that nearly seem to encircle each other, and tend to get stuck in your head. Shylock’s contributions to this track were particularly dynamic, she does a great job of pushing Ingber to new heights vocally with her talent. The crowd refused to allow them to leave the stage for very long afterwards, bringing them back for an encore of “Keep on Don’t Stoppin’.” Sayers dazzled us with a final ridiculous bass solo. The man’s fingers move so quickly, he appears to teleport from fret to fret with no lag time.

After seeing a fifth Motet show, I came away with a renewed sense of excitement for the band’s future direction. It was great to see them play some new material and mix-up the setlists more than I had seen before. I am sure this trend should only continue as they work towards another album. This outfit of supremely talented musicians is really starting to come into their own as they affirm their place as a major band in the funk music scene by playing larger venues.

A caveat to this perspective is that, just a few days after this show, Ingber announced his decision to leave the group. The reason for this amicable split is that he prefers making music locally and spending time with his friends and family to the rigors of touring life (can you blame him?). The door seems to be open for him to return at a later date if he so chooses. His last shows will be their New Year’s Eve bash in Atlanta, and the 1/1 Phish after-party in New York City. The band seems determined to hit the road with a renewed vigor and plenty of special guests. I can only assume Shylock will be included in these plans, and I also look forward to seeing who else they collaborate with. Ingber has served a crucial role within the group, but as long as he is happy, there is no paucity of talented vocalists for the band to work with.

The Motet's Setlist: Brother Man > Knock it Down, 123 > Just Around > Jam, Don’t Leave Me, Cheap Shit*, Space and Time, Fight the Power, The Fountain, Don’t Wake, Like We Own It

Encore: Keep On Don’t Stoppin’

*with Matt Bricker (trumpet) and Austin Zaletel (saxophone) from Euforquestra

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