It was all Scarlet Begonias, a touch of the blues, and a whole lot of funk and soul last night at the Boulder Theater. The Motet was back in town for an encore performance of their "Funk is Dead Show." They were in Boulder for the Halloween show last October and it just wasn't enough to last us another full year. This show also sold out in no time, and there were so many people walking the streets outside of the Theater begging for tickets that I thought they might start breaking down the doors to get in. Taking on the Grateful Dead in this town is no small feat, but the Motet does it with ease, soul, and a deep cadence that resonates through the whole town long into the night.
I absolutely love the stage setup for this show. Huge, glowing skulls with bright red roses placed around the stage; Soft red lighting, with bursts of blue and green. It's eerie, classic, artistic, beautiful, and exactly what i would have pictured a fusing of the Motet with the Grateful Dead would look like. The only thing missing was a group of dancing bears dressed in zoot suits.
Yellow Dubmarine, an 8-person group from Washington DC, started the night out right with with a reggae/funk inspired cover of Beatles from "Abbey Road." I was feeling a little skeptical before they went on, thinking to myself that this was just another gimmicky Beatles cover band that would inevitably pander to the crowd and haphazardly stumble through our favorite Beatles hits like so many cover bands do. No one likes to admit when their wrong, but this was one instance where I was happy to eat my words. I loved these guys. Reggae and cover music have never been my favorite genres, but I can honestly say I've never been more pleasantly surprised by a group. These guys tapped into the heart of the Beatles and added a fusion of rhythm and soul that revived the spirit of the 60's while remaining modern, fresh, and fun.
By the time the Motet went on, I couldn't even navigate my way through the crowd to get a good shot of the stage. As a photographer, this frustrated me but I also realized that the tougher it is to get good pictures, the better the show. These guys, as always, were dancing around the stage with each other, moving in and out of the spotlights, and just loving life. The best part of the Funk is Dead show is that you really don't have to know anything about the Dead or even like their music to enjoy the show. I've seen these guys play a lot and it really never gets old. They cover the Dead so well that it's difficult for me to image those songs sounding any other way now. "Playing In The Band," "Fire on The Mountain," "Casey Jones" and "Turn On Your Love Light" were just a few of the great songs they covered over the night and the crowd sang along to every song and were on their feet for the whole thing.
In my opinion, it was singer Kim Dawson who stole the show. Her powerful pipes took center stage and rose the above the rhythm section, the horns, the guitars, and a packed theatre. A fighter jet would have a hard time competing against her vocal chords, but the best thing about her is how well her voice complements the rest of the rest of the guys and remains strong, without being overpowering. Equally as great were Jans Ingber and Paul Creighton. Their voices fit so well with the others and their energy and joy on stage is infectious. Joey Porter (keys), Dave Watts (drums), and Garrett Sayers (bass), also brought down the house and added the funky and precise rhythms we all recognize as being uniquely "Motet."
However, it was Ryan Jalbert and Dan Schwindt who bridged the gap between the Motet and the Dead with their melodic and crisp guitars riffs. While most of the post-psychedelic jammy sound of the Dead was replaced by deep bass and funky runs, it was the guitarists who teased out some of those old-style barefoot, patchouli infused flowing melodies that have kept the Dead alive and well for over 40 years. Finally, the glue that holds all of these different styles and personalities together is the famous Motet horn section. Gabe Mervine (trumpet), Matt Pits (tenor sax), and Serafin Sanchez (Baritone Sax) really can do it all. I kept imaging them on stage with Phil, Jerry, and the others and how well these two two distinctly different sounds merge each other in a very pleasant and unexpectant way.
The group came back after intermission and picked right up where they left off, with the same amount of energy and enthusiasm all the way through to the end. This is a group that could come back to Boulder every month and generate the same exuberance from their fans every single time. If you haven't seen them on Halloween, I highly recommend checking them out when they return in October. There's no better party in town and as long as they keep belting out classics and keep doing what they do, funk will stay very much alive.