The Motet does so well in its home-court markets of Colorado and parts of the West Coast that getting the whole, swollen, funk- and jazz-tastic lineup out East usually requires a special occasion.
In this case, that occasion is the resounding success of Funk Is Dead, a funkify-the-Grateful-Dead concept that The Motet intended as a one-off — one of its annual Halloween interpretations, to be exact — but has taken on a life of its own thanks to fan interest.
It’s been the catalyst for finally bringing the band back to East Coast markets it rarely plays. The band has sold out every Funk Is Dead show so far, says drummer Dave Watts, and will finally bring the production to a short run of four East Coast shows – Philly, D.C., Baltimore and NYC – at the end of April.
A production, it is. The Motet’s membership has always been somewhat elastic in the 15-plus years Watts has been running it, and on top of the core – Watts on drums, Garrett Sayers on bass, Joey Porter on keys, Dan Schwindt on guitar and Ryan Jalbert on guitar – the Funk Is Dead shows also showcase Gabe Mervine on trumpet and Matt Pitts on tenor sax, and three vocalists: Kim Dawson, Jans Ingber and Paul Creighton.
Hidden Track caught up with Watts – a Boston-to-Colorado transplant who now lives north of Boulder in Lyons, Colo. — to hear about the Motet’s latest adventures, in Dead-land and beyond. (Of particular note for New York-based fans is that at following the NYC Funk Is Dead show, April 29 at the Highline Ballroom, least three members of the Motet will be also joining the last night of the Kung Fu residency at Brooklyn Bowl on Monday, April 30 – Watts and Porter with side project Juno What?! and Sayers as an announced special guest.)
HIDDEN TRACK: How did the Funk is Dead concept come about for you guys?
DAVE WATTS: Well we do this every year – cover music for Halloween – and typically it’s funk music from the ’70s and ’80s: Tower of Power, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire, we did Michael Jackson one time. One of our favorite ones we ever did, though was Talking Heads. With that, the audience knows every song and gets excited and sings the material, and that’s exciting for us because the energy level jumps a couple of notches. With Earth Wind & Fire and Tower of Power it’s great but it’s a handful of stuff that we love and no one really knows, so we were looking to see what group would be ubiquitous, with the audience recognizing all the material. The Grateful Dead seemed to be part of that.