The Motet returns to Breckenridge for Dew Tour performance
IF YOU GO
When: Dec. 15 at 9:45 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m., Luke Mitrani performs at 7:30 p.m. and The Reminders play at 8:30 p.m.
Where: Breckenridge Riverwalk Center, 150 W. Adams Ave.
Cost: Tickets are $40 for general admission and $100 for VIP. Visit DewTour.com to purchase.
Twenty years. Nine albums. Seven members. One founder. Over the years Denver-based funk group The Motet has been performing their signature sound for audiences around the country. This weekend, as part of the Dew Tour, they’ll return to the Riverwalk Center for the first time in two years to get people grooving.
Though The Motet founder Dave Watts didn’t grow up in a musical family, he was always drawn to drums.
“Drums are just really therapy,” Watts said. “For me, it was just a real, pure release. All of my favorite rock drummers — Led Zeppelin, The Who — and all that classic rock drumming just got me excited about life, more than sports or anything else. I would come home from school and cherish the hour or two I got to play drums.”
About a year into courses at Boston University, the East Coaster realized he could turn the pipe dream he had from high school band class into reality so he transferred to Berklee College of Music. The more classical music program at BU didn’t appeal to him and neither did jazz drumming. Watts then dug deep into his younger years for a familiar sound that came out of the radio by groups like Kool & the Gang and the Isley Brothers: Funk of the ’70s and ’80s.
“For me, it’s just part of my blood,” said Watts. “When I hear those kind of grooves, it throws me back to my childhood so I’ve always had a place in my heart for that kind of music. As I got older I realized how musical and technical funk drumming is.”
In the footsteps of Phish in the early ’90s he traveled west to Colorado with a jam band, settled down in Boulder and founded The Motet in 1998.
“The music scene here was fertile. … It was me basically wanting to take advantage of the community of musicians out here and wanting to play the styles that I was most interested in.”
The band’s name refers to the Medieval musical term “motet,” which when broadly defined describes a polyphonic composition highly diverse in style and sound. It was an especially fitting name in their early days when the band’s lineup would change from show to show, morphing from trio to quartet to quintet and more.
“Over the years we’d play more world music, afro-Cuban, Brazilian, afro-jazz, electronic, afrobeat. We really mixed it up quite a bit. But in the back of my mind I always wanted it to be a band with a strong lineup and a framework of sound so it had more stability and the ability to grow.”
The group’s instrumentation — consisting of drums, guitar, keyboard, bass, tenor sax, trumpet and vocals — normalized roughly six or seven years ago and the current lineup has remained the same for four or five years, the longest in the band’s history.
“It’s definitely become what I sort of envisioned early on. I knew it was going to take awhile and not going to be consistent up to a certain point, but now it’s at that point. I’m not really the bandleader musically, we’re all leaders musically together, which is why I changed the name (from Dave Watts’ Motet) to The Motet (before the first album) because I didn’t want it to be a drummer-led band.”
With the strong core in place, it has been two years since the band performed a set of covers on Halloween, a 16-year tradition a la Phish that saw them play the music of Herbie Hancock, Tower of Power, Stevie Wonder and Watts’ favorite, Earth, Wind and Fire.
“It’s a great tool for us because when you study another group’s entire discography it really does something for your vocabulary.”
Instead, the group has been now focusing on recording original music in Denver and adding to their live show repertoire. With their ninth album, called “Death or Devotion” dropping on Jan. 25, and a recently announced July concert at Red Rocks with Galactic and Moon Hooch, there are no signs of Watts and The Motet slowing down.
“That’s called retirement and I’m not interested in that. … This is something we do for our lives. … We do it because we love it. … We want to do more.”
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