The Scene: Every year in Colorado, April 20 really does feel like a holiday. But this year, with the passage of Amendment 64 last fall, Coloradoans were craving that Rocky Mountain High more than ever. Colfax was packed early in the day, and it definitely seemed like something strange was in the air. For the funky dance band known for its sold-out, psychedelic Halloween shows, the weirdness in the air last Saturday could have resembled one of those late October shows The Motet has been putting on for about a decade. Two bums got into a street fight on a nearby corner, word spread fast of shootings at the Civic Center Park festivities, and the Fillmore Auditorium was eerily empty when we first walked in to catch The Soul Rebels set.
Opener: The Soul Rebels. Our night was kicked off by New Orleans-born brass band The Soul Rebels, who faced a small crowd when they first took the stage. For a band that has been playing music longer than the two bands that would play after them, it’s too bad more people couldn’t make it to the Fillmore sooner.
The lighting in the room was soft and full of red and pink hues, almost resembling a southern sunset. In stark contrast to the soft lighting were heavy horns that were melting faces left and right. This band of heavyweight players has a unique style that not only reflects the Jazz and Funk-based music of the Deep South, but also shades of Caribbean and island sounds.
As people started filing in, the band started engaging the crowd with synchronized dance moves and hand motions, and even asking us to sing along on a tribute to their hometown. There aren’t many bands that can come to Denver and get the locals to chant the other city’s area code, because admittedly, we’re a proud town and we think Denver’s the best. But New Orleans is one of those cities, and we all had fun singing along to “504!”
Opener: Ozomatli. The Latin-based Rock and Funk music from Ozomatli, who has been playing music out of Los Angeles, CA since 1995, was a ton of fun on Saturday night. It definitely helped that vocalist/drummer Justin Porée was easy on the eyes in his tight shirt and Fedora. He bounced around the stage, did a great job getting the crowd involved and jumped on and off the drums. I found this band totally impressive, and their contrast to The Soul Rebels and The Motet was a breath of fresh air in the middle of the bill.
The seven-piece band represent the multi-cultural city of Los Angeles well with Latin rhythms, Jazz bass, and a non-overpowering use of guitar. They were high-energy and expressed their energetic sound through lots of movement and wild abandon as they played new material for the growing crowd. When asked how we were digging the new songs, the crowd got loud, and though the bar was set high for The Motet, it was fitting to have a Colorado band headlining our highest of holidays as only the locals truly understand how special this celebration is.
The Motet: A playful introduction to The Motet’s set was raucous dancing in the crowd to the blaring sounds of “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” Bob Dylan’s much-loved song that has become a sort-of anthem to commemorate 4/20. The crowd buzzed with excitement for the homegrown band from Boulder to take the stage, and it must have sounded pretty awesome backstage hearing the now-packed auditorium singing in unison, “everybody must get stoned!” As the song came to a close, smoke filled the stage and The Motet started their set engulfed in a sweet smelling haze for the first couple of songs.
The band played a few songs from 2009’s Dig Deep album and by the time a new strain of music was introduced to us, the room was full. The first new song of the night would be “123” from The Motet’s upcoming release of all original music. The song was well-received as it welcomed female harmony vocals, tight rhythms from the horn section, and lyrics that seemed like a dedication to Colorado as they made mention of our 300+ days of sunshine.
Musically, Garrett Sayers stood out with his passionate bass playing that has been refined through of playing not only with The Motet but with his own band, The Garrett Sayers Trio, and The Kyle Hollingsworth Band. Another standout for me was Gabe Mervine on trumpet, who turned the heat up on “Like We Own It” with a commanding solo that was reminiscent of what you’d see at one of the best bars in New Orleans. I was first impressed with Mervine when he sat in with the Fox Street Allstars at their second album release party in early March but he’s found a home in The Motet’s horn section.
In true 4/20 fashion, the super-group took pause midway through the night to pay homage to Colorado’s barrier-breaking year. “There’s no better time or place than right here to lift it up!” encouraged lead singer Jans Ingber, as he continued “Thank you, Colorado, for standing up and rallying around the acknowledgement that nature is not and should never be illegal. Colorado, ya’ll made that happen!” A medley of weed-loving tunes followed, including Musical Youth’s “Pass the Dutchie” and Rick James’ “Mary Jane.”
Overall, The Motet definitely was the loudest, funkiest, and most entertaining band I’ve seen on 4/20, but at times it felt overly boppy to me. The Motet’s core fans are drawn to their shows for big dance parties that mirror the super funk shows of the 70s, but maybe it was just too much for me on 4/20, which was a day when I was craving less vocals and more deep grooves to sink into.
Stage Presence: B+
Set/Light Show: B+