Dress up and get down
Ryan Summerlin October 26, 2012
The Motet welcomes dancing of all sorts. After all, dancing is the cornerstone of the band’s whole existence. Crazy costumes are also encouraged. But if you dress up as a sticky condiment … don’t go flinging it around.
Dave Watts, leader of the Boulder-based ensemble, recalls the Peanut Butter Man at one of The Motet’s Halloween shows … a memorable, inspired costume, although one that went a bit awry once the wild dance moves kicked in.
“It was a costume contest, and this guy dressed up as peanut butter. He came up on stage completely dressed in peanut butter and was dancing and splattering it around everywhere,” Watts said. “It was a crazy costume. It got on all of our instruments and equipment. Fortunately, most people are a little wiser than that.”
By all means, dress up for The Motet’s Sunday performance at Beaver Creek’s Vilar Center, but no sticky condiments, please.
A costume that allows for free and fervent dance moves is probably the way to go, as Watts promises that of all 12 years of The Motet’s performance career, this Halloween’s tour covering George Clinton’s iconic soul music collective Parliament-Funkadelic is going to be “the best show yet.”
Although The Motet manufactures in own distinctive funk, the band has become famous for its dynamic tributes to other bands, centering an entire set around high-energy covers. It’s done Prince, Jamiroquai, Michael Jackson and The Talking Heads. Last year’s Halloween tour focused on The Grateful Dead. The P-Funk tour, however, has been a long time coming.
“It’s really kind of a pinnacle,” Watts said. “We haven’t done a P-Funk show until now because we’ve always been a little intimidated. The songs are so complex, and there are so many people who know the music so well, you have to do it right. We’re finally at the point of our career where we know we can. It’s going to be an amazing throw down.”
Part of the 2012 Underground Sound Series, Sunday’s gig will mark The Motet’s first-ever appearance at Beaver Creek.
“The Motet’s Halloween show is something they do every year. They’ve been doing it down on the Front Range, and we are really excited to get to be a part of it this year,” said Kris Sabel, Vilar Center director. “It’s going to probably be the liveliest show in our series. It’s going to be 100 percent get your funk on. Get dressed up in your best funk costume.”
Narrowing down tunes from P-Funk’s expansive catalogue was a chore unto itself for The Motet, not to mention dialing in the special flavor required of every number.
“We’ve got 27 songs; some of them are medleys. Parliament-Funkadelic has got to be about the most prolific group of artists of all time. They have a million songs. You try to find a balance of songs people know and songs that turn you on … also songs that are open to improvisation,” Watts said. “We play funk music, so the groove is not an issue. In every P-Funk song, the groove is incredible. They have all the elements we love – great horns, great vocals. It’s been months and months figuring out what makes sense. Thank God for YouTube; I’ll spend days on end sifting through live footage of P-Funk and other bands covering their songs. I’ll work out what makes the most sense, what tempos are the best, what versions are the best. I get extremely thorough with my studies of it.”
Of course, The Motet is notorious for stamping even the most impeccable cover songs with its own vibe. And to make it that much more vibrant, they’re expanding to a 14-piece ensemble for the P-Funk production. There will be four vocalists, headed by The Motet’s own Jans Ingber and also New York City’s Nigel Hall, who will be flying in for the six-show P-Funk tour. Although Watts is the leader of the band, during the performance, he stays behind his drum set.
“I don’t switch instruments. I stick to the drums. Driving the train back there, I’ve got too much to do. I’ve got 13 people trying to keep on point,” he said.
Although The Motet tours throughout the year, Halloween season has become its true niche.
“We definitely up the ante this time of year,” Watts said. “We’re bringing in the 14-piece band, we’ve got six dates – two at the Ogden – and we even have our own costume designer for this round. If you look at P-Funk’s videos, they’re always wearing something crazy – there’s a guy in a diaper, a guy in a wedding dress. It’s Halloween. We’re going to celebrate for a whole week. But for us, it’s all about the music. You can expect the sweatiest dance party ever.”
So, one last reminder … wear something funky.
“I hope everyone wears a costume,” Watts said. “But whatever they show up in, guaranteed they’ll be wearing less by the end of the night.”