Not your average jam band, the Motet mix it up at ‘dise lounge

A review of The Motet at the Pardise Lounge on April 19

, Staff

<p>Who wouldn&amp;rsquo;t want to be like Dave Watts? The drummer and founder of The Motet dutifully carries the musical torch ignited by an electric Miles Davis. This jazz fusion quintet is often lumped together with Phish-esque jam bands, but they shouldn&amp;rsquo;t be judged too harshly by the unfortunate musical company they keep. At the Paradise Lounge on Thursday night, they brought more to their songs than the average jam band, replacing interminable blues scale noodling with an interesting mix of jazz, Cuban-flavored grooves, and club-thumping dance beats.</p>
<p><em>A</em> motet (which has ancient origins as a musical term) is loosely defined as the complex movement of different voices in a chorus. It is appropriate, then, that <em>The </em>Motet&amp;rsquo;s latest album, <em>Instrumental Dissent, </em>features the most varied musical output of the band as yet.</p>
<p>The Motet produced a m&amp;eacute;lange of sounds and styles at the Boston gig, and whipped the eclectic audience into a subdued frenzy. Nearly everyone was dancing, moving, shaking and grooving &amp;ndash; an impressive fulfillment of The Motet&amp;rsquo;s mantra of late, the delightfully crude:&amp;  &amp;ldquo;Dance your ass off.&amp;rdquo; The occasional glow-stick-wielding goober did little to detract from the overall mood, which was lively for the first half of the show.</p>
<p>Thursday night&amp;rsquo;s performance was initially an exciting showcase of Dave Watts&amp;rsquo; new, electronica-heavy sonic experiments. Every song was a polyrhythmic blend of musical styles that wove together driving, yet ethereal ambient sounds; rock-influenced rhythm guitar; interesting sax interludes; blistering bass runs; and drum fills that followed closely along with nimble keyboard playing. They shifted musical genres deftly within each song, and seamlessly transitioned from one piece to the next. The few breaks between songs lent an aura of dance club to the Paradise Lounge, but the promise of excellent musicianship was surely the reason why the audience was there. This juxtaposition might explain what seemed like the audience&amp;rsquo;s gradual disinterest as the night went on.</p>
<p>The Motet are undeniably talented musicians, and Dave Watts is a songwriter with a complete grasp and appreciation of the complexities and intricacies involved in creating jazz fusion songs. It takes a high musical IQ to create a varied sonic backdrop over which a variety of instruments are expected to shine in turn. As the performance went on, the band seemed to lose themselves in their solos, which were at first met with appreciative cheers. But soon after midnight, the crowd&amp;rsquo;s once enthusiastic dancing slowed, and the Lounge thinned out considerably by the time the band finished their set.</p>
<p>There&amp;rsquo;s something to be said for real musicians in this modern &amp;ldquo;push-a-button&amp;rdquo; music world. But while each new Motet song contained an impressive array of musical elements, it was disappointing that there was so little variety from one song to the next. The house beats and rhythms didn&amp;rsquo;t help matters, and it often felt like the guys were improvising over a generic club mix. The Motet should be applauded for their innovative experimentation, but judging by the gradually disinterested crowd at the Paradise Lounge, it seemed that innovation was lost on the audience. Or maybe jazz-fusion is just a bit tough to take at 1:00 a.m. on a Friday morning.</p>

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