The Motet and West End Blend at The Fairfiled Theatre Company

Although the mid-week blues were in full swing, West End Blend (WEB) and The Motet managed to put a pep in the step of almost every single attendee at The Warehouse in Fairfield, Connecticut. WEB set the scene and style of the night, something that needed to be done due to the lack of enthusiasm that filled the building. Then The Motet capped it all off and blew away the audience with their relentless energy and zealous attitude. Once again, a very wide array of people attended due to the location of the up-and-coming venue, but everyone was able to find some aspect of the show they loved.

West End Blend is based out of Hartford and showcased their funk and soul styles, but didn’t show much else. Their show was well performed and obviously well rehearsed, but the music wasn’t anything that would revolutionize the idea of funk -rather it just solidified it, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They had the formula: A solid drummer, funky horn line, groovy bassist, talented but reserved guitarist and an eye/ear catching lead singer. But it’s all been done before. They did not come short of a great performance by any means, but they didn’t knock the socks off most people there. That may have been because they were seen as the opening band or maybe it was because they only performed in front of a handful of people. The crowd just didn’t respond very well – they barely even welcomed them to the stage. Hopefully, and more than likely, they will headline a venue and get some well deserved recognition instead of being seen as just the opening band.

Some of their most memorable tracks were “Say Hey!” which featured one of the most iconic parts of the band, 27-year-old trumpeter Mike Bafundo and his fascinating ability to sound like a funky Louis Armstrong. He and lead singer Erica Bryan have two very contrasting voices which made for a unique sound that the crowed looked forward to for the remainder of their performance. “Get Bye’ was another highlight, featured as one of their most popular songs on Spotify and was one of the only one that ventured outside of the stream line funk sound. The lazy tempo and an even lazier horn line resulted in a danceable but reggae feel. Other songs did not stray far from the funk band formula like “Attitude,” “Too Heavy” and “The Scene” which were plenty of fun and soon to be released on an upcoming album – the date is TBA.

The Motet on the other hand had a more memorable performance.  Most of the credit goes towards the front man Lyle Divinsky. In a funk band, the lead singer needs to be like a conductor. He/she needs to draw attention to separate parts of the group because they are all required to be in unison to make the iconic sound. The horns stay reserved for the majority of the song but make a big pop during breakdowns and chorus’ – the same applies for the strings and synths. So he/she needs to work the whole stage and keep everyone’s eyes and ears moving – something Lyle has mastered and something that would change the whole attitude of WEB if Bryan were to follow in his footsteps. The Motet came out strong with “Damn!” which has been a favorite to open with for the majority of their shows including their prior Warehouse show and their first time Headlining the Red Rocks Amphitheater. It’s a perfect, straightforward ice breaker with a great funk formula that can easily flaunt their ability to build and climax flawlessly. “Damn!” is off their 7th studio album, Totem, and shows that the group is nowhere near out of ideas for funky tracks. Their sound is very familiar but manages to be unique, something that might only be true to their live performances, as their studio recordings are a little less impactful.

They moved on to, “Like We Own It,” “Rynodub,” and “The Truth,” all of which were well received. “So High” came up and The Warehouse saw some incredible solo’s from the hornline. The crowd responded really well to Drew Sayers on saxophone. He had plenty of emotion and was able to work his way through the solo in an abstract but palatable way. He was smooth and well thought out and wasn’t afraid to take some risks. Trumpeter Gabe Mervine eventually came out of his shell after some sound board complications. He seemed concerned he wasn’t coming through clearly, but was able to focus after the problem was resolved. Keys player Joey Porter also had a few astounding and greatly appreciated solos, one of which was during “So High” where he played through a vocorder. It fit flawlessly into the songs style and got one of the biggest reactions out of the crowd.

Drummer and founder Dave Watts never really had a moment to shine unfortunately, nor did bassist Garrett Sayers. Granted both of them have a very important role to play and not a lot of time so flaunt their abilities, but they both deserved a little more limelight than they were given. Garrett had a small chance to solo but he is such an entertaining musician and it would have been nice to see him a bit closer to the audience both literally and musically.

The music was all incredible, but it all seemed more like an act or play because of Devinsky’s energy and charisma. He is best described as an actor but his personality comes off as genuine. He was so grateful for everyone’s enthusiasm, for being able to play at The Warehouse and was very appreciative of his band mates and their talents. Not only was he appreciative, he was sweating bullets and showed no signs of fatigue. His personality was just charming to everyone and a good part of the bands demeanor stems from Devinsky’s actions. They closed out with a cover of “Getten to Know You” by Parliament and “I Feel For You” by Prince and finished on their own “Closed Mouth Don’t Get Fed.”

This show was definitely a highlight for The Warehouse and one would hope and expect this won’t be the last time The Motet performs there. They will unfortunately be heading South and West for the first part of the summer, but will be seen at Disc Jam 2017.

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