Snarky Puppy, the Motet | State Theatre | Displace, Serotonic | Local 662 01.05.15

advertIn the current model for job evaluations, assessments, and ratings, the evaluator is encouraged to use the Oreo method: praise some things that are good that you wish to encourage, then offer suggestions for areas were improvement can be made, and close with more praise.

With that model in mind, here goes my assessment of the Snarky Motet, Displatonic shows last night in St. Pete. (And it won’t take ten months to get it published this time!)

The Motet, Snarky Puppy, Serotonic and Displace all were wonderful performing last night. We’ll get back to them later.


I have discovered how to make the Crowbar sound good. It’s simple. Go to see a show at the State Theatre first!

If I had my way!

If I had my way!

If I had my way!

I would tear this old building down!

(And thanks, Rev. Gary Davis!)

But seriously, when was the last time you heard GOOD sound at the State Theatre? I don’t know if the building is just an acoustic disaster, or they cannot find competent sound men. I have seen shows there with decent sound, but that dates back at least to 2011. It was miserable during the Downtown River Jam, but the space wasn’t very full, which makes the bass bounce around even more.

Michael League, the founder of Snarky Puppy, is a truly warm and engaging speaker. Last night, however, at best you could make out every third or fourth word he said. It was totally ineffective, and he didn’t even know it, because he was counting on professionals at the soundboard.

It was worse across the street at the Local 662 for the afterparty. The sound dude (it would be a miscarriage of justice to call him an engineer) had Serotonic so loud that people up front were dancing while holding their ears (I always carry earplugs). Matt from Future Vintage and Bret from Displace went to talk to the house engineer, but he shrugged them off. Likely a metal head, somebody pointed out. It was marginally better when Displace played.

And what the heck was up with the State Theatre saying doors at 7:30, then not opening until much later, and then starting the Motet set with half the people still lined up outside? That’s amateurish at best and just plain disrespectful to the band and patrons.

OK, OK! Enough of that! Let’s get back to the praise, shall we?

I love love love the Motet. Those Colorado boys know how to bring the funk. At the afterparty, I saw friend and great musician Savi Fernandez (I think half of Orlando was there), and he asked me what I thought of the Snarky show. I said I loved it, but I liked the Motet even more. With that, he smiled that beautiful smile of his and touched his heart, and I knew exactly what he meant. The Motet just grabs you and won’t let go. Their music comes from the heart.

Then I had an epiphany (pretty good day for it). Savi’s music comes straight from the heart. And I feel that my writing comes from the heart, too. In fact, that is one of the reasons this music scene, this community of brothers and sisters, interacts on such a deep level. I just feel forever blessed to be part of it and to know these fine musicians and the people like me who support them. It’s how we sustain our community.

I haven’t finished Hometeam New Year’s Rally Sunday yet, but I was going to mention the three C words that bind us together: community, cooperation and collaboration. They were evident at the State Theatre, and then they flowed across the street with us to the afterparty. Come Back Alice, Juanjamon Band, Infinite Groove Orchestra, Future Vintage, Leisure Chief, and numerous other musicians and bands were well represented, and it was simply a beautiful sight to see with all of us intermingling, laughing, hugging, having a wonderful night.

But wait! There’s more! Suddenly I turned, and there was Michael League, the man himself, and most of his Snarky Puppy bandmates, with us, listening to Serotonic and Displace and talking with us. I shook his hand and said thank you. The only way this gets better is to hop on Jam Cruise.


By the time I navigated the incredibly slow line into the State Theatre, I had missed half of the Motet’s set. Rats. Garrett Sayers and Matt Pitts were killing it on bass and tenor sax, respectively. Then they launched into a lengthy version of “Extraordinary High” from their eponymous 2014 release. It was difficult to understand all of Jans Ingber’s lyrics, but there was no masking his pure Stax revue emotion. Gabe Mervine knocked out a great trumpet solo, and Sayers grabbed another one.

At some point, Ingber, who had seated himself at his congas, stood up and asked, “You like funky music? We’re on the same page then,” with a huge grin. They closed with another track from the new CD, “Rich in People.”

“Your money, can’t buy us,

Or rules, define us,

So see us as equal.

We’re rich in people.”

This one blew up, and you can blame the little funk king, Joey Porter, on keyboards. In the middle of the song, he grabbed that voice box thingie (that’s the Latin name) and careened into “More Bounce to the Ounce” (Roger Troutman and Zapp). Ryan Jalbert got a great guitar solo in, and I would be remiss if I did not shout out one of the best drummers in the business, Motet founder Dave Watts. He kicked so much ass there were no names left to take.

Eight weeks to AURA and the Motet again! Can you tell I’ll be ready?

After a very short set break, given the equipment logistics, it was Snarky Puppy time. I had just posted my review of their February Crowbar performance. My view is that Snarky and the Tedeschi Trucks Band are two of the leading proponents of the new definition of the big band. I had seen SP twice at Bear Creek 2011 in addition to the Crowbar show and was really looking forward to another one.

I don’t have a setlist to work from, did not recognize tunes by name (I should have, I know), and couldn’t hear anything League said when he did introduce or backannounce songs. I’ll do my best. My major dissatisfaction was with the sound. While it wasn’t earsplitting, the bass and bottom end bounced around and covered up much of the nuance of the performance. Having said that, there is nobody – nobody – who does what Snarky Puppy does, with such style, flair and class.

There were ten musicians on stage, and they were tighter than tight. This was stop-on-a-dime timing and syncopation, absolutely mind-blowing.

The first tune was way uptempo and featured tenor sax and trumpet solos. The second song started as a ballad with a lovely electric piano section, and then it punched way up into Brecker Brothers territory. The third song had two wonderful ensemble horn sections and some great Hammond B3 work.

Shaun Martin on keyboards got everybody to sing the intro to the next tune, and there was a lengthy, angular, interesting guitar solo (from Mark Letterei?). Then Michael did his Tarpon Springs shout-out. I heard every word when he introduced his 94-year-old grandmother last year at the Crowbar; this year I could get the gist but rarely any actual words.

They closed with “Tio Macaco,” written for his half-Brazilian niece (well, I think that’s what he said). The flute was a lovely touch. You know, of course, that they were called back for an encore, which featured a long keyboard solo by Martin, much of it with the voice tube.

Some went how, but the faithful made the pilgrimage across the street, where Serotonic was in mid-set, about to wrap up “Getting’ It.” Despite the absurd sound level, they were having a great and inspired set. Guitarist Jordan Garno has been blossoming in two directions: his instrument and his voice. His guitar playing has developed a great new edge, and that has really been evident in the past month (especially when the Rev. Funky D had him play some Pink Floyd songs at Hometeam), and his confidence in his vocal ability grows with each show. He was truly animated on “Move So Well.”

Jon Tucker is the bounciest alto sax player I’ve ever seen, and he has been having a blast with his new effects pedals. He got that wonderful electric sax sound on “Bruabbna,” and drummer Andrew Kilmartin took a brief but tasty solo; the song featured a great arrangement. I suspect Bryan Lewis, keyboard player, may be guilty on that count. Its coda highlighted Garno doing the Hendrix “Who Knows” riff. They closed with “Jelly,” Lewis featured on synthesizer and bassist Rob Sanger unable to stop dancing as he rocked the song.

It was wonderful to see so many people in the club, many checking out the sounds, including Tony and Dani from Come Back Alice, and Big Bad John, too. Yral was just running all over the place.

It was again a short tear-down, set-up, and Displace was ready to go. A wickedly sly intro led into my favorite Displace tune (and the perfect song to play for a house full of musicians and music fans): “Geonosis Shuffle.” I have seen them play this seven or eight times, but this was a thing of funk beauty. It clocked in near 25 minutes, with Vinny Swoboda and Tucker Sody laying down a deep, deep bedrock, Sam Dobkin wailing on guitar on the left, and schizophrenic Chris Sgammato hopping back and forth between his guitar (which I love, and what first attracted me to the band) and his alto sax. To paraphrase my Shak Nasti friend Tim Turner, “He’s been practicing!” Just wow.

After that funk opus, they hit “27” and then “Valerie.” I glanced at my watched and realized I’d turned into a pumpkin about an hour and a half back, so I left midset, but I know they finished it off strong.

Thanks to Julia Stewart and MoonGoddess Entertainment and Phil Benito and Brokenmold Entertainment for the gift of music!

Great to see (and I am certain to miss people, so please don’t hate): Dale and Carol and the church group, Anna, Matt and Trevor, CBA, Leisure Chief and Christian Ryan, Juan and Dani, Robyn, Josh1 and Adam, Josh2, Kelly-Ann, Erika and Serena, the lady with the beautiful hair (yes, you), Savi and you know who you are but I forgot.

[Photos at some point.]


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