Flying Solo with The Motet
It's 8:30 on Friday night. I check my phone for the seventh time in two minutes and sigh, reluctantly accepting that I've been stood up. New Year's resolutions creep in -- something like, "Say yes and enjoy the mother f*cking ride.” (“Kiss more people,” is the other one, but we’ll save that story for another time.) So far they’ve led me on this wild, lustful whim three thousand miles from where I currently call home. There’s a ticket to The Motet waiting for me at the Brooklyn Bowl, but no date. For the next thirty minutes my motivation and confidence excitably wavers. "Can I fly solo?" Rationally, a silly question, but lately I’ve come to find that many of us have been there.
Male friends who find themselves on the fence have confided that they’re afraid of being “that guy.” You know, the creepy one in the corner, or the one who’s simultaneously brave enough to ask every solo girl if she wants to “take a walk” during set break. For my fellow ladies, it’s often a matter of safety and getting hit on, but not just by “that guy.” Fast forward to 9:52pm and I’m calculating my escape route from the self-proclaimed “lesbian who especially loves little bi-sexual brunettes.” She has her left hand on my waist and her vodka tonic in her right. Before the fuchsia lights hit the floor I thought she was aggressive but cute. Now I’m politely smiling, kicking myself for being so damn transparent and wishing this time I had said, “My husband is getting us beer.”
Rewinding, I throw caution, insecurity and fear of social awkwardness to the wind. I choose my love of the music, and take myself to Brooklyn. Still no husband nor date in sight, I momentarily curse the guy who left me hanging and buy myself a beer. (“How many beers can I have before I look like I have a drinking problem? Oh, shut up!” I say to myself.) On the surface I'm a mysterious chick who's badass enough to be here alone. Underneath I'm a doe eyed hot mess of anxiety and awkwardness, even before getting hit on.
However, within the first two minutes of the powerful, confidence-boosting “Like We Own It,” a Motet original off their new, self-titled album, the universe unveils its plan. Garrett Sayers' bass line seems to tickle the floor, and Jans Ingber takes a quick break from belting the evening's anthem to nonverbally teach the crowd that there's no wrong way to move. I take their lead and start what would later become, with the exception of my aforementioned escape, non-stop dancing. Admittedly, I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I prefer the freedom of bouncing around the room without worrying if I'd lose my date/husband/friends to the sea. Feeling downright silly but incredibly blissful, it occurs to me that I may be onto something here.
A few days after The Motet’s Brooklyn Bowl show, I hop on the phone with drummer Dave Watts. He reminisces about seeing jazz shows alone and I’m reminded of Saturday nights in high school, going to the Blue Note in New York City to catch Adam Deitch and Eric Krasno. Dave and I talk about the quiet audience at jazz shows compared to the dance-party vibe of concerts like The Motet’s, but ultimately come to a similar conclusion about the flying solo concert experience. “There are great things to experience in music alone, because you’re not distracted by who you’re with,” he says. “It can almost be a better experience because you can lose yourself in the music and not necessarily have to keep tabs on the social setting of what’s going on. That, for the artist, is the kind of audience that you want to have: people losing themselves in what is happening on stage and the energy of the room. We hope that it’s a cathartic experience, so you come out feeling like you were a different person than when you walked in.”
Dave Watts and I then dive into the heavy concept of being present in life, and use a live show as a magnified example. He expresses the artist side: “If you’re playing music that you're really familiar with many nights in a row, it can be easy to fall into autopilot. You have to consciously make an effort to stay focused on the music itself and what's happening so that you're open to the possibilities that are available to you at any moment.”
On the audience side, when we see live music we have the option to indulge in the social aspect, but it sometimes comes at the expense of truly being present and connected to what’s happening on stage and in the room. If we consciously make an effort to focus on the music as well, the payoff is great. “I think the relationship with the audience is reciprocal,” says Dave. “That's why The Motet responds so well to audiences that are really with us and reacting to our dynamic changes. That’s sort of a cycle in itself; the whole room resonates with that energy, allowing things to get a lot deeper.”
When asked what The Motet might say to someone who’s on the fence about flying solo to one of their shows, Dave Watts says, “Go for it! Ultimately I think the nature of the kind of music we play lends itself to a social environment, and our shows are not at all an awkward experience, especially as of late. Our audiences are growing, and the vibe at our shows is always very friendly and energetic.”
Back at the Brooklyn Bowl, Dave Watts notes that at a certain point the entire room is vibing out. He takes a moment to count his blessings; humbleness and gratitude flow through him. The look of contentment on Ryan Jalbert's face as he takes another intelligent guitar solo leads me to look around the room -- our community, together for a common love, passion and joy. I make eye contact with at least ten people, men and women, and before I have the chance to shyly look away, they all smile and raise their drinks or nod their heads in my direction. It's hard to believe I could have missed this.