Review – Dave Watts Lit His Birthday Candles at Cervantes’

Back again and better than ever. The annual birthday bash for The Motet’s drummer Dave Watts and Cervantes’ Scott Morrill returned for a weekend full of good times. Morrill is a major player in the local music circuit — thanks to his work with AEG and Cervantes’— and is responsible for bringing Watts and other musicians to the various main stages of our city. The blow out party included Dave Watts, Garrett Sayers and Lyle Divinsky of The MotetIan Neville of Dumpstaphunk, Jeff Franca of Thievery Corporation, Matt Jalbert from TAUK, as well as Steve Watkins, Kim Dawson, Nick Gerlach, Gabe Mervine and Tanya Shylock. Needless to say, the night was a hoot.

The Motet released their latest album, Death or Devotion, just hours ahead of the performance, but some of Denver had already heard it live. Thursday morning the band announced a free album release party that night at Cervantes’, which was first come first serve for their fans. As far as the birthday celebration goes, yesterday was only the first night of the party, and the music will continue into the early hours of Sunday before it comes to a close. Both nights featured a similar lineup of amazing talent, but Friday hosted the Jaden Carlson band as the opening act. The Jaden Carlson Band, from Boulder, was a force on their own, led by the astonishing 17-year-old Jaden Carlson. Carlson made the rifts of her set look easy as she shred lengthy, dream-like jams with bandmates Eric Imbronciano on drums, Chris Beck on keys and Fred Reisen on bass.

The main performance got started by cramming the stage with an eclectic array of world-class musicians. Three vocalists, a hefty keys set up, drums, auxiliary percussion, a saxophonist, a trumpeter, bassist and two guitarists on the restricted platform of Cervantes’ Otherside is no small feat, and our deepest respect goes out to Dawson, Divinsky and Shylock for rocking intricate dance moves as they belted their lyrics. The trio of angelic voices served as the shiny, glittery topping on a funk sundae that can only be served up in a network like Denver.

The real standout of the evening was, of course, Dave Watts, and that was not only due to the fact he was wearing a huge fur coat and a light up cowboy hat. Several moments of the evening were set aside for him to bang the skins, sometimes initiating a drum-off with Franca and the other auxiliary percussion team members. Keyboardist Steve Watkins complimented these moments when he broke out the Talk Box and belted an emotion-inducing track. Watkins tickled the crowd when he mentioned another Denver funk favorite, Juno What?! before jumping into more spacey jam tracks.  A “have your most best time” sticker was strategically placed on Watkins’ equipment. The audience abided.

As the first portion of the two-day party came to an end, it seemed to be a good thing that the party will continue for another night. When a collision of so many great local musicians come together, as it so often does at Cervantes’, the population will continue to flock to the scene to sustain the life of their deep commitment to the Denver funk scene. 

The evening — like many nights at Cervantes’ — blasted on late into the night with high energy and clear devotion to getting down. The good times are sure to continue on night two, with New Breed Brass Band serving as the supporting act to fan the flame of the fire that will carry this party through the entire weekend.

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