Garaj Mahal | 9.28 | Connecticut

Words & Images by Bill Clifford

Garaj Mahal :: 09.28.07 :: The Main Pub :: Manchester, CT

Jonathan Herrera :: 09.28 :: Connecticut
Connecticut has never really had a reputation as a live music hotspot, situated as it is, between Boston and NYC. However, over the last three years The Main Pub in Manchester has become a significant stop for acts, as opposed to the whole state being used as a highway run between the two Meccas. The Pub's fare is several notches above standard bar food and always features a wide selection of cold beer and tempting liquors, and the décor is warm, alluring Old English style.

San Francisco's Garaj Mahal drew quite a crowd to the Main Pub for this Friday night prior to a Saturday night show at NYC's Knitting Factory. The band seemed to be in high spirits and delighted with the turnout on this very short East Coast run. But, fans were disappointed to see that bassist Kai Eckhardt wasn't with them, opting instead to take another gig. Temporarily filling in was Bass Player Magazine Senior Editor Jonathan Herrera (Petalpusher). The rest of the quartet - Fareed Haque (guitars), Alan Hertz (drums) and Eric Levy (keys) - were all present.

Hertz got the music started with a slow and funky beat, which was picked up on by the rest of the quartet. "7-Up" began the night on a jazzy, bubbly groove, on which no one really stood out, instead, serving as a live sound check. The open floor quickly filled in once the music began, and the moving and grooving got underway. The band found open space for improvisation and loose jams on "Celtic Indian," which included mellow but jazzy guitar from Haque and a drum jam from Hertz where the tempo rose and dropped and rose again, lifting the energy level in the small room several times. "Be Dope" brought the funk that got feet moving, including a small portion of the crowd apparently just out for a Friday night meal. Levy danced from one synthesizer to another, coaxing cosmic, atmospheric, high pitched sounds and a playful groove with Haque.

Haque asked, "Shall we give it a go?" as he introduced a new song, "Pundit Ji," which he dedicated to "the great Bansuri, bamboo flute player." Herrera and Levy seemed to enjoy each other's musical virtuosity here, enthusiastically bounding up and down the musical scales and flashing smiles. "Massive" closed the first set with a deep, thumping bassline, Herrera's hands running rampantly up and down the frets as Haque added Middle Eastern flourishes. The tempo was fast while the mood was dense, ambient and psychedelic. One for the rave kids.

Fareed Haque :: 09.28 :: Connecticut
The crowd thinned between sets as the locals returned home. Most had no idea what they were leaving as the second set was looser and more improvisational. Even sans the extraordinary talents of Eckhardt, these four musicians moved effortlessly from classic jazz into New Orleans swing into acid jazz. A pulsating bass and jumpy, yet rhythmic keyboards made "The Paladin" one of the most uptempo, dance worthy songs of the night that left Levy grinning from ear-to-ear behind his keyboards.

The mood mellowed on the somber, reflective "Uptown Tipitina's," Levy's composition dedicated to the legendary New Orleans haunt. His keyboard flourishes here were dense and heavy, yet bluesy and soulful. Each musician was given ample room to solo here, and this song received one of the strongest responses of the night. "Poodle Factory" was marked by discordance and abstract funk so heavy on the low end it rattled the walls, while "Hotel," a more traditional jazz number, slowed the pace.

A highlight of this performance was the Middle Eastern flavored "Folk Song," which featured Haque on a "guisitar," an acoustic guitar with an extra neck and additional strings that produced a sound similar to sitar or harpsichord. He plucked and strummed the unique instrument, creating the equivalent of a wordless chant that sometimes resembled a whale song. The crowd, which had now disappointingly dwindled to around 25, responded with cheers and warm applause that brought them back for encore of the "The Chicken."

Each of these four musicians demonstrated amazing dexterity and talent throughout the evening. While it was disappointing Eckhardt wasn't on this tour, his temporary replacement was certainly a fine bassist on the same page as Garaj Mahal. It was a special treat to have the band on the East Coast in the intimate confines of one of Connecticut's best new music venues.

JamBase | Connecticut
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[Published on: 10/22/07]

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mkgee starstarstar Mon 10/22/2007 01:14PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Saw them at Johnny D's in Boston and was alarmed when I did not see Kai taking the stage. Herrera was capable on the bass (and what a difficult assignment, huh?), but Kai is profound. And they were missing roughly 50% of their vocals. Plus, Kai provides such a positive vibration when he is on the stage, that really spreads throughout the audience. It was a good show and I can appreciate Herrera's chops... the disappointment is still there, however.

cuttyfives Mon 10/22/2007 08:08PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

fareed is sick. He is always playin the CHI.

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Tue 10/23/2007 03:10AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

Kai is veryyy profound, he does have a super-relaxed positive vibe about him too. I would have felt hurt, had I come there and he was not with them, but I am sure after one tune of watching Fareed and Eric trade off those sick notes, then I would have be satiated.

After 37 years of seeing every band you can imagine, from sts9 in 1990 to sts9 2007, or lotus, sci, dead, panic, or whatever, Garaj Mahal is the most sick band I have ever seen before. They play on a higher level than any other band I have ever witnessed. ever.

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Tue 10/23/2007 03:12AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

"mood was dense, ambient and psychedelic".

this makes me GIDDY!!!!!! Yippeee!!!!!!

ski_bum_9684 starstarstarstarstar Tue 10/23/2007 02:02PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Saw them in Plains PA a few weeks ago - didn't realize the bassist was new. A very enjoyable show.

RedHeaven starstarstarstar Wed 10/31/2007 08:16PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Well sts9 wasnt around in 1990, Im sure you meant to type 1999. Nevertheless, I completely agree about Garaj Mahal. i have had the pleasure of discovering them at High Sierra in 01 and they are a major pivot in my musical history. Now we get to celebrate them in many forms at Bobolink Fest in the Sierras. We even saw them with another bass player in 06 at that fest and it was another new unique thing. Im very thankful for those intimate garaj festival moments. They should take over some part of Earth soon soon soon, always soon. One of the most underrated bands of our time.