Garaj Mahal put on a Halloween spectacle at the famous Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco, Friday, October 31, 2003. The decorations on stage included intricately carved pumpkins, cobwebs, and candles. Spread out over the entire venue was more spooky decor to really give the place a Halloweeny feel, and a fog machine added to the stage ambiance. This was also a record release party for their new studio CD Mondo Garaj.

The band started the first of their three sets around 9:40 pm. The first set crept in slowly as the band was warming up. First set highlights included such GM classics as "The Shadow" (with P-Funk's "Tear the Roof Off The Sucker" break), "Guitar Slut," Madonna's "Material Girl" and "Cosmic Elevator." Guitarist extraordinaire Fareed Haque was dressed as the Illinois Enema Bandit, complete with an enema bag full of chocolate milk. Bassist Kai Eckhardt was sporting a nappy Afro wig and white jumpsuit. Behind the drum kit, Allan Hertz was adorned in boas and stars, while keyboardist Eric Levy wore dreads and an orange prison shirt. Also on turntables was DJ Fly Agaric 23.

During the first break, a costume contest was held around 11 pm. I was surprised more folks weren't dressed up, but there were some creative costumes in the house: Hunter S. Thompson, a Playboy bunny and Hugh Hefner, a peacock girl, a chick magnet, Willie Wonka and an Oompa Loompa, pirates, lots of fairies and freaks, and more. The winner was a group dressed as Johnny Cash and the Ring of Fire, though I thought "Johnny" looked more like Bob Dylan.

Second set saw the incredible guest, Nigerian percussionist Rasaki Aladoku, sit in for the majority of the show, on talking and other drums. The addition of Aladoku and the band hitting their groove allowed the energy level to rise throughout the show. The band opened fittingly with a raging "Stoked on Rasaki." Later in the set Leo Nocentelli, guitarist from the original Meters, came out for crowd pleasing Meter's tunes, "Fiyo on the Bayou," "Cissy Strut," and "People Say." A high energy "Mondo Garaj," the title track of their new studio CD, ended the set.

After the 2nd set there was a raffle for some posters and CDs, then Garaj reappeared for the 3rd set, which included 20+ minute versions "Poodle Factory" and "Gulam Sabri." Leo again stepped back on stage for the appropriately-named Eric Levy-penned number "Uptown Tipitina's," followed by the finale, "Meatless Patty," which ended the show at 2 am.

Words and Images by: Susan Weiand
JamBase | San Francisco
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[Published on: 11/6/03]

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