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Garaj Mahal - Nov.1 Review - Ottawa

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Garaj Mahal

November 01, 2008 - Maverick's, Ottawa, ON

Show Review

By Todd Snelgrove

photos: by Mike Bouchard

More Live Music photos by Mike Bouchard

Recording supplied by Bradm

garaj-mahal-38

Garaj Mahal pulled in to Ottawa, Ontario for the first time last night capping off what guitarist Fareed Haque referred to as, “a long, arduous tour.” “It’s not the length, it’s the miles,” continued Fareed, as he detailed for the crowd the vast distances covered in the last ten days, culminating in this, their first ever run through Ontario. Strapping on his Ibenez doubleneck SG, Haque and his band launched into Chester The Pester, beginning a set that seemed to jar the modest yet enthusiastic crowd.

Atop the solidest of foundations held down by bassist Kai Eckhardt and the ever-changing rhythms of drummer Sean Rickman, Haque dazzled the room with a series of modal fragments that brought both Steve Vai and Philip Glass to mind. It was the undeniable jazz delivery, reminiscent of John McLaughlin and perhaps Larry Carlton, that took the crowd of mostly newcomers to the band by surprise. In a genre where adding a fourth chord can often sink a jam, Garaj Mahal’s overt cerebral approach is a refreshing challenge to an astute audience.

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Switching down to the bottom neck of his 18-string guitar for the second number, Fareed defines the genre for us, referring to Garaj Mahal as “Jance” music; a blending jazz of and dance. What becomes clear during the groove-oriented Hotel is that it’s keyboardist Eric Levy that brings the jam to the table, providing the fusion between the jazz snobs and Jerry’s kids. While the rhythm section maintained the groove with a steady and subtle morphing that turned out to be their modus operandi, and Fareed Haque comped so heavily he could be mistaken for the soloist, there was Levy sweeping and swirling up and down his instrument in a way that wouldn’t sound out of place at an Allman Bros. show.

It wasn’t until the third song that the band finally pulled out a simple two-note riff to bounce around, and it turned out to be a Police cover, When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What's Still Around. By this time the crowd was convinced. Whether to dance or stare slack jawed was everyone’s prerogative, but all were glad they bought the hype and ventured out for the show, which is just as promoter Brian Carson expected.

While definitely on the map as far as stadium shows go, the southern Ontario market is one that is often bypassed by the nightclub circuit. Several years ago Hamilton, Ontario’s independent promoter Brian Carson began working to change that. While feathering his cap with many high-profile bookings from Little Feat to Bela Fleck, Brian has always had his eye on landing one of his favorite bands, Garaj Mahal. And now, after five years of plugging away, Carson’s Clearwater Concerts Canada finally got what it was looking for, tacking a Toronto/Hamilton/Ottawa with support from Jambands.ca (Ottawa) and Nufunk Concerts (Toronto) run onto the end of Garaj Mahal’s ten-day tour.

Bringing a band into a new market can be a dangerous proposition for a concert promoter. While Garaj Mahal is a highly respected and well-known entity within the jam scene, these were untested markets for the band. Carson admits that it was only the fact that the run coincided with Hallowe’en that allowed him to break even over the three shows. He’s hoping that word will spread throughout the region after the success of these concerts, and that Garaj Mahal can include the area in future tour plans.

Back at Mavericks the second set began with a study in whammy-bar theatrics from Fareed that evolved into Never Give Up, involving a gibberish vocal groove that woke up the over-smoked setbreak crowd with a Zappa-esque treat that descended into an anti-demonic post-Hallowe’en medley. The set touched on a variety of different grooves, even straying close to straight-up jazz with a great rendition of Thelonious Monk’s ‘Round Midnight. After a set featuring stellar playing that hinted sometimes at Joe Pass on speed or the great Lenny Breau here in the shadow of his old stomping grounds, the encore peppered with Rush references solidified a night for the small appreciative Canadian audience.

With a crowd that is bound to be talking about the show for while to come and a promoter eager to try his luck with one of his favorite bands again, we can only hope that Garaj Mahal found the Ontario circuit worthy of their future consideration.

Set I

  • intro

  • Chester The Pester

  • Hotel

  • When The World Is Running Down, You Make The
  • Best Of What's Still Around[1]

  • We Are The Survivors

  • outro

Set II

  • intro

  • Never Give Up >

  • Hallowe'en Medley >

  • Never Give Up

  • tuning

  • 'Round Midnight[2]

  • Tachyonics

  • Alison's Pony

Encore

  • Jamie's Jam

[1] The Police cover.

[2] Thelonious Monk cover.

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I always enjoy your reviws.

Darkness falls across the land

The midnight hour is close at hand

Creatures crawl in search of blood

To terrorize y'awl's neighborhood

And whosoever shall be found

Without the soul for getting down

Must stand and face the hounds of hell

And rot inside a corpse's shell

The foulest stench is in the air

The funk of forty thousand years

And grizzly ghouls from every tomb

Are closing in to seal your doom

And though you fight to stay alive

Your body starts to shiver

For no mere mortal can resist

The evil of the thriller

(laughter)

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