UV Hippo & Garaj Mahal | Hodi’s Half Note

Article Contributed by June Reedy | Published on Monday, February 22, 2010

Garaj Mahal, Ultraviolet Hippopotamus (UV Hippo), and Musketeer Gripweed played to a free keg Wednesday night crowd at Hodi’s Half Note on Wednesday, February 17th 2010.  Some of you may already know how I feel about the free keg Wednesday night crowd.  If not, check out my review of Tatanka.  Tonight was a $12 show which changed the face of the beast considerably.  Aesop Rock across the street must have been getting at least $20 a person, yet not many people were lining the streets.  I have a sneaking suspicion most of Fort Collins is still hung over from Fat Tuesday the night before.

For those of you not familiar with Fareed Haque, well, I don’t think that’s even possible.  He’s played probably every college town in America.  He’s probably played it twice.  He is involved with Owl Studios. He teaches at Northern Illinois University.  He is a man with an eye for a good investment.  He was playing this evening and a couple of other shows with UV Hippo and I think that speaks volumes of the Hippo as well.

For those of you that have had the chance to listen to Fareed play, you know the atmosphere.  It’s almost as if, for that evening, he is your professor.  He expects your attention –AND- he expects you to dance; lose all regard for keeping notes.  He is an energy all his own.  Garaj Mahal is one spawn of his unique jazz form.   I have seen him in several different states over several years now. When I asked him how he feels about the progression of his different ensembles he replied, “Every musician speaks a different language.”

How appropriate for an evening such as this.

UV Hippo is a bass driven funky jam band out of Grand Rapids MI.  They are the 6 piece band that plays just for you, adept at knowing their audience especially well.

“This one is for Drew. If you’re even in here.  Drew’s been drinking since noon.” Snicker.

Sure enough Drew came rushing forward.  Thank the stars above for free kegs on Wednesdays.  I asked Brian Samuels what he thought of the art of Frank Zappa.  “I love playing Zappa because of Zappa freaks like Drew.  There’s usually one person in the club that will just freak out and come rushing forward.  There is a time honored tradition of progressive rock that comes along with rhythm basics like Frank Zappa.”

Q: Do you take turn writing songs?  Your music seems personality driven: bass, guitar, there was a heavy influence on pianos throughout one tune…

A: Each of us brings an idea to the table and we explore it from there.  There are certainly songs that have the ‘non-negotiables’ DNT, Square Pegs Round Holes, but then again there are songs that are a complete mishmash…Bob the Wondercat is an example of that.  Brian led that, but together as an entire band we re-worked it. (Russel James)

In a musicians’ repertoire of musical languages, there is the writing of the songs.  And of course, there is the performing of the songs.  Life on the road is a way of life.  I asked them all to a word association game.  The phrase is “relentless touring”.


Life on the road


Bringing culture and diversity to the self proclaimed “Vanilla Valley” this show brought together Fort Collins as students and teachers, black and white, ying and yang.  Across the street the energy of Aesop Rock overflowed.  The afterglow of Garaj Mahal’s jazzed out version of Van Halen’s Hot 4 Teacher had folks lingering in doorways.  People were not in a rush to cut their conversations short.

fans at Hodi's Half Note | Fort Collins, CO

Backstage the bands waited to load up their equipment, chatting about music.  Fareed sat down with the guys from UV Hippo and myself and demoed his guitar.  I am too excited to realize that the right hand does matter when playing the guitar.  He performs the middle strings only to give the guitar a banjo sound.  This delights me.  He thumbs only the heavy strings and an awesome jazz guitar appears.  I ask him a few questions and in his meanderings on the strings he gives me reference points to begin research.

One recommendation flew from Grant Green, a boogie woogie guitar master from the 60’s early 70’s all the way to electro rock Jeff Bujak.  His website is entitled, “Jeff Bujak – Intelligent Dance Music.”

Fareed is hunched over his guitar like Picasso would have painted him and I am reminded of the Wallace Stevens poem, “the man with the blue guitar.”  The last line is – “A tune upon the blue guitar of things exactly as they are.”

"...some are more rocked out.  Flat Earth Ensemble has more fusion rock, world overtones, and then there’s Garaj… (he twangs a loud chord) and that’s just fucking loud."  -Fareed Haque